The best feedback in the world


Dear Artist,

A wonderful email appeared in my inbox recently, suspiciously arriving six times and from six different people. Here’s one of them:

“Hello There,
My name is George Barbara from California. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess she likes your piece of work. I’m also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too, You are doing a great job. I would like to purchase one of your paintings “watermark, 60 x 60 inches, oil on canvas, 2014”, as a surprise to my wife on our anniversary. Also, let me know if you accept check as mode of Payment.
Thanks and best regards


“Watermark” 2014
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches
by Sara Genn

While this cheque fraud scam has been around for years, artists are increasingly popular targets. Maybe it has to do with our unique vulnerability to positive feedback. As solo travellers, a message of obvious good taste and decisiveness can feel like a windfall, especially in periods of sporadic sales or patchy praise. With it rushes a flood of validation and a feeling of connectedness and independence. A bona fide sale is what my dad called “green feedback,” and he advised to understand and appreciate its specialness. More reliable than fame, the adulation of an inner circle, critical acclaim or public stipend, “green feedback” is a path to freedom, autonomy and joy.



“Character Study” 2016
acrylic on raw Belgian linen, 48 x 48 inches
by Sara Genn

In the case of George, the green — and the feedback — are fake. Here’s how the scam works: George sends you a bogus cheque by courier for far more than the value of the artwork. George, by way of a complicated explanation, needs you to pay an independent shipper with the extra amount. Often, he’s indisposed in the North Atlantic while in the midst of a transcontinental relocation. In two weeks, when the cheque bounces, your painting’s gone. You’re also on the hook at the bank. What George plans to do with his new, bulky art collection remains a mystery.



“Story Of A Cloud” 2017
acrylic on canvas, 72 x 120 inches
by Sara Genn



PS: “The best feedback in the world, the only feedback you can trust, is sales.” (Barbara Corcoran)

“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” (Warren Buffett)

Esoterica: Trust and optimism can spark the fire that warms the easel, day in and out, but don’t let those fake feedbackers cool your jets and get you down. Instead, harness that initial jolt you get when reading an email entitled “ARTWORK NEEDED,” and consider reclaiming it as a personal, empowering mantra. When the real sale appears, you’ll recognize it immediately and take it to the bank.

genn_sara-portrait2Download the new audio book, The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious.” (B. C. Forbes)



  1. Interesting as I just received one of those from my website. It’s not the first time….and while the name is different….creatively Carmen Page, the story is almost virtually the same. It is something of a let down, but I’ve come to know what they are as soon as I am notified from my website. It seems artists are thought of as an easy mark. Thanks for the good advice and quotes. Always appreciate this blog….thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I received a similar email, his name wasn’t George, I don’t recall his name and it wasn’t for their anniversary it was for his wife’s birthday. He was overseas, the painting he wanted had already been sold. He told me to pick another painting in the $5000 range and the same size 36″ X 36″. None of my paintings are priced at $5000 BTW. I played along, picked a painting and then said I had several friends who had been scammed and to avoid that I wanted cash in American currency. That ended our communiques.

  3. I received the same e-mail from a Hans David- not the first in bogus inquiries in the past few years.
    I always forward them to my gallery who put me onto them a few years ago.
    Nina Maguire

    • I have a whole email file labeled Scam full of these emails. They must have some success as they keep coming. I did have a genuine offer to purchase from an email and he bought two paintings, so once in awhile I’ve experienced an honest buyer.

  4. I have received these emails from time to time – each time different names and a slightly different story. After my first flush of excitement, I check out a few on-line scam sights such as I also try to pass on info to my art community so an unsuspecting artist doesn’t get “taken in”.
    Thanks for bringing this up Sara.

  5. I’ve had loads of those . I always thank them for their interest and say that I will post the painting when their cheque has been cleared by my bank. Oddly, they never reply to me !

    • Yes indeed…me, too! .I received my first one about 15 years ago, at least…it was a long time ago. Ever since I uploaded a website onto the internet! Since then the spelling and grammar has improved greatly! I think their repeated success with artists prompts them to continually “canvas” among our kind. Guess our kind are more vulnerable because of our gullibility and like Sara says…our desire for “approval”…

      My bank told me it takes at least 6-8 weeks to clear foreign transactions, not just 3. Look to places like ebay or amazon for your stolen paintings! Use Google earth to verify addresses. Encourage buyers to purchase through galleries. At that point they will back off because galleries WILL pursue fraud and theft. Be sure to report the fraud….The first fraud request I got was for me to send them by way of return cheque repayment of the over payment so they would’ve not only gotten my painting, but worst of all, a one way ticket into my bank account…as they would have also had my bank account number as well as my signature, and a copy of my cheque! hadn’t it been for a very astute banker….let’s just say I was so lucky I inquired at the bank FIRST! I now use indelible ink whenever I have to write a cheque, one that cannot be erased or manipulated using lighter fluid. Even the fat sharpie is erasable. And whenever something like that comes along I take it to the bank. Did you know that even certified cheques are easily counterfeited these days? Certified cheques used to be “almost as good as cash”, but not these days, not according to my banker!

      • Very helpful information Carol, thanks for taking the time to write, I’m taking notes of some of the excellent advice here. And of course thank you Sara for all your work.

  6. I received such an email about 6 years ago. Not realizing what was afoot, I communicated with the writer until I smelled a bad fish. I contacted the FBI or some such organization who asked me to send the emails, and my bank, to make sure nothing was awry. Thanks for letting people know about this. I had sold this image (a photograph) several times, so it seemed feasible.

  7. I’ve gotten these several times. The first time I was so excited, but then on some of my art association lists came the warnings because other’s had the same one’s . They get our names off association webpages. That’s ok, I’ll leave my name and email there for other publicity, but if you get these warn others.

  8. Shellee Cunnington on

    Hello Sara,

    I am new to the selling of my art and I Really appreciate that you shared your experience on this subject.
    I appreciate everyones input.

    Thank you for posting your paintings, Iove the mid and neutral tones in these.

    Hope your days are bright and your weekend is a good mix!

  9. As much as I’d like to play along with these people, I usually ignore them or, once, assuming that it’s the same person, I wrote back and said, “Get a life!”

  10. christopher grimes on

    Thanks for this warning. I have had some get these proposals but the most interesting was from someone trying to sell me a locomotive. I paint trains and they found me on the web.

    • Mitchell, all you need to do in order to qualify to receive one of these fraudulent offers is to open up a website, blog page or facebook page with paintings, or join one of those ‘visible’ art clubs that has a website etc where your name is visible to the public. Or better yet, take a few paintings to a gallery with internet exposure. Once they post your name on their site…you will become a “target”. I think all those thieves think all artists sell like Picasso! or Van Gogh…in the millions! And they can smell money from very far away! Heh heh!

      Good luck negotiating through any fradulent offers.

  11. My fraudulent art fan sent me the check (which I encouraged, to try to set a trap) and it turned out to be pretty funny (at least to me . . .) He sent a check drawn on a bank which doesn’t operate in my state – however, it was also a bank with which I do business in another state, so I recognized immediately (delightedly!) the fraud, and have the paperwork with which to PROVE it! FYI, the FBI has a page on their website to which you can report such fraud. We shall see what we shall see, but I hope my silence after receiving the check has warned off that particular jerk.

  12. It’s not only the bogus sale of artwork, but also scam exhibit opportunities. I was snared more than 20 years ago by an “art expo” opportunity to exhibit in Massachusetts. There was an exhibition fee required, which I – and a few hundred other artists – paid in advance. I shipped three pieces to the venue. Months later I received communication from the Atttorney General of Massachusetts informing this was a big scam operation. I was able to get my work back (not everyone did) but lost the fee. The perp was required to write apology letters to everyone. Of course, the fee money vanished and money for shipping the artwork also was lost.
    Many years later I was “invited” to a huuuge show to take place in Tokyo, hosted by Nikon and an art museum in Tokyo. It looked authentic, but I was suspicious. I have friends in Japan who checked it out for me and found out it was another elaborate scam with tendrils reaching to the UK as well.

  13. PayPal works well to nip these in the bud. Or a credit card payment. A legitimate buyer won’t have a problem with either method. If you have a website that supports commercial transactions that process is invoked as soon as they click the buy button.

    • Just checked my spam folder, lots of opportunities to collect lottery winnings, business propositions, even a letter from FBI Director James Comey warning me (with very poor grammar) about scams in Africa and how I can help fight this dastardly scourge by, yes, sending money. Sadly, only one generated from my Artspan website.

  14. As usual – yes ! I like the article – a person receives these scam overtures especially when :
    – moving
    – changing online address, or emails
    – buying into new things
    ….and of course, as pranks when the children are on holiday enjoying fun hacking

    This article is important to all who work online .

    Still like your Dad’s “green feedback” label – “The Best Art is SOLD Art” indeed ! It is not just “Buyer Beware” – “Seller Beware” is a truth as well.


    P.S. MORE Photos of you – the one in today’s post made me sit up – THERE she is!

    Here comes Spring

    “Winter and War may have their way
    But I am Spring and I WIN ! ”


  15. Looks like we are all in good company…this scam has happened to a goodly number of us. I had a similar experience, did a lot of sleuthing and realized it was a scam. Then I turned the tables on them, just to see how long they would nibble at my art. My final stab was when I referenced my husband, an attorney (he truly is). END of story.

  16. Actually, Sara (and others) you don’t lose the painting just the money you “paid the shipper”. All the fraudsters are interested in is the money. It is known as the “Overpayment Scam” and it is a scourge to law enforcement the world over (along with many other such scams). They are operated by Organised Crime and Terrorist groups. And to those that suggest PayPal is a safe way to accept payment – sorry, but wrong again. Paypal can be used by anyone with a credit card and an account is not necessary. Scammers will use fraudulent credit card data obtained on the so-called “Dark Web” and pay you. The transaction will go through and you will either ship merchandise or “pay the shipper” (depending on what the scammers are after). Once the card holder discovers the charge on their card they notify the bank, and then PayPal will reverse the charge to your account. And good luck arguing your case. The Internet is a wonderful thing but it has opened up the world to fraud like never before…

  17. I am a photographer. I had someone contact me about photographing a family reunion. This was, at first, seemed to be a legitimate job. I was curious as to how he found me as I do not advertise for work, but being semi-retired, I do not put myself out for jobs but do mostly by word of mouth. He said he found me by doing a Google search. I proceeded with caution. I sent him an estimate for my services and waited for his reply. This is where the scam comes in. He writes that he is in ICU just having ear surgery and needed a big favor. The event coordinator didn’t take credit cards and wanted to know if he could pay for the whole event through me and I would pay all the players from that money. I immediately sent him a letter rescinding my offer and told him I didn’t do business that way. I think he moved on to his next victim.

  18. Be aware, please, there are some Chinese working the market as well.
    Pretending they are a large Chinese company needing art works for their new offices.
    They even have a fake company-website!!!!!!

  19. I, too, have received many of these scam e-mails. the first time I went along with them. They sent me a check double the amount of the paintings. I was told I was to cash it and get a Western Union check to send to their shipper. He would come and pick up the painting. I didn’t cash the check but took it to the bank for them to look at to tell me if it was legitimate. The bank said it was bogus, thin paper, printed with a bank name, but some things were missing. I wanted to catch the thieves and do a sting, so I took all my communications and the checks to the police station. We also looked up the IP address to see where the e-mails came from. All were out of country. Our law enforcement can’t do anything about them. We called the bank which was in Texas and talked to them. They had no record of that check. The check came in a delivery service envelop and the company that sent it was on it so we called them. We were told that these thieves got their shipping codes and the tab for the mailing was on the company. I was told that the company has to hire more people just to handle all the fraud. I was thinking of stringing them along hoping it was costing them to steal from me, but no way. They used the bank, other companies and me. Not cost to them at all. Bummer! Couldn’t catch them. And they have no intention of actually picking up the artwork. I ended up telling them to ask God to forgive them and to get a real job instead of stealing from people working hard to make a living. You get to know the verbiage of the scammer. Broken English, the scenario is similar. Beware and on alert, artists!

  20. I have had similar scams directed at my work. However, I will send the painting once the money or a generous deposit is in my bank account. This has worked pretty well so far. Thanks for this advice. It is important that it is brought to the artists’ attention. We are, as you say a naive bunch of people, anxious for positive feedback and when something sells, one feels like a child getting a sweet treat.

    • Be aware that just because a payment has “cleared” your bank account the bank has MANY weeks where they can reverse cheques leaving you holding the bag, so to speak. If dealing with large numbers I would get the bank to put it in writing that the deposit is cleared and safe.

      • Val irene VanOrden on

        Yes, i received a scam email asking me if someone could open a foundation in my country. I told them i didn’t know and to ask the ambassador. Then they tried to talk to me again. I ignored them.

      • I received a scam email asking me if they could open a foundation in my country. I said i didn’t know and to ask the ambassador. They tried to talk to me again but i ignored and deleted them.

  21. Pingback: SCAM ALERT – Skylark Galleries


  23. I once received one of these emails, with a few of those awkward phrases and syntax errors, but it included a phone number and an address not far from me. I pursued it and wound up selling a very large painting to a very charming German family, living temporarily in Port Chester, New York. Every year we get a Christmas card with a picture of the whole family, from Germany.

  24. They can also come at you through PayPal and the Saatchi Art web site.. In my case, someone emailed me about a painting of mine on Saatchi Art, and said she wanted to buy it but she needed to do it through PayPal because she was a marine biologist currently at sea and couldn’t access her regular bank. She asked for my best price to buy direct from me, and wanted my home address so that she could arrange a pickup agent, as it was to be surprise present for her dad. I’ve since seen this on the web, and the gender of the person varies, but the same spelling mistakes and grammar occur. I think it is about identity theft, as well as art theft. Once they have your home address and your PayPal email address I think they try to log on to PayPal as you, but say they lost the password, then request a new one. I changed my Paypal email address and password as a precaution. Tell them you prefer cash in advance!

  25. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have recieved this same email! It’s awful to think that some people might fall for it. We have to be so careful… Meanwhile, since I know these kinds of scams are all too common, I received an email from a guy from Indonesia a couple of years back . He wanted to buy one of my teddy bear paintings for his wife, but he wanted to pay by bank transfer and for the painting to be shipped by a courrier to a post office for his collection on a neighbouring island, since his own island ‘did not have a post office.’ Alarm bells imediately rang and I let him know quite shortly, that I was aware of this type of scam and that I would not be doing business with him thank you very much! Then I received an email from him explaining that he really was genuine and that his wife collects teddy bears. At the bottom of his email was a link to his website. He owned a diving school on a very small island. I then looked him up on Facebook and found lot’s of pictures of his wife with various teddy bears dating back for years! I could not have felt any worse if I had tried! I was very appologetic and despite how I had initially reacted, he did buy the bear and I received the payment no problem! It’s a shame that the bad guys can make us so suspicious about some innocent buyers too.

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