Sunday, February 19, 2006

Art Scam?

So the other day I got an email from an artist I trust warning about a scam that's targeting young artists. I'm not sure whether the confidence artist/s are scamming to get artwork and then not pay for it or are somehow getting money from the artists (the adage about a stone and blood comes to mind, but I digress), but I read the email too quickly, can't find it now, and don't recall the details.

Anyway, today one of our artists forwarded an email that went:


Compliments, I am Mrs. Mercy Roth from the U.K. I found your email address on Artist's Directory; I also viewed your online gallery and found different artworks of beautiful interests. I am pleased to let you know that you are very creative and I like your artworks. I would like to purchase your artworks of price ranges of 1,000 to 1,500 ranges only because i would also like to beautify our new apartment with your artworks. So please get back to me with your artworks available for sale either in a text file document or in a JPEG IMAGE.

Waiting for your response.

The wording struck me as odd (not authored by someone whose first language is English), and I told the artist I thought this might be the same scam, but to be sure I'd forward some jpegs and see what their response was. Well, in doing so I accidentally sent the same email I sent my artist (which started "think this is a scam") to "Mrs. Mercy Roth from the U.K." who, un-insulted and undaunted, replied:


Kindly mail me the available artworks in a jpeg image with their prices of the price range i want so that i can chose the artworks i want. Kindly get back to me with your contact name and home address where to send cashier's cheques to for the billing of the artworks that I will chose. I have an impromptu travel to kenya to supervise our new house work project over there. So please work with my shipping agent and i will soon inform my busineess partners and shipping agent about you and your works.

I will be expecting your mail.
So this has all the hallmarks of a scam, none the least of which is the request for the artist's home address (at least I'm assuming she thought I was the artist responding with a suggestion to send jpgs) rather than the gallery address, mention of a forthcoming cashier's check, and the business partners who will contact you.

Now I guess I should be encouraged that even con artists feel emerging art is worth such elaborate efforts, but I'm curious if others have more info about Mrs. Mercy Roth and her under-decorated apartment in the UK.

UPDATE: Well, there seems to be enough information here to confirm that emails like this should set off alarm bells and at the very least get folks to withold any personal contact until confirmation of the interest seems more secure. Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences. In response to this post, I received an email from a gallery employee (who asked to remain anonymous) that outlines really well how this works {I've changed a few names here to maintain the anonymity}:
The scam you note on your blog is one we were subjected to but from a different person. Ours was from a hotel in {Europe}. They ask for j-pegs, then say they want pieces. You bill them and they send too much money. When you tell them they've overpaid they tell you to send the extra to their shipper to cover those costs. Their check will bounce but their hope is that you send the shipper money (they requested a cashiers check) before you find out their check has bounced. I was suspicious so I sent no money to see if the check cleared. Once I informed them that the check bounced I never heard from them again. What made the deal seem like it might be real was that they said they were buying for a resort hotel in {Europe} that had just opened, I went to the hotel's website and the hotel apparently exists. I assume the scammers are just using the hotel's site or the scam is run by someone who works at the hotel. The check they sent us was drawn from the {American City} branch of a {South American} bank. We never reported this since it seems untraceable.


Anonymous jen said...

Something like this showed up on an artist listserv and what happens is that they'll send you a check for $1800 ( the selling price being $1500), claim that they've accidentally over-payed and to please refund the $300 via money order or cashiers check. Meanwhile, their international check, which takes a while to process, ends up bouncing and you're out $300 and possibly a painting.

2/19/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

Look at

for the info. on above mentioned scam.

Another Nigerian scam.

2/19/2006 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anna L. Conti said...

Yes, these are common solicitations - I get about one a week. They always mention specific paintings, to reassure you that they've actually been looking at your web site. They flatter you excessively, and then say they want to buy the most expensive pieces... and many of them!

Another variation is, after they've overpaid, they want you to buy them a few cell phones, or some other kind of electronic gadget, and then pack it in with the painting.

The unfortunate side effect is that I'm very suspicious of anyone from abroad who expresses interest in my paintings, and if their English is poor, or they have any connection with Africa, Russia or China, they get deleted at once, without a reply.

2/19/2006 08:27:00 PM  
Anonymous F. Mae said...

I have recieved a many of these email solicitations. These scammers always mention the very first artist and piece of work viewable on our gallery website in order to appear credible.

The first time I was confused (and a little bit hesitant) but followed up by sending images and pricing information. I naively thought that contemporary art was too much a niche market to be targeted by these people. The email message I recieved back was of an extremely dubious nature so I never answered and was prepared for the next batch of art solicitations.

***I have of course won the lottery numerous times a day and am also related to a plethora of Nigerian royalty and business men who have died suddenly and tragically.***

in other words this is a TOTAL SCAM! and it's exhausting being so gaurded about emails.

thanks ed for the great blog...I know you hear it all the time, but I'm an avid reader!

2/20/2006 02:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Jesse G. said...

Nigerian Scammer Payback...

I read this "best of" craigslist post a while ago about a man renting a room on craigslist and stringing along an email scammer who tried to pull the same over-payment scam:

its a good read for those of you tired of these emails.

2/20/2006 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

After the 4th credit card that they submit fails it'll be time to junk the sender. Just for fun we went as high as 8 cards. The African continent, the new wild west.

2/20/2006 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

This also came up at Fallon and Rosof's blog last year. for more information.

Keep in mind these guys are working out of many countries now, USA included. A number of scams have been confirmed as originating in Brooklyn. Never give scammers any personal information. They've resorted to kidnap and murder in some cases.

2/20/2006 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous jec said...

Thanks, Ed, for posting about this.

I got the email too, and though I figured it wasn't legit, I wasn't positive, so sent it on to my gallery for feedback.

Hey everyone, is there a good place to get information about stuff like this?

2/20/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

more info

2/20/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Heh, I went as far as to receive and then shred a "cashier's check" from one of these folks. When I told them that, they sikked the FBI, via email from, on me.

I'm still all aquiver with concern...

2/20/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Edward,

I get these all the time by email. I routinely ask them to send more information by mail to to my agent:

Robert Mueller Galleries
Robert S. Mueller III
Gallery Director
Washington Metropolitan Gallery Field Office
601 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20535-0002

I usually don't hear from them again after they mail my field agent. :)


2/20/2006 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous paul said...

Are they ever legit? Now I just got an email from a guy in Belgium, and obviously I'm really suspicious after reading all this.

I checked out the domain that his email came from and it's for a legit-looking law firm, and his name is on the list of lawyers. And I also found his name on a few law-related websites. The email could have been hijacked, maybe.

And the work he's interested in is all computer video related work. Scam or legit, it's kinda weird either way. Nobody ever wants to buy that kind of stuff, ha.

2/20/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Paul, keep in mind these guys specialize in making fake convincing-looking websites. Check the domain name through the whois lookup at It may turn out to be bogus. Regardless, proceed with extreme caution.

The jig's up if he wants to send you a check for more than the cost so that you'll send the difference in cash, and/or if he wants you to cram cell phones or other goods in with the shipment. Wait extra long for any international checks to clear before sending out a shipment.

2/20/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

hey Bill,

I had tried whois, but it didn't offer much either way.

At first I was completely convinced it was a scam, but now I'm pretty well convinced that it is legit and reading this post right before I got that email was just a funny coincidence. Aside from his site and other sites that verify who he says he is, I also realized he chose a specific style of video work, and would have had to sift through a bit of my site to pick them out.

I'll still proceed with caution tho...

This is the domain that the email came from:

2/21/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

DC Photographer Matt Achhammer posted a bit on his blog about the scam as well, mostly explaining how it works.

2/21/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

An update: much to my surprise, the guy turned out to be a legit buyer. So some of them are worth checking out.

2/26/2006 03:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This same scam almost happened to me. The buyers name was Robert Cole. He gave me a Wisconsin address but said he's moving to the UK. He had a yahoo address.

His email is .

6/02/2008 07:22:00 PM  

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