Advance Fee Fraud
Keep in mind these are only examples. Scammers can be very creative. Don't expect every detail of a scam to be identical.
The purpose of this Wiki isn't to discuss every possible variation on a scam, but to make the artist aware that some offers to buy aren't legit, and to help them identify obvious problems. For detailed information on Advance Fee Fraud (419), visit;
A non-profit activist group who run the gauntlet, standing in harms way, they harrass the senders of fraudulent emails and cause them to waste time with fake victims. Seems like a stretch, but this actually works and gets better results than law enforcement. Don't try this yourself though without training. The scammers are very dangerous people and have been known to kill real victims for no reason. Imagine what they would do to a wiseguy that was screwing with their business. Scam-baiting is not something to enter into lightly.
This is a website hosted by a special task force of the South African Police.
The U.S. Treasury Department/ Secret Service website. They have some basic outlines of how to avoid online scams.
More detailed information is available, but is beyond the scope of this Wiki.
A sampling of a few example scams...
The International Gallery Buyer Scam
"I am seeing your wonderful art and wish to commission some work to be shipped to our international gallery for a showing opening next week."
The buyer doesn't necessarily identify the gallery, and if he does the chances are high that a name will have been chosen and a webpage of poor design will be hosted on a "freebie" webhost.
Google is your friend here. Find the person that the buyer is claiming to be and the gallery he claims to represent and contact them directly through their own posted contact information, not through any contact information the email or linked webpage might offer. This includes phone numbers. Scammers often use Skype relays to fool people into believing they are in one country, when they are actually in quite another.
This scammer will promise fame and riches and will praise your work to the heavens... Then he will detail problems that have arisen that require some fee or fees. If someone is really interested in your work as an addition to an international gallery, they will be professional enough that transportation and the safe return of your unsold work will already be worked out. A real gallery will never require an up-front fee to display your work. You should also give your own work a good hard look. Is your work really good enough to warrant the attention of an international buyer? Alarm bells should already be going off if any of these things sound familiar.
There is a small chance, if you are a talented artist, that you could be approached by a gallery... Usually it works the other way around and an artist must market themselves into one. If you don't know the person, research them. Don't allow your elation to make the decision for you about dealing with anyone who approaches you.
Typically the way this scam works is that the scammer will stumble on your guest-book, website or an online posting in a forum where you've left an email address. The scammer will try to get you excited about a sale, and worse, the bane of all aspiring artists, the promise of prestige... even fame. They will make arrangements for transportation and will then whisk your work away. If they do pay in advance they will use either a stolen credit card, or offer you a check or money order for more than the amount required, suggesting then that you deposit it and then use the difference for shipping changes. Wonderful guys, even offering to send you the money for the shipping costs. What they are really doing is running a fake check scam on you. They may also then "remember" that import fees, security fees, or local bribes have not been paid to get your work in to the show on time. They will urge haste. Some horrid event will then occur on their end which prevents them from covering these fees and you must act quickly or "the world will come to an end." What will happen then if the scam goes as planned, is that you will end up sending back all the money they sent to you and then some... only later will you discover that the check, money order, or credit card transaction has not actually cleared by your bank and the instrument has been found to be a fraud. You will be out your artwork, and will then have to struggle to earn the money to pay the bank back for the bogus transaction. Banks in many countries make funds available before a transaction actually clears... The scammers know this. They count on being able to hurry you into sending the money and that you will be unaware that just because the money has been credited to your account, doesn't mean that the transaction actually cleared. It takes as long as 8-10 weeks in some cases for an international check, money order, certified check, or other promissory note to be verified by your bank. A stolen credit card may not be discovered missing or mis-used for weeks. You will still be held responsible for the transaction if you spend the money too soon... and if you send the money back to the scammer, or to some "other party" like a security company or customs office, you will never recover it. The scammer's job will be to find as many excuses as you will believe, why you should send money back to him, or to someone else (also him) before the bank discovers the problem and freezes the account.
The Deathbed Wish Scam
You might be contacted by someone claiming to be terminally ill, who wishes to make an endowment to worthy artists. Typically this will turn into a classic 419 Trunk-box scam or similar attempt within the first few emails. You will be instructed that their money is all hidden in a safe place somewhere and their health prevents them from securing it themselves... If you just pay for release of the funds and the taxes etc... you can have their entire fortune. This one is pretty transparent to most folks, but there are scammers making this ploy work. The impulse is rarely pure greed on the part of the victim, but more often sympathy. They may also request that you send money to cover their medical expenses while the hidden money is delivered to you... Other problems will arise. The box full of money will be "held in customs" and they will require you to send money also to an additional address (also themselves) to cover these unfortunate events. You are supposed to get paid for your artwork out of the contents of the box of money they are sending to you... which will never arrive. They will become extremely indignant if you confront them about any part of the scam... They are after all, "giving you their entire fortune based upon your merit as an artist and humanitarian."
The Gift Scam
"I wish to send some of your wonderful art to my son/daughter/wife/favorite gallery..."
They will offer to pay too much and suggest that as a favor to them, you should also send the difference to this relative or other party, due to complications in their completing the transaction themselves... What follows is the basic 419 fake check scam.
The Security Agent Scam
An online transaction has turned up bogus... confirm your credit card number/ social security/ tax ID/ etc immediately or your account will be seized while the investigation into possible wrongdoing continues. This scam starts out with the implication of authority and threat. They may make it seem as if your account has been used be someone (and they aren't sure it was you) to conduct a fraud... They will try to influence you into the belief that giving them your personal or financial information will get you off the hook. They may pretend to be police or investigators... Such people will never ask you for sensitive personal information so don't feel the least bit squeamish about tossing an email like this in the round file or hanging up if they phone you.
CYA-419-example-01 I'm just a poor brilliant artist with a family and cute pets to feed and I just don't know what will happen if you don't help me circumvent import and tax laws...
CYA-419-example-02 When they use the words "absolutely legal" it probably isn't and "Risk Free" means the scammer is pretty sure that he won't get caught fleecing you.
Phishing and Pharming
Another popular scam is an attempt to trick you into thinking an email you got is an important notice from your bank or some other service. As ebay has become a more and more popular place , attempts to run this scam have grown. Artist aren't specifically targetted, the emails are simply written to look as though they are written directly to the recipient. If you happen to be selling art and you have contact information exposed to provide your bidders or buyers a means of asking questions, or if your sale links to a website where they can contact you, be prepared to get tons of little scam mails like this. Never Never Never follow a link in an email directing you to what looks like your bank, or eBay, PayPal or even to accounts like MySpace. If you are concerned that it MIGHT be legit, open a browser manually (NOT by following the email link) and go to your account. Any warnings, notices, bills, or whatever... will also be in your account messages.
Phishing is this type of scam, when a fake website is used. Often graphics are captured or hotlinked directly from the legitimate site, making a visual comparison very difficult. The scammer will present identical of similar dialogs when asking you to sign into your account. What they are actually trying to do is just get you to reveal your account and password information to their fake website making it possible for them to access your account later.
Pharming is a slightly more advanced form of this scam in which a website script is used at the address the email actually links to, which then accesses your account directly in real time by redirecting your entries in the login script to the legit site... You in affect unlock the door and invite them into your account. It is similar to a web proxy, but the proxy itself is owned by criminals who can use your own real time connection, cookies, and even an HTTPS encrypted connection, to let you open your piggy bank which they then empty.
Some of these can be very convincing since they use the legit site's graphics. They also employ intense emotional stimulous to invoke an irrational an illconsidered action on your part.
On occassion they will inform you that you won some sort of contest or lottery. More often they play on anxiety and fear.
Some do a great deal of information gathering to target a mark.
If you sell on eBay or any similar auction house, or Craigslist or similar classified ad posting, you will more than likely be targetted for something like this. They may claim your account information has been lost, that your account has been hacked and they need to verify your personal information (protecting from the mysterious hacker), or claim that you own them money and in many cases the letter will come in the form of a threat. They my state that your account has been locked, or frozen or under scrutiny by law enforcement.
Treat emails of this kind as a threat. Answering them will do little more than verify that your email account is active and that you are concerned. Asking the sender if the contents are real, makes no sense. If they send you a scam, why would they tell you that they are scamming you in reply to your admitting to them that you are just the sort of target they are looing for. Don't even respond to an email like this. You might even want to become active in protecting auctionhouse sellers and cusomers generally by reporting the email to the auctionhouse or advertising site.
This is a work in progress and will likely take a little time to complete. If you have any questions about this Wiki contact [wulfman]