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2007-01-14 22:10:49
Last author: wulfman
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...So you want to sell your artwork

This Wiki is a guide to help you to become aware of problems you can encounter while selling your work. There are a lot of potential buyers out there and some of them are inept. Others are outright deceptive. The majority are decent and honest but even when everything goes right with a sale you need to cover yourself against problems which could arise even after a sale.

In order to sell art online, it is necessary to increase your exposure and advertise yourself. This is a good thing. Just understand that theri are people reading those listings and postings that aren't necessarily real buyers. Even those who are legitimate buyers may have unrealistic expectations that could cost you big money if you don't protect yourself.

Online Fraud

You would think that a criminal would have better things to do than hang out on auction sites or lurking guestbooks. Sadly that isn't the case. None of these scams is unique to art trade but the scammers customize their approach to a target to make it seem so. That said, the art seller needs to make himself aware that simply buy selling, he marks himself as a potential target.

The good news is that they're easy to spot if you understand what to look for. Art sales are actually perfect for the purposes of some criminals. Art is typically lightweight and has a value which is not intrinsic to the cost of the materials. Aspiring artists are also often susceptible to beiung told that their work is better than it actually is.

The sale is often by an individual, and the transaction is often poorly defined by the seller. This is a huge mistake. Art sales online are targetted by a wide range of fraudulent buyers and their techniques vary, but the end result is always the same. They want to either seperate you from your money on the front end of the sale, or they want to first seperate you from your work, and use that as leverage to seperate you from your money later.

Why would they target artists?
Because self-representing artists have few resources compared to larger more experienced galleries and often aren't aware that their work could be used to front a transaction which could at best be an attempt to launder money, and at worst could be an attempt to strip mine the artist of whatever money they might have. They aren't concerned about how much or how little this might be. They deal in bulk. If they target enough people, they know that of those who respond to their emails, that a portion of them will be naive enough to send some amount of money. These scams are used individually or often in combination.

Inept Buyers

More often than fraud, and more damaging to sales, an artist will encounter people who wield the buyer protections afforded to them by their credit card like a sword in the hands of a five year old. They don't understand or take responsibility for the ramifications of asking the credit card company to charge the item back on a whim. This doesn't happen all that often, but when it does an unprepared seller could find himself the loser in a silly dispute.

The Customer is Always Right?

The object is to try to make the buyer's expectations realistic. This doesn't always work, but sometimes the best you can hope for is to protect yourself from losing both your artwork and the sale. Make sure you spell out exactly what you expect if the buyer wants their money back. If you don't, chances are you'll lose. If you do, you will have a number of options... even breaking your own rules to make the customer happy. Make sure you reserve the option to control returns. This doesn't mean being a complete jerk about it, but if you don't reserve these rights, someone may take them away from you. The object is not to be inflexible, but to arrive at a happy resolution when problems with a sale arise.

Advance Fee Fraud - Section: CYA-419
This by itself is a huge subject, so this will necessarily be incomplete. The important thing to remember about online fraud is that these are con-men and slight of hand artists. Haste, distraction, and playing upon the emotions of the potential victim are the tools of the online scammer. I've selected some of the more common strategies they employ, but this is by no means a complete list. The basic things to recognize are the requirement for either an untracable transaction, or for personal information which would allow the scammer to open a credit card account using your identity.

When is spam really spam? When is it scam/spam and when is it just a spam for a retarded idea from someone who really isn't out to defraud anyone? If someone disrespects you enough to shove their spam at you, should that itself be an indication that they shouldn't be trusted? This addition doesn't need to be criminal to be a really bad thing to get sucked into... I give you Spammer Deluxe, Peter Corrao, and his maybe-legitimate tax service tagetted specifically to artists.
CYA-"Taxes for Creatives" Spammer

The ChargeBack King - Section: CYA - Chargeback
A credit card chargeback is an essential tool for protecting the user of a credit card from unathorized use, but it also has the potential for abuse and mis-use. A chargeback isn't automatic, but there are things the artist can do to ensure that a chargeback doesn't occur, and that if one does the artist has grounds to contest the claim. An Online Sales Policy: CYA - Sales Policy is essential for managing the pitfalls of the numpty buyer with unrealistic expectations.

Phunny Money ain't so Funny - Section: CYA - Counterfeit

Take Control of the Sale - Section: CYA - Sales Policy
Using a Sales Policy to manage your risk and keep both you and your customers happy.

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]

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2006-10-22 [wulfman]: This Wiki is dedicated to those artists who want to sell their work, and don't want to fall victim to the multitude of online scams and pitfalls that await the unprepared. Parts will deal with avoiding actual fraud, and others will just be to try to keep you from shooting yourself in the foot while trying to make a sale.

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