Behind the most vibrant, thought-provoking and, in some cases, morbid creations of art are fraudulent schemes that have plagued the art world for many years.
What happened to billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev may be considered the biggest scandal in decades, but it is definitely not the first.
In 2011, Domenico and Eleanore De Sole learned the sad truth that the painting they bought from the Knoedler & Co. art gallery was nothing but an expensive forgery.
The gallery was so good in deceiving its victims that it raked in some $80 million from the sale of 31 other bogus paintings.
Then, there was the case of Walter Keane who became popular because of the doe-eyed figures he created. As it turned out, he was taking credit for his wife’s work.
This begs the question how do you protect yourself against the art scams?
If you have millions to spend on artworks, you want to make sure that you are getting the best and most genuine deal.
Unfortunately, the art world is full of scammers that play on the emotions and desires of art lovers and proponents, and steal from the artists themselves.
How do you protect yourself against them?
One of the many ways that frauds and scammers find their next victim is via email. Art scam emails are usually sent to artists or art owners who want to make a living from their art.
In this case, the artists and sellers become the target.
Internet art scams are nothing new, but idea of a potential sale often causes people to forget about the warning signs.
If you receive one, it is important to look at the telltale signs of an art scam email.
How to spot a fake art email
Impersonal tone and approach
One of the reasons that scammers are very effective is that they are very good storytellers. And they use these stories to hook you as to why they are interested in your work.
But don’t be fooled by those stories.
If the email doesn’t address you by name, it’s likely to be sent to thousands of other artists.
You should also take a look at the email address used.
If the mail claims that it comes from a gallery, the address should bear a name and not symbols or a bunch of letters that doesn’t make sense. Be wary of such emails.
There’s no law against people from other countries sending emails to someone in another location. But you must remember that scammers want to make sure that the art you sell must be shipped. The easier to hide their identities and fool you into thinking you’ll get your money once the painting arrives at its destination.
Bad email creation
Not to be a grammar Nazi or anything but it should be a red flag if the email you receive is filled with spelling and grammatical errors. If it comes from an actual art gallery, it’s unlikely to send you a crappy email.
There should be at least an effort to create a professional email. It is also a dead giveaway if an email message doesn’t flow or read as easily as it should be.
If it is oddly spaced, then it is likely that the sender carelessly copied and pasted the same message.
Although scammers these days are more sophisticated than a relative of a Nigerian prince, but the way they write an email could still reek of suspicious activity.
Pay by cashier’s check
If a sender insists of paying through this manner alone, then you should take evasive maneuvers. The odds of the check being faked is very high.
If people have been scammed with the promise of a direct bank transfer with a fake transaction receipt, the more vulnerable you are with a fake check.
Don’t even bother. Because if a bank discovers the fraud, you could be held accountable.
Another red flag is when a buyer insists of using their own shipper. It is likely that the moving company is a fake and that the people who pick up your artwork are in on the art scam.
Because scammers know better these days, you could receive an email that doesn’t have the red flags.
In this situation, you need to perform due diligence.
Do your research and check if anyone else has received the same shady email. Type in a snippet of the email into Google and you might find a lead on the results.
You can further verify the legitimacy of an email by asking for a phone number and insisting that you speak directly with the potential buyer.
If that’s not possible, then make sure you do not share personal information that can be used against you such as credit card or bank account.
When it comes to payment, have them pay through PayPal.