Artwork by Monica Gunderson

Artist Thoughts

How to Avoid Them Art Scams

November 09, 2015 at 5:14 PM

Art Scams


How to be Safe when Selling Artwork Online or at an Event

When selling artwork online or even at events or festivals, you have to be aware of scams and empty promises, otherwise you will be paying for it later, literally. Last weekend I was contacted by someone who I believe is a scammer by the name of "Senior Collins" ( because there were a lot of fishy statements that he had mentioned within the email that he had sent.

Here are some helpful hints for artists selling artwork at events and/or online.

  1. Never have someone "pay you later" for an artwork, stand firm and let them know that you need the artwork to be paid for in full before your artwork is handed over. Don't even put an artwork on hold, unless you get a down payment. This is because if you put an artwork on hold, and a potential buyer sees that it is on reserve, you have lost that potential buyer and you never know how long an artwork will be on hold if all you get is a "promise". If someone is really interested in your artwork, they will pay you in full, or at least give you a down payment of at least twenty five or fifty percent of the payment with some written agreement of when the rest will be paid. If they can't commit to that, the artwork is still for sale. If the person comes back and pays for it, great, but you don't want to have an artwork on hold for months or years with only empty promises. Another thing to keep in mind, if someone is in love with one of your artworks, but they cannot afford it, let them know that you also have art prints of the same artwork, which may be more affordable. If they still insist on buying the original but are unable to make the payment in full, stay firm with the asking price, and try to resolve a workable solution, we (artists) work hard, and do not give our hard work out for free. Also, never hand over your artwork to someone unless the artwork is paid in full, even if it is your best friend or family. You don't want to end up in some drama situation because they never paid you for your work.
  1. When at a local event, if paid with a check, be sure to have them write their phone number and drivers license on the check and look at their drivers license or ID to ensure they wrote it correctly and that it matches the name on the check. It also does not hurt to check the buyers' drivers license or ID card when they purchase with a credit card. This is mainly for your safety so if the check bounces, your bank is able to contact the purchaser and hopefully resolve the issue. In addition, if the check or credit card does not match their drivers license or ID card number, there is a problem. If the artwork is being bought with a check, deliver the artwork after the check has cleared, otherwise you may never see your artwork or the money owed for the artwork ever again. Another thing that I like to do is take a picture of the buyer holding the original artwork that they are purchasing. I let them know that I will not post the picture on the internet, but that I like to have pictures of my happy customers for my own records. So now if they purchased with a check, you not only have their phone number, and drivers license or ID number, but you also have a picture of them as well, so if something does go wrong, you have a lot of evidence or information to provide for those who are investigating the bounced check.
  1. If someone emails you and would rather pay with a personal check, let them know that you prefer them to pay with a credit card through your online purchasing system. A cashier's check or money order could also work, but there are people out there who create counterfeit checks, including money orders and cashier's checks. If you don't know them, it is safer just to tell them, "I only take credit for online and out of state purchases". No more needs to be said. Sometimes the person may be insistent that they are unable to pay for the artwork by credit card such as they don't want their significant other discovering that they are purchasing them a gift, or that they are currently overseas, or on a training voyage do not fall for this! If they can't pay with a credit card by using your online purchasing services, then the purchase is not going to happen. For your luck they send you the check and it bounces.
  1. Never ever send your artwork to the buyer until after the credit card or check has cleared. I cannot pressure how important this is, do not send any artwork home with a buyer unless the credit card or check has cleared and there is no discrepancies because if the check bounces or their credit card account does not have the full amount available, you will lose money, your artwork, and on top of that you will have to pay bank fees for the bounced check or inadequate funds.
  1. Watch out for overpayments! If you decide to take a check from an online purchase (which I would strongly advise that you don't), and the buyer sends a check with more than the asking price with a request to send the extra money to their "chosen shipping service", send that check back with a letter explaining that this is not acceptable. As the artist, you choose the shipping provider, not the customer. Besides, when you make an online purchase, shipping and handling as well as the cost of you preparing the artwork for shipment should be included in the overall price. Unless the buyer is willing to pick it up personally, there should be no confusion on how much the overall purchase should be.
  1. Handle all shipping and handling costs yourself. Do not let the buyer decide which shipping service they want (unless you have a widget available on your online purchasing for different shipping arrangements), nor let them talk you into having their "agent" or friend pick it up for them. The ONLY time it may be acceptable for someone else to pick up the artwork for the buyer is if they pick it up from an art gallery that you work with and it is written in an agreement and signed by both parties and each party has a copy of the agreement. Never agree to have someone you don't know come to your home or personal art studio to pick up an artwork, you just can't trust everyone. That, and make sure before the artwork is picked up (on YOUR terms), that the credit card or check payment is cleared, and they better bring their copy of the agreement along with their drivers license or ID card to verify who they are.
  1. If you receive an email by someone inquiring about purchasing an artwork and seems to be in a hurry, it is probably a scam. If someone tries to pressure you to send your artwork before the payment is received, be firm and say NO. They may try and trick you by saying they "need" the artwork right away for their significant others birthday, Christmas, anniversary present, or perhaps they are moving away to a different state or country and would like to receive the artwork before they move. Do not fall for this trick; they are most likely sending you a bunk check or something is wrong with their credit card. Not only that, if they were thinking of making such a big purchase for that "someone special", they should have thought ahead of time and got it taken care of sooner instead of at the last minute. Again, never send artwork to buyer until their check or credit card payment has been cleared.
  1. If you receive an email of someone wanting to purchase an artwork, do a little research by looking up their name and email address. A lot of artists will post about scams that they have experienced or received in their email, so it is helpful just to double check. It does not hurt, and it also does not take that much time out of your day. Besides, it is better to be safe than sorry. Sorry as in losing an expensive artwork that you put your heart and soul into, losing money, plus paying for bank fees from the bounced check which will most likely damage your credit score.
  1. Never give out your personal information to someone inquiring about a purchase through an email or if they randomly call you. If they want to know where they should send a check in order to purchase an artwork, refer them to a gallery that you work with or back to your website so they can purchase with a credit card through your website. Most likely, they will back out if they are scammers because they want your personal information. Again, never send artwork to buyer until their check or credit card payment has been cleared, even if they are on their deathbed. Am I starting to sound like a broken record yet?
  1. If you are emailed by someone who is inquiring about your artwork, but can't tell you which artwork they want even though it is marked CLEARLY on your art website, it is most likely a scam. Don't even waste your time by providing a list of artwork and prices; don't even give them a link to your website. If they contacted you through your art website and are asking for prices that you have clearly marked on your website, there is something wrong. I mean, who contacts you about wanting an artwork if they can't even describe what the artwork is? If they are so interested, they should already have this information available for you.

I hope these tips help you when you are selling your artwork whether it be online or at some event or festival. I know that when someone inquires about purchasing an original artwork is exciting, but be sure that you keep level headed about the situation and look out for the warning signs. Stay firm about your prices and be safe of which transactions you are willing to take. Again, never ever send an artwork home with a buyer until that check or credit card purchase clears!

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Monica Gunderson Fine Artist

Modesto CA