Can You Spot a Fake Buyer?

Don’t be the victim of an artwork purchasing scam.

art scam warning It’s an unfortunate reality that not all inquiries you receive about purchasing art are legitimate.   It’s exciting to get an email from a prospective buyer, but please be aware that scammers frequently use this method to try to con artists.

What typically happens is an artist receives what seems to be a legitimate email inquiry about the purchase of work.  An email conversation ensues between the artist and the supposed buyer.   If the sale proceeds, the artist is sent more money than agreed upon for the sale.  The artist is then asked to cash the check payment and send the balance back via a money order.    During this time period, the initial check sent by the “buyer” bounces due to insufficient funds and the artist is out the amount that they “refunded” back to them.  Another twist s that the buyer will ask the artist, to pre-pay shipping because of a special arrangement with their “shipping agent”, with a promise of reimbursement.  After doing so, the buyer disappears and the artist is out of the funds.

Sample Scam Email

Below is an email received by an artist that I work with.  This email was quickly identified as a scam, using an email response that I offer for your use later in this post.

I am so excited that I came across of your work on internet search,I am interested in purchasing these creative artworks from you…………………

Snow Bowl “Jupiter Light”

“Scattered Frost” “Honeycomb Falls”

Let me know their various price and how much discounts are you going to give? I will be happy to have these selected artworks hung in our new home in Miami. As well,I want you to take out the shipping cost.I have been in touch with a shipping firm that will be shipping other house decoratives.

We are traveling from our Seattle home to our new apartment as soon as possible. On Paying for the artworks,I will be glad to pay you with a Money Order or Cashier`s check in US funds that can be easily cashed at your local bank,please let me know on how to proceed for the payment of the creative artworks.

I will await your advise on how to proceed.Have a wonderful day.

Take care, Kathryn Edwards

Tips to avoid a scam.

If you sell online, here are some warning signs to look for in a prospective buyer’s email.

The grammar that does not sound quite right…”I am so excited that I am across of your work on internet search”…

Any mention of shipping costs or that they will make the shipping arrangements. Legitimate buyers inquire about shipping if you don’t list it on your site, but don’t typically make their own shipping arrangements.  Do you ever make your own arrangements for shipping an online purchase?  Never ever pay a “shipping agent” for the buyer.

A story that involves them needing to have work shipped to a different location other than where they are currently located.

Proactively telling you how they will pay, especially when it does not involve a credit card.

A story that involves them not having a credit card to use because they are purchasing the work as a “secret” gift for a spouse, partner, etc...For long distance or email transactions, I recommend only accepting credit card or payment through a service such as PayPal, Square or Stripe.  


Here’s how to respond to an inquiry.

Here is a sample response to use in order to determine whether or not you are dealing with an authentic buyer.

Thank you for your interest in my work. I ship via the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Express or UPS. Depending on your purchase and location, I will determine which service will work best for your purchase and give you a quote prior to shipping. I accept credit cards only via Pay Pal or Square. Please send me your shipping address and I will provide you with a shipping quote.

If you send this email and you don’t get a response, chances are the inquiry was a scam.

I hope that all of your buyers are legitimate, but make sure you vet your inquiries.  Better safe than sorry!

Have you had an experience with a scam that you think would be helpful to share with other artists?  Are there other tips that clue you into a scam?  Please comment below or send your story or tips to

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Photo by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash