102 – How to Avoid Art Scams
Nikki0:01 Hey Laura, have you ever been targeted in an art scam?
Laura0:05 Well, of course, because if you’re on social media, you’ve probably received at least five messages asking you to turn your art into NFTs by now.
Nikki0:14 Not even just social media, I’ve gotten an email sent through the contact form on my website.
Laura0:20 Well, as artists who are putting ourselves and our work online, hoping to make connections and sales, we can really be vulnerable to these kinds of scams, because we’re being very optimistic and thinking that people are really interested in our art. So it’s really important to be aware of the types of scams that exist and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim to one of them. Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.
Nikki0:49 And this is Nikki May, with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.
Laura0:58 We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.
Nikki1:10 Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours. Probably the most prevalent one out there these days is an NFT scam. as Laura mentioned in the intro, if you’re online at all, you’ve probably received an email or DM asking you about turning your art into NF TS for them to buy. So, Laura, how exactly does that work?
Laura1:35 Okay, so we actually had an entire episode number 77, with Dave Connery all about NF Ts, which stands for non fungible tokens. In that episode, we explain how the normal valid non scammy process works to turn your art into a unique digital asset that someone can purchase. And we definitely recommend you take a listen to that one. But when it comes to the scam, I actually got a DM scam message today. Of course he did. So here’s what it said. It came from Oliver Elijah Ferguson.
Nikki2:11 With that sounds like a legit British gentleman maybe.
Laura2:16 Yeah, he, he has a nice little suit on. It says, Oh, great. And lovely artwork, you got a thumbs up emoji. I came across your art on Explorer, and I really like your works and know the value of it. And so I am willingly to buy two of your art as NFT for about 16 Etherium or 29,000 US dollars. Let me know if the offer suit you. Well,
Nikki2:45 would bet sounds completely legit. Laura<, does the offer suit you? Well. I've definitely gotten that kind of email too. And interestingly, this is also how scammers approach you on dating websites. The language is very similar. They're just talking about your beauty, not the artwork.
Laura3:04 Wait, what are you talking about Nikki are dating websites trying to get your bank info?
Nikki3:09 As a matter of fact, they are sometimes trying to get your money. It’s more of a long game on the dating side.
Laura3:15 You’re giving me just another reason to avoid those.
Nikki3:18 I don’t blame you. But that’s a different podcast. So let’s get back to nfts. Aside from the really awkward wording, which I think you can often maybe attribute to English not being their first language. How can you tell this is not a genuine inquiry.
Laura3:34 Okay, so this guy has a private account. That’s always a red flag. Yeah, he had 11 posts, which of course, I couldn’t see because it was private. But he had 6589 followers, and he was only following 14 people.
Nikki3:50 Well, Laura, aren’t you super flattered that you’re one of the only 14 artists that he’s following?
Laura3:56 Oh, no, he isn’t even following me. So I guess I didn’t make the cut Nikki.
Nikki4:01 Oh, Laura, you definitely make my cut.
Laura4:05 Well, he says that he is a Chicago NFT collector in his bio with a picture of him in a suit. And I’m guessing this is a brand new account with mostly fake followers.
Nikki4:16 Yeah, based on the private profile, there’s no way he has that many legit followers. So what’s he hoping to gain from reaching out to artists?
Laura4:24 Okay, well, I decided to not mess with them and I never engaged with him in the DMS.
Nikki4:30 Do you ever do that though? Just out of curiosity and to see how far they’ll take it.
Laura4:34 Well, I’ve done it on the phone before with phone scammers. I’ve
Nikki4:38 totally done it respond just to see how far they’ll take it and when the obvious scam comes in. Sometimes I find it amusing on dating sites do
Laura4:46 well there is this most amazing book Nikki that we’ll link to in the show notes and it will literally leave you crying. You’re laughing so hard. It is called dot con. And it’s a comedian in it who basically dedicated an entire year to doing nothing but responding and messing with scammers.
Nikki5:05 It is so hilarious. Awesome. I’m gonna have to check it out. So back to NFTs.
Laura5:12 Okay, so if you’ve listened to Dave Connery’s NF T episode, you will have learned that part of the process to create an NF T is minting an image to get it on the blockchain to be sold. And scammers can exploit artists who may be unfamiliar with that complicated process.
Nikki5:28 Yeah, one version of an NFT scam involves sending artists to a fake NFT website and convincing them to pay a fee to mint their NFT. Right that’s called a gas fee. Right? Right. And we covered the terminology and process in the NFT episode. But since the websites fake the scammer simply takes your gas fee payment and you end up with no NFT and no money. These fake websites can also be designed to extract info from your crypto wallet allowing scammers to steal even more money.
Laura5:58 Well, we talked about a few of the valid NFT marketplaces in our NFT episode. But yeah, that’s a huge red flag if someone is trying to send you to a random site to mint an NF t.
Nikki6:08 So what’s another type of NF T scam you’ve heard of?
Laura6:11 Well, another variation of the scam is on a legitimate platform like open sea.io. Scammers basically pose as potential buyers and request artists to upload their artwork for sale. After the artist sends them a link to the artwork, the scammers send a screenshot of a purchase air and instruct the artists to contact open sea support through an email address that they provide like open firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikki6:40 Oh yeah, that email address is a sure giveaway. If you’re ever asked to send an email to a company, or you receive one from a company and it uses any domain other than the company’s name, in this case, it should have been something like support at open sea.io. That’s a sure sign that it’s not legitimate.
Laura6:58 Right. So if you use the Gmail address, they send you for open sea support. The scammers then impersonate open sea they claim you lack sufficient gas funds and they provide a wallet address for you to pay the fee, which then just goes directly into the scammers account. And if you ignore them, the scammer will reach back out again pretending to have contacted open sea support directly and they’ll forward a fake support screenshot response.
Nikki7:20 Yeah, and the scammers can also request screen prints of your account information which could lead to your crypto wallet being compromised. There’s a bunch of other ways people can try to scam us by capitalizing on our lack of knowledge about the intricacies of NF Ts. These are just a few random examples.
Laura7:37 So how do you avoid NF T scams Nikki aside from just completely ignoring those messages and emails to begin with?
Nikki7:44 Well, the easiest way to not get scammed is to just not respond. But you have to know what to look for. So that you know it’s not legit, because you don’t want to miss out on on a real opportunity. So look out for bad spelling or grammar, or Instagram accounts that are new and looks like they’re probably fake.
Laura8:03 And be careful about giving any personal information in your DMS or emails. If you’re doing what you think are valid NFT transactions, always check the sender’s full email address to ensure it’s coming from the real platform and not a scammer. Gmail is not open see. So if you’re suspicious about a URL that you’ve been given, you can also go to a website called Better who is.com. And you can look up the domain name and it will give you information on when the website was registered. And if it was registered in the last week. It’s not a real website.
Nikki8:39 You can also look at the name or company name that it’s registered to if it’s private or a name that sounds nothing like whoever it is that approached you chances are it’s not legit. Right? And definitely never provide access to your crypto wallet or screenshots of any account outside of a valid NFT platform.
Laura8:57 Okay, so I think we’ve pretty much covered NF T’s Nikki, what is another common scam that artists are victims of?
Nikki9:04 So another type of scam is one that’s been around a lot longer than NF Ts and it’s a payment scam. Okay, potential collectors will approach you again through email or on social media and complement your art and lists specific pieces they’d like to buy, or they might want to hire you to create art or illustrations for them. They’ll offer to pay you in advance. And then they’ll either send you a check or a money order which is more than the agreed upon amount. And they’ll have some kind of weird explanation about having you cover the shipping and then they’ll have you refund the excess. The checks or money orders are usually fake or stolen and you could end up losing both the artwork and the refund that you issued.
Laura9:48 Okay, so basically the way that you’re getting scammed here is all about sort of the timing because if someone sent you a check in the mail, you should make sure that it clears your bank account first before you eat their refund the money or send them your artwork?
Nikki10:03 Absolutely. And I think Laura, you have an example of this kind too, don’t you?
Laura10:09 Yeah, I just got a message this week from my website contact form. And it said this came from someone named Jerry Cofer. Hello, good day, hope you’re doing well. They’re always so nice, aren’t they at the beginning of emails, of course. My name is Jerry Cofer. I am an Academic event organizer, FYI. And also handicapped. I hope you treat me like any of your other customers. And my disability doesn’t affect our dealings, I got your contact details online while researching online and came across some art pages. I must confess your works are not just innovative, but also creative. I need the service of an artist or Illustrator to work on a project for an upcoming workshop, I’ll explain the concept of what I need to be illustrated and drawn. And you can get back to me with the price to get it done. I’ll pay your fees upfront, if you want. Kindly get back to me for more details. Respectfully, Jerry,
Nikki11:07 I got the exact same one. And I I actually responded to wait to see what would happen. Okay, so what do they say? Unfortunately, it didn’t save the thread. But basically, in the response, he went on to say that he was deaf. Again, I’m not sure why that’s relative because we’re not going to discriminate, but Right. He explained the project as a presentation about how people were dealing with COVID and needed illustrations of people in various situations. I don’t remember all the details, but he got very specific about what illustrations he needed. And I mean, I got bored with the conversation and didn’t continue long enough to get to the scam payment part. But I knew from hearing about these things, and having seen it more than once that it was coming soon.
Laura11:49 Yeah. And when it comes to payment scams, they could also ask for your bank info to do a bank transfer, which is also a massive red flag.
Nikki11:57 Definitely. And there are so many easy online legitimate ways to pay these days that if anyone has some weird excuse for wanting to pay in an unusual way, run for the hills.
Laura12:09 Well, Nikki, even if they want to use a real platform like Venmo, they can come back and say they sent a payment that didn’t go through because you aren’t a verified user, since you’re on a different type of account than they are. And then that goes sideways to write.
Nikki12:25 Yeah, this exact thing happened to me just in the last month not with artwork, but with selling something on Facebook marketplace. I gave her my Venmo username. And she said she paid it and asked if it went through. Okay, I said, No, she told me to check my email. And I had an email saying it was from Venmo. And that I had to verify my account, since mine was a personal account, and hers was business, which I’m not even sure exists. And she asked me to send her a screenshot of the email. And because I got suspicious, I looked at the email address that even though it said it came from Venmo support, the email address was not from Venmo. Right? So I sent some snarky reply to her about how she could scam someone else. And then suddenly, the messages all disappeared.
Laura13:11 Yeah, and that’s important to think like in the in the sender information, people can put whatever they want in there. So it could save Venmo customer service. But then when you click on it and look at the actual email address, that’s when you find out it’s not really them.
Nikki13:25 That’s when it says it’s from email@example.com.
Laura13:30 Exactly. So yeah, these scams that we’re talking about can certainly extend beyond just your art business. I’ve heard a lot of the Facebook marketplace thing. And I’m sure that there are plenty of other ways too, that people get scammed.
Nikki13:44 Yeah. And they can apply to any type of online purchase.
Laura13:47 But I also remember one scam going around with artists. When someone says they have they have a relative that they’d like to buy art for as a surprise. And they can’t purchase it online via your shop with a credit card, but they want to do some alternate form of payment. And that usually also turns into either a fake check or an overpayment scam.
Nikki14:08 Yeah, there are a bunch of versions of these overpayment scams, and they seem to be counting on the idea that you’ll just believe their weird stories about being out of the country or it being a surprise for their anniversary.
Laura14:20 So how do you avoid falling victim to this kind of scam Nikki?
Nikki14:23 Well, first, as we’ve mentioned before, be wary of really awkward sounding emails with bad spelling and grammar or that have really bizarre stories with way too much detail. And as with everything, don’t give out your personal banking information or accept payments that seems suspicious, if they can’t pay with a credit card or a legit online payment company be really cautious.
Laura14:48 And even with the online payment services, just make sure that a payment is sent through the official app or website and it doesn’t include any kind of email verification and really If you have your work on your website for sale, there’s no reason a real interested buyer shouldn’t just be able to purchase it that way.
Nikki15:07 Right? So So here are a few other types of scams to be aware of. One is art contests scams. This is a hard one because some people are against art contests altogether. And that might be an entire other episode. But there are some legit contests. But here’s what to look for. So you don’t get taken advantage of if you’re considering entering one. Okay? A contest might ask for high res images of your artwork that you think is just for one specific purpose related to the contest. But in the fine print, they say that just by submitting your work, whether you win the contest or not, you’re giving them permission to use your work for anything they want without paying you for additional usage, or sharing any profits with you.
Laura15:50 Can I just say that is the worst? Yeah, and I have definitely seen some like that. gotta read the fine print. There are also art contests that require an entry fee, but they don’t provide credible judging criteria, or they have really vague rules. And some contests may be fraudulent. And basically, the promise prizes may not be awarded as advertised.
Nikki16:11 Yeah, and many things that are called Art contests are really just companies asking for artists to do work on spec, which means they want a lot of artists to do their design work or commissioned pieces, and they’ll only pay for the one they pick. There’s a whole online movement against this kind of spec work. And again, I’d love to dive deeper. In another episode about contests and spec work,
Laura16:34 you really again have to read the fine print on any contest that you enter. There are also some fake Art Gallery scams, Some scammers may approach artists claiming to be art gallery owners or representatives and ask for an upfront fee or payment to showcase your artwork. However, the gallery may not be legitimate, or it may have a poor reputation. And you may end up losing your money without any exposure or sales.
Nikki16:58 Yeah, and this can actually be with online galleries too, not just not just brick and mortar. There’s also what we call a vanity gallery. In some cases, it’s an actual art gallery, but you have to pay rent for the space, and all the promotion, the opening etc, which is an interesting deeper discussion we can get into about the legitimacy of these types of galleries. But maybe having a show at a vanity gallery in a desirable location is better than not showing your work at all. So do your research about a gallery and their reputation and be aware of what the gallery takes versus what they provide. And make sure you aren’t surprised with extra costs to you. We interviewed a great gallery represented artists named Hina Alvarado back in episode 74 and 75. If you want to dive deeper into working with galleries,
Laura17:48 she had some really great tips on how to know if it’s a valid gallery or not. So definitely those would be some great episodes to listen to. Now, just like in any industry, artists can be victims of phishing scams. And these are usually emails or DMS designed to trick you into revealing personal and financial information such as login credentials, your bank info personal details like your date of birth. Scammers may send emails pretending to be a trusted art website gallery or a company seeking licensing and ask you to click on a link or provide sensitive information which can lead to identity theft or financial loss.
Nikki18:27 Yeah, we listed some specific things to look for and avoid doing already. But to wrap it up, we suggest first, always research and verify the legitimacy of the person or organization that’s contacting you. Check their website and contact information. Look for reviews or testimonials from other artists or customers and make sure they’re legit to you may even try to contact one or two and make sure they’re real
Laura18:51 and trust your gut. If something seems too good to be true or feel suspicious to you. It’s best to trust your instincts and avoid the situation. Scammers often use urgency, high payments or other enticing offers to lure artists in so take your time to thoroughly evaluate the situation and don’t rush into any decisions without the proper research.
Nikki19:14 Yeah, there are definitely people out there who are trying to prey on artists who are really eager to get their work out there seen and sold. So be a bit wary, do your research. But don’t just assume that any approach is a scam. There are some really good opportunities that may come your way.
Laura19:29 Absolutely. So now it’s your turn. Share with us in the Facebook group. Have you ever been scammed on social media email or another place? Or do you know someone who has share those experiences so we can all learn from them?
Nikki19:45 To read today’s show notes go to startistsociety.com/artscams.
Laura19:50 If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star review and share it with a friend. Sharing helps us reach more Startists like you and keeps us inspired To create new episodes
Nikki20:01 Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
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