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As an artist making the usual rounds in the art world, hoping to spread your artistic vision far and wide, you’re bound to run into a scam here and there. Below are some tips to avoid some of the most common online scams, and links to help ensure that you’re not a victim!

Tip #1: Do a search

If you receive an offer for your art online, it takes almost no effort to do a quick internet search for:

  • The sender’s email address
  • The sender’s name
  • A sentence in the email with unique wording
  • An address, if provided
  • Anything else unique to the offer

You can’t depend on a scammer being completely lazy and reusing the same ploy for each of his targets, but many times this is the case. A quick search can pull up lots of useful information, if not direct evidence that you’re the target of a scam.

Tip #2: Check for warning signs

Does something seem a little “off” with the offer? Here are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • The person tells you they need the piece immediately (and hopes to get the item before the payment clears)
  • The email has poor grammar or many misspellings
  • The person asks questions that a real buyer would probably have already found the answers to (e.g. “How much does it cost?” when you have the price clearly listed)
  • The person is located in Nigeria
  • The person claims to be away on vacation, business, etc. and outlines specific shipping requirements for you to follow

Tip #3: Ask questions

If the person wants to arrange something that you’re not comfortable with, like having your art shipped immediately before funds can clear, ask the specific questions about why he insists on doing so. Also, post your concerns to message boards, like our artist forum. You may find some people with similar experiences or good advice of their own.


Tip #4: You love me, you really really love me. (For a price).

Heart with dollar signs
If a gallery or publication tells you they want to feature your work, but only for a price, be skeptical. There are a few legit organizations that do this, but there are many more that don’t care as much about promoting your work as they do about collecting exhibition fees. Again, do your research and make sure you want to grace their show with your work, when there are many other opportunities with no cost to enter.

Tip #5: Never ship until you’ve received payment

Absolutely, positively, never send your item until the funds have cleared. Check out the links below to avoid chargebacks with PayPal, but also be wary of bounced checks or checks for amounts greater than you asked.

You might want to talk to the buyer about using an escrow service, which verifies funds and protects both the buyer and the seller. It does cost money, but may be worth it for peace of mind. If the buyer is serious, he’ll go along with it.

Helpful links

Knowing what’s out there will let you enjoy your online art selling experience even more. Have you been the target of a scam in the past? Talk about it in the forum.