by Catherine Watts

With the advance in technology, scams are becoming more sophisticated. Unfortunately for the hard-working artists of the world, arts scams are becoming much more prevalent. Luckily, there are ways in which artists can protect themselves from being taken in by one of the many online scams out there.

Why Scammers Target Artists

Because artists take immense pride in their work and like to be recognized for their abilities, they make great targets. Scammers can be particularly charming and that’s what makes them more insidious. While you should never wear distrust on your sleeve, you should always approach any potential transaction with a bit of skepticism. When used correctly, skepticism can help you to recognize and avoid much of the skullduggery discussed below.

Most Common Types Of Scams

Auction Fraud

Like with selling or buying on Amazon, even the most legitimate of art auction websites will attract scammers. When selling your art, be wary of people who want to send you more money than the cost of the item then ask for a refund, who want to overpay for items, or who ask you to ship items to another country even though the purchaser is supposedly based in the US.

Identity Theft/Phishing

Identity theft scams can take many different forms. Phishing schemes are particularly prevalent these days. This type of identity theft occurs when a scammer sends you an email pretending to be from a legitimate company or individual. This email will often contain some aspect of urgency to respond and will ask you to confirm your personal information by clicking on a link. Once you click on the link, you will be taken to a website that looks very official but is actually a fake. These websites will then attempt to gain access to your information.

Non-payment For Items Sold

In order to pull off this scheme, the scammer will normally offer to pay for the artwork with a cashier’s check or a money order which can take up to three weeks to clear. Once the cashier’s check inevitably bounces, the artist is left without the payment he or she was expecting and without their art.


An overpayment scam is when someone purchases a piece of art from you, then tries to overpay, normally with a cashier’s check, a money order, or some other form of 3rd-party payment. The scammer will suggest that you just refund them the difference. Once the person discovers that the money was not received, the unsuspecting artist has already provided the refund and lost their money.

Red Flags Of A Potential Art Scam

Numerous Grammatical Errors

Many email scams will read strangely, with odd or generic phrasing. When trying to deduce whether you might be getting involved with a scam, check for blatant spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. A lot of these scams tend to originate abroad, so keep an eye out for those types of mistakes.

Asking For Personal Information

When someone asks for your personal information, an artist should always consider that a red flag. In this day and age, it is very simple to conduct a secure transaction without ever needing to provide personal information to a potential buyer.

Email Being Delivered To The Spam Folder

An email being delivered straight to your spam folder is perhaps the most obvious red flag. If the email ended up in your spam folder, there is definitely a reason for it.

Connection To Countries With High Rates Of Scamming

If the person or company you are corresponding with is connected to a country known for scams, you may want to be on your guard. Countries that have a high instance of scams include China, Indonesia, Nigeria, India, and Brazil.

Incorrect Information

Scamming emails can sometimes be vague or get important details wrong. When the scammer is sending the same email to thousands of artists, there is a good chance that they may make a noticeable mistake, such as a painter being contacted about buying one of his songs.

The Name And Email Address Are Inconsistent

Sometimes you can sniff out a scammer if you notice that the name of the person sending you an email and the email address they are using are not the same.

The Person Will Pretend To Be In A Hurry And Want To Purchase Immediately

This is partly to fluster you and give you less time to think, but it’s mainly because if they know the check they’re sending you is going to bounce, or the credit card is stolen, they need the transaction completed before the bank catches on and you find out.

How To Avoid Being Scammed

  • If dealing with a business, be wary of emails that come from private email accounts such as Yahoo or Gmail. Professional companies have their own domain names.
  • Confirm the domain name is registered by searching on Whois Domain Lookup. The owner of the domain should be visible and there should be clear contact information.
  • Research the web and social media for reviews from other users.
  • Be sure that the company has a physical address and a contact person.
  • Search for the contact person’s name and see what you can find out about that person.
  • When selling items, use escrow services and track any shipments you send to ensure delivery.
  • Always check that the sender’s name and email address match.
  • Never give away your credit card or bank account information, your personal address, or your social security number.
  • If you are suspicious at all, try Googling the email address of the contact you’re corresponding with. You can also check Stop Art Scams, which is regularly updated. Because scammers send so many emails, their email addresses often become associated with the art scam they’re running. It’s always a good idea to check if that email address has been blacklisted anywhere online.
  • Always be firm about following your usual method of payment. Politely explain that you’re not willing to take payment through cashier’s checks or money orders. Oftentimes, an art scam will center on the method of payment suggested by the scammer. If you stick to your normal and safe method of accepting payments they are more likely to give up on the scam and move on to easier pickings.
  • Never accept overpayments.
  • Never ship your work until the payment has been cleared with your bank.

Resources To Confirm That Something Is Legitimate


Like all things in the world, art scams are becoming more refined by the day. It is very important for you as an artist to protect yourself. If you follow the advice laid out in this article, you will be able to better avoid art scams when selling your art.

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