What to do about Art Scams

Recently an artist (Sarah) posted the comment below on this scam artists post from last year.

I am in the midst of the exact negotiations – I have actually received the certified check in the mail, from a person calling herself Nicole Roane. All the other details are the same, except that she says she is relocating to Johannesburg from the Georgia address. I also have a cell phone number for her.

I want to un-earth something beneficial from this otherwise shitty experience.

It would be interesting to create an exhibit of “stolen” works – posting calls online through craigslist and other free ad spaces to see if we could get a solid group of us who have interacted with this same scam. I wonder if there is any thread between the artists’ whose work has been chosen within the scam. She chose “Think about that while I am gone”, from my “collage” section, and “Untitled 7″ from the color paintings section. I’d love links to people whose work has been scammed – to the specific pieces, when possible – just out of artistic curiosity.

My local law enforcement will do nothing – they say it happens too often for them to care.

In Reply to the Comment..
I don’t know how the art scammers operate (or why they have to exist on the same earth as us!), but they are generally easy to notice, so I wouldn’t bother wasting time or energy on them. The important thing is that artists are aware of these cockroaches and the tactics that they use.

Their main objective seems to be the money from the artist (don’t cash their check/cheque), rather than amassing a booty of hot art. Listing the titles of your artwork is just a way of making them look genuine. Their most common tactic is to send their scams to a list of artist emails, asking them for their website address and the price of their works. Here’s a really crude art scam that I received recently from Maxwells Brown.

I have never had a genuine request from a buyer that insists on using their own courier and using a check/cheque or money order (that is always more than the agreed amount).

Just don’t send any art until the cash is physically sitting in front of you. Go and buy a coffee with their money before you even think about wrapping a painting to send. The buyer will understand if they are genuinely interested in your art.

I have used Paypal, Escrow.com, and bank to bank transfers with no problems at all. I wouldn’t accept a check or money order as it just isn’t worth the risk. Genuine buyers are flexible with their payment methods.

Don’t go bothering law enforcement either as I have heard from people in the UK, USA and Australia that have tried to do something about these people, and none of them will do anything about it. I would love to hear from people that have had more luck with prosecuting the scammers.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. One thing many people do not realise is that you can pay in a cheque to your bank and be told by the bank it’s cleared ok. You can even see it on your statement and feel sure everything is ok. You then get a letter from the bank three months or more later saying the cheque was fake or stolen and they take the money out of your account without so much as a sorry for your trouble. I think these scammers deserve a firing squad or at the very least castration/sterilisation so their dna can eventually die out.

  2. Amanda J. says:

    Thanks for this article. I’m going to send it to my friend, Joshua Delcore, who I’m sure will appreciate it, too!

  3. Maybe a victim should start a stolen art data base. I know there are a some around, but one didn’t have photos of the work, and the other is for stolen and looted high end stuff.

  4. If we had 26 hours in each day I would probably try and set up some kind of database, but I have had to give up scratching myself as I havent got the time to..lol

    I think being aware of the scams is the most important thing. Art News Blog seems to come up in the google search results for art scam related search terms, and I get the ocassional email from artists saying thanks for alerting them to the scam, so I don’t mind mentioning the scams.

    Earl, I think internet scammers and email spammers all deserve the firing squad. Imagine an internet with no scams or spam.. that would be nice.

  5. The scammers have no interest in your art at all. They’re just looking for people who are selling things which need special shipping requirements.

    They send you a fake cheque, urge to to cash it, and as soon as it’s cashed they give you a tale of woe and ask for the money back. You send them a real cheque, and they cash your cheque before your bank completely clears the cheque they sent to you.

    Basically, they’re taking advantage of the lag time between the bank posting the money to your account and them actually doing the final validation that the cheque is real and money is available from that account.

    Although not a database of stolen art, I do have a website where I’m trying to compile all the known scammers (and resources!): http://www.bogsuartfair.info

  6. My art hasn’t been scammed as far as I know but I was selected to participate in Florence Art Biennale. They sent me the application in which they were asking about 2,500 Euros. Is this a scam or what? Others sent me e-mails that I was included in whatever Famous Artists or Business Guides. Be aware of these scammers, as even if they say it is free, if you read attentively the numerous pages with conditions, you actually agree to pay a lot of money once you sign the contract to be published.

  7. does anyone of you guys know about the biennale chianciano in tuscany? they asked me to pay 700 pounds after they accepted my application. Is this normal? http://www.museodarte.org anyone know?

  8. Answering about the Chianciano and Florence Biennales. I paid much more in Florence than what they ask in Chianciano but it was a positive experience. It all depends on the reliability of the organisers and what they offer for the money. I had a look at the Chianciano art museum site, and it seems that for the organisation of the biennale, they are collaborating with a gallery that has been in London for over 30 years.. who have organised exhibitions in museums which include the V&A.. go with your gut feeling but it seems gd to me..

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m also busy weighing up the Chiancano Bennale having been accepted… this is scary stuff, I mean as if it isnt hard enough out there already. But yes checking out the site it looks all above board, reputable museum and link up museum in London, so maybe its just another form of tourism. We’ll bring all the local hotel guests etc, big money for the region… Just how many of these Biennale’s are there out there now, and is the whole thing not just a money making venture any way?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think that these kinds of events are a good opportunity to exhibit and to be exposed internationally. For what ive understood, they are offering the catologue, online catologue and exhibition for 700 euros.. Realistically, for this money i cant even print 1000 invitations for an opening. I personally think it would be nice to have more events so we can compare what they have to offer..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Chianciano Biennale is REAL!!! Florence Biennale is REAL!!!

    Both organizations has legal phone numbers also website.I did participated in Florence Biennale, 2007 and now, in the Chianciano Biennale.

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