Last week was a busy week, what with the new Apple OS Mavericks upgrade that totally wrecked my computer (luckily it was the laptop I use for the internet, I have a second computer that I do my work on). There was also the incident of a burned out clutch, leading to thoughts of a new car for my wife. But the BIG news was the attempted art scam.
This is particularly vile and underhanded, considering how hard it can be to become an established artist. Which is what makes us targets. The opportunity of a sale is so exciting, we may go to great lengths to try to close a deal. Here's the what happens. Someone from overseas contacts you about a piece of art you have for sale. They want to pay by cashier's check, due to prior difficulties with credit cards and PayPal. They also have experienced severely damaged packages with both FedEx and UPS, so they will arrange the shipping with another company. When the check arrives (which includes the cost of shipping), you are to contact the delivery company, pay for shipping, and arrange a pickup time. Done deal right?
A cashier's check for a ludicrous amount of money arrives. I was expecting about $350, but the check was for $2,400 CD (about $2,200 in US dollars). The client claimed to be in Scotland, but used a bank in Canada. Odd, but possible.
I was feeling uneasy before the check arrived, just in the email exchange. The client wanted to Skype, so I suspect the "exchange" would have been accelerated. I don't Skype, but offered to FaceTime. The client didn't FT, not having an iPhone, but asked for my PIN number. I said "no", I wasn't giving him any PIN number. The client apologizes, saying that he didn't ask for a PIN number, I should just await the check. Along with that confusion, there was an overall forceful tone and demand for a quick shipment in his emails. During all this, the client continually avoided giving me an address for shipment, or an account number for the transaction with the delivery company.
Asking my bank if there was a way to verify the cashier's check, they said, "no", other than depositing it and seeing if it cleared. If it didn't, even having informed the bank about my suspicions, I would then be in trouble with my bank for depositing a fraudulent check. It would also take an international transaction 3 to 4 weeks to be completed. They said that I was right, it was a scam and should contact the police, though they thought the culprits would be untraceable.
After the check arrived, I received two phone calls and an email from the client, saying he KNEW the check had arrived by now and demanded shipment immediately. I missed the phone calls, fortunately by observing the Shabbat custom of turning off the phone.
So, the morale of the story is, be alert, follow reasonable business practices and don't give into pressure from a client. And beware of Scots that DON'T spell the word check as "cheque".