Artist Scam Alert!

By: Sandra Hutton @artimmersionstudio

A few months ago I was approached via Instagram by someone who claimed they were interested in having me complete a commission work–painting their child for their upcoming birthday. As an artist, it is always lovely to receive a personal message from someone interested in your work. It is also easy to get sucked in by flattery when that person tells you that they “fell in love with your work.” Although my Instagram account is relatively new, I am not new to art. I’ve been practicing art for a long time now, and I am also an art educator. I did not find it difficult to see the signs of what was obviously a scam attempt.

The Instagram user has since deleted their account but the messages they sent still remain. Here is a transcript of the exchange:

Scammer: I’d like you to draw pictures of my son. His birthday is next week. Went through your page and I think I fell in love with your artwork. 🙂 I want you to draw some pictures of him which will have his name written. Willing to pay you $250 if that isn’t stiff.

Me: Hi! Thanks so much for reaching out and your kind words…Thanks for your interest in commission work, but truthfully there is no way I could finish this by next week. I am working on some other deadlines and creating an art piece for an upcoming hospital fundraiser.

At this point, I am being polite but I knew something was off. There was no discussion about size of the piece and it is highly unusual for someone to offer money upfront like that without discussing details.

A few days later…..

Scammer: Just let me know when you can get it done or if you can possibly recommend someone for us.

Again, I was struck by how aggressive this person seemed to be. I played along because I was genuinely curious as to how this scam worked.

Me: What size would you be looking at? How old is your son?

Scammer: 8 x 11 is okay. Here are the pictures. (She includes a couple of pictures of a toddler). His name is Michael. We call him Micky. He’s turning 3 by next week. You can add Catboy in PJ Mask (Cat Boy is a character in his favourite cartoon show called PJ Mask). He also likes spider-man too. Haha. I sometimes have to carry him so he can shoot his imaginary web and climb walls. Haha. I don’t want to narrow your imagination. Just want you to do your thing so I can make some frames for the picture. Thanks dear.

I am absolutely aware that this is a scam but still curious to see how the scam plays
Out and what the scammer will suggest next.

Me: I will look at my calendar to see if this is doable.

Scammer: I’m kind of busy now. You can keep me updated on my gmail. (Gives gmail address).

Scammer a few days later after no response from me: We’re paying from Solly’s child saving’s account. It doesn’t support third party accounts. It’s a cheque but you can just print and make a mobile deposit with your bank app. It should reflect immediately. I’ll contact his account manager immediately. What name will he be endorsing the check to?

Me: Who is Solly? I thought your child was named Michael?!

Scammer: That’s his elder brother’s name. Was a typographical error!

Me: So you can’t just do an e-transfer or another method of payment?

Scammer: Yeah. His dad is sponsoring everything.

Me: I cannot do this commission for you. I do not have the time.

I could have addressed this by addressing the scam with this person but I didn’t see the point in getting into it with them. Soon after, their Instagram “identity” disappeared.

There are so many red flags with this whole exchange but certainly the aggressiveness of the “buyer” and the request for a non-traditional method of payment certainly stand out. I believe that had I proceeded with this, it would have been a recipe for disaster with me being scammed out of money and possibly becoming the victim of identity theft.

I believe that the world is full of good people but we always have to take a cautious approach when dealing with strangers and potential scammers. Unfortunately social media opens up the possibility of scammers trying to access artists in unconventional ways. Listen to your intuition always.