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Peregrine Falcon, Torrey Pines

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Art Scam

Hello There,

My name is Pamela Mcallister  from Georgia. I actually observed my husband has been viewing your website on my laptop and i guess he likes your piece of work. I'm also impressed and amazed to have seen your various works too,  You are doing a great job. I would like to purchase '' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 18 x 24 1962-1963 Framed $2400 ''. as a surprise to my husband on our anniversary. Also, let me know if you accept CHECK as mode of Payment.

Thanks and best regards

Pamela

The language was a bit clumsy but I can overlook that sometimes. Hey, she was from Georgia. The woman had written me this email; her husband really liked a modernist painting in my gallery and she would buy it for him for as an anniversary present.

Hush hush.

Later she let me know that she would even throw in a little extra for shipping to grease the wheels.

I responded affirmatively and then the letters started getting a bit stranger and even more convoluted and I started getting suspicious. Asked her at one point if she was legitimate. Something was starting to smell. But she did not want me to ship the painting until the check was cleared so what could be my downside, right?

The painting was $2400. Two days later a USPS priority envelope shows up at the shop with a check for $7400 and change inside. I am wracking my brain, who owes me that kind of money? Can't think of anybody. Return address is a man in Vermont. Must be that woman. Uh oh.

I called the bank the check was drawn on, an Ohio Bank. They would not give me any info on the account or even tell me if it was a legitimate check. I went to my bank and asked to speak to the manager. I explained the deal and she said she wouldn't even deposit it in her bank. It was too weird, smelled too much like a scam. I wondered if this was an overabundance of caution and googled check scams and see that this sort of thing is starting to get epidemic. And it turns out that my particular scam is getting so common it is practically a regular cottage industry. See How to recognize an art scam.

The check seems okay, even to the bank, takes a month or so to crash and burn. The next move, if I had deposited the check, is for them to contact me to refund them the balance. Which would be ultimately coming out of my account when the bank finally got wise.

I have stopped responding to the emails. Today the woman wrote that I was doing something illegal by holding her money and not depositing her check, that I could be prosecuted. Threatened me a bit. Then the mail showed up with another phony check from her for $7400.69.

I contacted the United States Postal Inspection Service and made a wire and mail fraud complaint. Also went to the local sheriff and contacted IC3, the FBI's Internet complaint portal. I have been scammed before. Was not fun. Need to remain vigilant.