Classic Email Scam

Art-Targeted Scam Email - Kathryn Koozer, A Seattle Artist -

I want to take a moment a talk about something that every artist will eventually deal with.

SCAMS – Actual Real Modern Scams where people are essentially attempting to trick you out of money and you get zilch in return.

Today I got an email from someone who is interested in my artwork. They used my contact form on my website and it didn’t even get filtered into my spam folder. This does not mean it’s a legit email inquiry. I’m only going to include the body of the email because the email address they used has the name of a real person in the art industry (graphic design to be exact) and I don’t want her name to be associated with a note talking about scams.

artwork request to purchase

Hi there,
I am making Inquiries/Requests about your gallery,I am willing to
purchases piece of artworks to beautifying my home for art and culture

and I will be glad if you can email me your recent on-line
portfolio/inventory where I can re-view your available works of art.
I will be waiting for your swift response.

This is copy and pasted. How do I know this is a scam? It follows the pattern of known art-targeted scams. <- Click on that link to see a whole bunch of these and you’ll see a trend. These emails are all written in broken English and all seem to be written as though they are trying to be super proper and polite but making it sound really really awkward. This email is not addressed to me nor is it actually signed by the sender.  I only know what name they are using because they filled out my contact form with an all lower case first name, no last name at all, and an email address that has their full name. The email asks me to send them a link to my website…. Which is where my contact form is, which is where all of my art is listed… Which they would have found themselves if they were an actual person truly interested in my work. They would not need to ask for my website address at all if this were a legitimate email.

If I actually responded to this email and things progressed I can guarantee that they would either forge an email that makes it look like they sent money to my paypal account in hopes I send them some free artwork (and hope that I don’t actually check my real paypal account to see if the payment was real) or they would overpay and ask me to send the remaining amount to a non-existent shipping agent. Sometimes these people will send you a check or stolen credit card info and also send you more money than what you’ve asked for and then request you to give the remaining amount of money to a non-existent shipping agent or person. A dead give away if you’ve progressed to the point of payments is if they suddenly say that money has to be dealt with by wire transfer. If someone falls for this scam and sends the money the scammer will then vanish. I just hope no one looses any art through one of these deals.


The following don’t quite qualify as a real scam but still trigger my dubiosity alarms. They qualify as a potentially unwise decision that you can loose money over without any benefit.

A few years ago I posted about a company online that made Art Books that you pay your way to get into even though you are already accepted into the book. Those are vanity art books and anyone, especially gallery owners and agents, will recognize what these books are. You pay your way to get your art into a book, that isn’t distributed anywhere legit, can’t be bought anywhere except for the company’s website, and you don’t even get a free copy. Technically I think vanity art books aren’t scams but you are still throwing your money away for an illusion of being a “published artist”. It’s not a scam, you pay people money and you get a spot on a page in a book, it’s like advertising but not in a way that I can respect. I can’t imagine going into a legit gallery and showing a vanity art book to the director and expecting them to be impressed. I would expect a raised eyebrow with an ‘oh really?’ and ‘seriously?’ look on their face.

Recently I’ve been getting emails about how I need to enter my artwork into all of these random art shows in places across the country. All of these emails are going into my spam folder too. Last time I researched one of these places and the reviews and experiences from artists that have participated I found that 90% of them were negative and made the ‘shows’ sound like a joke. Sometimes the ‘shows’ were a bunch of artists stuffed into tiny booths, in a dark building, with lights that weren’t reliable. Not something I’m interested in. I wouldn’t call these real scams either but more like sketchy situations. They might be set up with good intentions that just ended up falling apart but it is entirely possible that many of these are put on by people who rent a space super cheap and then charge artists a lot without giving the artists the support or equipment that was promised to them.

This sort of transitions into a situation that one of my artist friends dealt with. It was a show that was setup by a group that organizes shows for artists. But these shows are a private event and the artist has to purchase a whole bunch of tickets upfront and then has to sell them themselves. We’re talking like 20 tickets at least and the ticket prices aren’t cheap. This kind of situation sort of makes sense to me and then doesn’t at the same time. The reason why it bothers me is that it can be very difficult for a person to drop a bunch of money to pre-buy expensive entrance tickets while also funding all of their art supplies. Frames are not cheap, people. And artists are known for starving, right, how are a lot of artists going to be able to afford an extra $300? So assume that the artist does go through with this show and pre-buys the tickets. Now, regardless of whether or not s/he can actually sell any of them the group organizing makes a bunch of money strait-up & pre-determined. I do understand that these shows take work but so do regular normal gallery shows and the gallery doesn’t charge their artists money to show their work. Normal galleries take a percentage of sales because they are suppose to do all of the work of putting on openings and events and advertising. So depending on where you are sitting and your financial situation artist group run shows can be a good deal, just know what you are getting into, read the fine print, and understand you are basically funding your own show (I think I’d rather get a booth at an art festival for a weekend, it would probably be cheaper and there are A LOT of people at those for exposure). How did this turn out for my artist friend? She didn’t manage to sell all of her tickets and felt like she didn’t have the support she was hoping for (I’m not actually sure if this statement was referring to ticket sales or the actual show). She said it was a good experience but not one she would do again. So I would say that this is not a scam but something to be very careful with. Don’t just assume you can sell $300 worth of tickets easily, sometime it doesn’t matter ‘how hard you try’. Also, how many people do you know would be willing to go to an art show for at least $15 when all other shows are free?

OH! I almost forgot about this next one. This is what I call the Yellow Pages salesman routine.  I have no idea if this person was for real or not. I was called on the phone during the first year or two of creating my art business by Yellow Pages who wanted to help me with advertising. This was before I learned to screen my calls. So I answered the phone and this very nice man from Yellow Pages online wanted to set up some sort of advertising thing for my website. They wanted my money is what it came down to. I told him that I’m not sure if it would fit into my budget and that I would get back to him if it did. Now before the conversation ended he talked about how he and his wife went onto my website and looked at my art. They loved my art and he was all compliments and mentioned that they were considering purchasing some work from me. That’s all nice and lovely and a very flattering way to butter me up to pay for Yellow Pages advertising. Assuming it really was a Yellow Pages employee, you never know, I’ve heard all sorts of stories regarding that. The big tip off that told me his interest was fake is that at the time my art website clearly stated that my work is all colored pencil and the images were not very large, he said he could see the brush strokes and was sooo impressed. Even if I did paintings he would not have been able to see brush strokes. I was tempted to ask him which pieces he liked specifically but I wanted to end the phone conversation before things got awkward or hostile. He didn’t actually look at my artwork nor did he care about it one bit.


Have you encountered anything similar?