Artists / Freelancers beware of cheque scams

Posted in Freelancing on Thursday, 24th September 2009 at 9:45AM

Artists / Freelancers beware of cheque scams

I was subjected to this scam a while ago now but when I heard about a similar case recently I thought it might be something worth highlighting. Although on this occasion the scam was centred around the sale of paintings, it could easily be applied to anyone selling products or services of high value on the web.

My first encounter with Romanze Edwardo (yeah I know, the name should have set alarm bells ringing!) was an email claiming he had seen my paintings at an art fair and wanted to buy a selection of them for his fiance.  It is not unusual for me to receive enquiries via email,  most don’t result in a sale and some are obviously scams or spam but he claimed he was interested in purchasing several pieces and it made sense for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Dear Michael,

I am a construction Engineer based in Copenhagen, Denmark and I would like to purchase a lovely art piece with a budget of  £500-£1000.  My Fiancee, Catherine Ingliby gave me your contact details after having spoken to you at Brighton Art fair.

I would appreciate it if you could  send me pictures of the kinds of paintings I would be able to purchase from your collection. I would patiently await your response and hope to hear from you soon.

Regards,

Romanze Edwardo

So with a hint of skepticism but probably more optimism than I should have had I sent off my catalogue and awaited his response.

Dear Michael,

Thank you for the swift response,  I was planning on coming over to the UK to attend a seminar in Manchester and I was hoping to come over to your studio or gallery to see the artwork myself and also purchase  some for my personal collection but unfortunately I will not be able to because I have been assigned to France for a seminar of structural engineers.  I have a residence in Denmark to which the artwork will be shipped. I would like to purchase the following artwork below:

{ list of paintings }

I will pay for the pieces with a UK bank cheque and the money will be withdrawn from my UK swift  account.  I will be sending £5380 to cover the cost of the artwork and shipping of the artwork.  I have some materials to be shipped in the UK shortly so I will let the shippers know that they will need to  come over to your area and pick-up the pieces to be delivered to me.  I will need your contact address and phone number to make out the payment for the artwork to you.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards

Romanze

It still sounded just about plausible but the figure of £5380 was over £1000 more than the paintings were valued at which made me feel a little confused.  The confusion was quickly dispelled upon doing a bit of detective work and speaking to someone else who had been at the art fair who banked the cheque only to be informed it was stolen a few days later.

The way the scam works is that the interested buyer contacts the seller asking them to purchase some high value goods.  “No problem” you say, safe in the knowledge that nothing will be sent until payment has cleared.  The cheque arrives and it turns out to be far higher than expected.  “My mistake” says the buyer,  “pay it in to your account and just refund me the difference once the cheque has cleared”.  So in goes the cheque, a couple of days later it clears and you transfer the difference.  The goods are collected and everyone is happy… until that is, you get a call from the bank.  The cheque had been stolen and despite the fact it had apparently cleared, you are still required to repay the money immediately meaning  you have not only lost the goods which have been collected already but also the difference in cash that you have paid back.

I was lucky that Romanze seemed a bit suspicious from the outset but he wouldn’t have needed to be much more convincing for me to have been duped so be careful and if in doubt ask the bank to specifically run a check on the cheque before banking on it.

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Michael's Paintings

The High Sierra

The High Sierra
46 x 46 cm
Acrylics, ink and cotton on canvas

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The Road to Kisoro

The Road to Kisoro
Uganda

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