Internet Scam Targets Dealers

Greensboro, North Carolina has been the site of an internet scam that targets art dealers. But they’re hardly the only place. So here’s how the scam works:

The thief contacts the dealer by e-mail. They negotiate a price for one or more pieces of art. The buyer, who is often from some remote overseas location, sends the dealer a cashier’s check, money order or a credit card number. The dealer then wires money to the buyer’s courier service to handle delivery of the art. The payment for the art turns out to be bogus.

“It is similar to various lottery scams that we see,” said Detective M.P. Kraft  of the Greensboro police fraud squad. “Once the courier gets the money, they run. … We don’t know how large this could go.”

Sternberg said she lost about $2,000  that she sent to the so-called courier, plus $5,600  she paid to local artists for the paintings the thief supposedly wanted to purchase.

Art dealers say such scams have become a problem over the past decade with the rise of web-based businesses. But the problem has intensified in the last couple of years.

“It’s really active now,” said Kathleen McMahon , an artist in Sausalito, Calif. , who has set up a web page to warn dealers about such scams. “It’s because the economy has collapsed, and people aren’t buying art as they have before. Artists fall for them more easily.”

Scam Forces Online Art Shop to Close (News-Record)