If you sell art online, keep an eye out for overpayment scams. These scams are designed to trick you into receiving dodgy cheques, money orders, or bank transfers and sending part of the funds back to the scammer.
Here’s how these scams work:
The scammer, posing as a customer, will contact you via email or social media to ask about one of your artworks.
Once you reply, the scammers will express interest in buying the artwork and agree on the price.
The scammers then send a cheque or money order for the artwork or instead transfer the funds directly to your bank account. However, the amount sent will be for substantially more than the specified selling price.
The scammers invent some excuse for this overpayment and ask you to send the balance to a third-party via a wire transfer service.
They may claim that the extra funds are to pay the fees of an agent or interior decorator who will handle the pickup and installation of the artwork. Or, they may insist on using their own courier or delivery company and claim that the extra funds are to cover these shipping costs. They may even claim that their “secretary” made an error and ask you to send back the extra amount.
Of course, any money you send will go back to the scammers as cash, laundered and pretty much untraceable.
These scammers may be very convincing so, not wanting to miss out on an art sale, you may redirect the extra funds as requested.
But, later, you’ll find that your bank has dishonoured the cheque or money order. In some cases, the bank may actually have cleared the funds but discovers later that the check or money order is a forgery or was stolen. Or the funds may have been transferred from a bank account compromised via a phishing scam or malware attack.
This type of money laundering scheme is very common. In fact, everyone who sells items online should be aware of how these scammers operate.
Be wary of any deal in which the buyer wants to send you more than the agreed price and have you wire the extra funds to a third-party.