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BBB warns that scammers are targeting artists with offers to buy their work

Max Wehlte
Wikipedia | goo.gl/qoytTF

Scammers have been targeting artists, and it’s not a pretty picture, says the St. Louis Better Business Bureau.

The scam is a twist on the “fake check” or “overpayment” schemes that have been around for years.

Here’s how it works:

* Scammers send emails to artists offering to buy their work. The emails usually contain little information about the buyers and are vague about where they are located.

* The scammers send payment for the artwork, plus shipping costs, but use fake checks, credit cards or PayPal accounts. The amount they send is an overpayment, which they say was a mistake. They then direct artists to deposit the checks and to send them refunds for the difference.

* The check or payment sent to the artist will bounce, and the artist is out the amount refunded, plus the artwork.

The scam is believable, and the scammers are complimentary, warns Michelle Corey, president of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau.

“The BBB is advising artists to beware of unsolicited emails seeking to buy their work, no matter how flattering it might be,’’ Corey said. “We are telling artists to be very skeptical of emails that have no information about how or where they’ve seen their work, or they give few details about who the so-called buyer is or where he or she is located.’’

Corey said that a number of St. Louis artists have received the emails, and she knows of at least one case where an artist fell victim to the scam.

Here’s the BBB’s advice:

* Do internet searches on email addresses and the names of unsolicited buyers.

* Be skeptical when buyers don’t offer information about themselves or offer to purchase works without seeing them.

* Don’t trust buyers who offer to pay more than the asking price of the art, or if they request that you wire or use prepaid cards to send refunds on overpayments.

* The emails often contain misspelled words and grammatical errors.

* Contact the BBB, if you receive a suspect email: bbb.org or 314-645-3300.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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