‘Tis The Season…for scammers

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I am writing this post after a long absence, because I feel it necessary to take the time I haven’t had, to hopefully help someone else avoid disaster.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a person through this site. “He” said he loved my paintings and wanted to buy some art for his wife as a surprise gift for their 20th anniversary.

We artists love what we do, but often feel that it is for naught, with long periods of no sales, yet we keep creating, because our soul dictates we must.  This person gave me a price range, which made me suspicious, I mean, who does that? The range was from two to thirteen thousand dollars. My inner voice said, “red flag,” but my need for appreciation, not to mention money, overrode that quiet voice.

We communicated back and forth several times, he finally picking out a couple pieces he wanted and adding on a third that was small, but which went with one of the other two. I quoted him a price several thousand dollars less for the paintings than his top parameter, plus shipping of approximately $340 to Virginia, where he said he lived. He was very happy with everything, which he should have been, since I didn’t gouge him.

He is, he said, an “ocean engineer,” and in the North Atlantic now with 12 trainees. He would be returning to Virginia soon and they would be moving right away to the Philippines.  His wife, “Gina,” loved art and he was anxious to get them in time for their anniversary. Problem was, he was on a ship and also his wife handles all of the finances, so he was going to have an associate handle the money to be sent to me.

He told me he was being given $2,600 for moving his things, and that he had his own shipper that he’s used in the past, and if I would have the paintings boxed for shipping, this person would pick them up wherever I arranged.ll

Along the way, with prompt emails, and many of them, there seemed a few inconsistencies or changes, but nothing that set off a huge red flag, though I was still wary.

He FedExed an overnight check to me including his $2,600 he was being given for moving his personal items to the Phillipines in overage, and asked that he could entrust me to – after verifying funds and having the check cleared, of course, do a cash bank transfer of the remainder, after boxing costs. He asked me to let him know when I received it, which I did, and when I deposited. He said it shouldn’t take more than 2 days to clear and he hoped to get the shipment picked up by Friday (on Monday). He was concerned about getting it to his wife in time. The check was for over $6,000.

His emails were courteous, professional sounding, but every once in awhile there would be a flag for me. He was well-spoken with a good command of the English language, but then he would say something like “I wanna..” Wanna?? Red flag.

The check I received was from “Rita Lopez,” and drawn on Sun Bank as an Official (cashier’s, or registered) check. There was no address of the bank, but I thought, okay, I’ll play, and took it to my bank.

The teller immediately asked me if I know this person, and I said no. She asked if I was sure it wasn’t a scam. I said, “No, to be honest, I wonder if it is.” She got the manager.

He told me immediately, “It’s a scam,” and pointed out something that even my sharp artist’s eye had missed: The Sun Bank was ever so slightly slanted down on the top of the check, almost indiscernible, but I did notice when he pointed it out. He then called Sun Bank’s corporate office, which is headquartered in Florida. After he gave the numbers on the check, he was informed that the particular branch it was issued from was in Georgia, in the Atlanta area.

He then called that branch. This man was a pillar of patience, taking at least 30 minutes of his time between the two calls, endless menus, hold time, etc, before he reached a representative. After a hold time that seemed to never end, he was informed that the check was indeed, a fake. It was never issued from that branch, and there is no Rita Lopez on their files.

He was a true angel for me, protecting me from not only losing money, (Even if the check is shown as a deposit in your account, it can still not be cleared, and usually isn’t!) but he also told me that if I had deposited the check and it was a scam (which this one was), the bank would immediately cancel my account, ban me from further dealings, and in effect, I would be on a permanent shit list. I would not be able to go to my branch and close out my accounts, because I would have to wait for corporate to send my final closing balance.

Me! The injured party!! A persona non grata to my bank of many years, because they couldn’t be sure I wasn’t in on the scam. Plus, I would be out another $2,600 that I would have forwarded to the criminal, assuming it was all cleared and hunky dory.

This is humiliating. As a modest person, I have come to believe in my talent, after 45 years of painting, and many of teaching. This nice sale would be renewed affirmation that my art is valued and appreciated, and though I have made many sales, and do, this was really coming at a time I could use it, emotionally, and monetarily. But it could have been so much worse!

I reported this person and submitted all correspondence to the government scam reporting and my AZ attorney general’s office.

The name this person used is “Steven Green.” I tracked all of his emails and have the dates, time, and places they were opened from.

Everyone, BE AWARE. They are out in droves, and the scams are elaborate and complex.

There’s a special place in hell for scammers, but in the meantime, we can refuse to be fooled.

Be safe!