Wow, I haven't made a blog post in a long time. I've debated whether or not to post about this, but as I used another artist's blog for help with this situation, I feel like maybe I could help someone else out. I'll try to make this as short as possible.
Long story, very short-- I fell for an email scam and lost A LOT of money as a result.
This guy’s story was so personal and detailed that I ignored all the red flags. I've been embarrassed and ashamed for the past week, but now I'm over that, mad as hell, and I hope I can give warning to anyone else who may need it.
Here's his info...
JOSEPH COLLINS (could also be under MATHEW PAUL COLLINS or BENSON ALEX COLLINS) email address is email@example.com
*UPDATE: He has now contacted almost all of my fellow FRINGE ladies and is trying to contact me again. This is the new info he’s using now.
JACKSON BANKS firstname.lastname@example.org
I found a blog post on another artist's website with this same information and some of the emails he sent word for word dated February 2018. See it HERE. So this guy has been under this info for a while now. If only I had the sense to google his name after the first email. I filed a police report and was told they most likely won't find this guy and not to expect to ever get my money back. 🙄 I'm also part of an Oklahoma artists group on Facebook that has over 4,000 members, and I had soooo many people comment on my story with similar ones. A few even had the exact same wording from different email addresses.
I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to getting emails from strangers. I even forwarded the first one to my husband and asked if it seemed legit. He fell for it too! So moral of the story is, no matter how interesting and legit a person’s stupid story seems, don’t break your rules for them. Require payment upfront. Don’t accept checks. Never wire money. Set up your own shipping and bill the buyer. These are things I always do and decided to break my own rules for this guy. Stay on guard artists!
So that's the short story and the warning from me to you. Whether you are an artist or own another kind of small business, watch out! There are assholes out there preying on people who are vulnerable, people who are desperate to make a sale. Keep reading if you want the deets.
Here's the (kinda) long story. I'll spare you the details of his sad and weird life story that he fed me through email over a month span. This person contacted me through my website wanting information on two large pieces I had available. He said his wife handles the finances and since it was a surprise for her, he would have to send me a check from his business so she wouldn't see it. I agreed to let him send me a check. I never accept checks because half the time they bounce, but I made a stupid exception. Don’t make exceptions!
He was also in the process of moving (overseas) so he wanted to pay for the shipping so the pieces could be added to his pod along with all his other belongings. He wrote the check for the amount of the pieces plus the shipping cost (to be paid to this third party shipping agent). Basically he wanted me to wire the overpayment to the shipping agent- definitely a red flag, but the check appeared to clear the bank, so I wired it anyway. He said after the money was received, the shipping company would send someone to pick up the pieces, but that never happened.
I deposited the check on a Thursday. It cleared the bank on Friday and I wired the "shipping" money. Monday I got a call from my bank saying the check that I deposited on Thursday was a forgery. I've since talked to a CPA who says, you should always wait a minimum of 5 days for checks to clear (even if they appear to clear before that). Some forgeries are that good. They fool the tellers and don't bounce until someone much higher up realizes something isn't right.
I did a lot of things I never do throughout this whole ordeal. I took a check from a stranger, yes. But the worst thing? I agreed to wire money through Western Union. Guys, NEVER use Western Union!!! They are not liable for anything, and their customer service is a joke. They outsource everything. When you actually get through to a real human being they have such thick accents, it's really hard to understand anything they say. They read from the policies listed on their website instead of actually answering questions. When I wired money on Friday, it said I had 3 business days to cancel or make any changes to the transaction. I called Monday morning and was told although the transaction was still processing, they could not cancel it (even though I had already filed a police report and reported it as fraud to the "WU fraud department"). I kept asking 'why can't I cancel this transaction?' over and over again. I never got a real answer.
I’m lucky that I didn’t end up sending the pieces as well. I'd rather lose money than art. I have a few commissions lined up , but that won't even cover everything I lost. So I've turned this situation into motivation to get moving and make more art, more sales, and apply for more opportunities. Forgive me if I'm overly suspicious in the future. Now you know why, and why you should be too.