When my friend made the above comment, my response was, "No!"
Actually, I felt creeped out, angry and violated. This was a
common set of symptoms, as I learned after talking with people
who had been scammed or knew other victims. In fact, there is
an epidemic of Internet fraud and other schemes to get your
money. AND, they are not necessarily interested in having the
merchandise you are prepared to sell them.
It all began with an email sent from a Yahoo account to this
website. "Kathleen Cole" was interested in three "creative
artworks" for her new apartment in Johannesburg, South
Africa. You can see one of them, "Environment Three"
(still unsold and in my possession), on the home page this month.
I remember thinking, "She has good taste. That one earned
an Honorable Mention in a museum exhibit." "Kathleen"
would be "happy to pay" with a "Certified US
Cashier Check." Oddly, she asked for the prices, which
were already on the website with the titles. I repeated the
information anyway, adding that the price did not include shipping.
"Kathleen's" next email said she was in London for
her "twin sister's wedding," which came a difficult
time for her because she (Kathleen) was expecting a baby. If
the first email made me cautious, this one was filled with red
flags: she was giving way too much phony sounding personal information,
and she was in London. A recent article in my local paper listed
the most frequent locations of Internet fraud as Canada, England,
and Nigeria. She said that she would give my contact information
to the "local cartage company to arrange shipping details."
By now I knew it was a scam, but I wanted to see how far it
Next I heard from "Bill Jones," whose writing style
was suspiciously like "Kathleen Cole." He also had
a Yahoo account, "boundlessmovers," which I quickly
Googled and found nothing. Ditto for the White Pages. "Bill"
wrote that he would be using "any nearby FedEx agent for
the pickup." I called my nearby FedEx agent and told him
the story. He said that small international movers frequently
are not listed on the Internet, and if this sale did go through,
then FedEx would be able to track addresses. He was a little
less skeptical than I, but not much.
I noticed is how "Bill" and "Kathleen" used
standard phrases, such Certified US Cashiers Check and FedEx,
to give the impression that this would be a legitimate transaction.
He also ended his message with "I will appreciate an earlier
reply," as "Kathleen" had. I recognized a non-standard
English speaker (those linguistics courses were good for something),
and this was one more red flag in a business transaction that
was beginning to look like a automobile dealer's lot on President's
The final email from "Kathleen" began with a sad
tale of her having been "in and out of the hospital"
for her pregnancy. Then she asked for a "favour":
her "husband's associate" would be sending me a check
that "included the shipping fee." I wondered how she
knew what the fee would be, since the paintings hadn't been
packaged or weighed. In fact, I hadn't even brought them out
of storage, so I had no idea either.
Ah-ha! The check would be for an amount larger than the price
of the paintings, and I would be giving the excess amount to
the "shipper." That's right: Boundless Movers! When
the check arrived a few days later, it was for almost $3000
in excess of the sale. At this point, I emailed "Kathleen"
and cancelled the transaction. I asked for her address, so that
I could return the "check," which was mailed from
London with no return address. I never heard from her or "Bill"
I brought the check to my bank and, after a bit of sleuthing,
they discovered that this check had a lot of valid information
on it. The scammers had added a zero onto the check number.
The US bank in Colorado on which it was drawn had actually cashed
the check for that amount. Last year!
My next call was to the FBI, and I explained the situation
to the duty officer. He said that I should file a report and
forward the emails to www.ic3.gov,
attention FBI. I went on the website to file my complaint and
saw a wealth of information on Internet fraud. If you sell your
artwork or anything else on the Internet, go to this site. When
my complaint receipt was sent to me, the last line said, "To
learn more about Internet schemes and ways to protect yourself,
please visit www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com."
I finished my conversation with the FBI duty officer by saying,
"Well, I guess this ends it." In true Dragnet-style,
he responded, "No, ma'am." I thought I had missed
something. "What do you mean?" I asked. He said, "It's
not over till we catch them, ma'am." Memories of "Dum-de-dum-dum"
popped into my head. I am not making light of the problem. I
was skeptical from the first email, but many people are not
and they lose thousands of dollars. The bank will make funds
from a certified check or money order available to you, but
if they eventually find out it is counterfeit, they will collect
the money from you. A bruised ego will be the least of your
If you have any comments about this month's journal, contact
me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Next month, I will be writing about
art and poetry, looking for similarities and differences in
the process of making both.