My wife Heidi Hooper is an award-winning artist who specializes in, believe it or not, dryer lint art. Seriously, she’s in Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums around the world (and in their books) and will soon be seen on a major TV show that we can’t tell you about yet.
So she sometimes gets people emailing her to buy her artwork or to ask for a special piece made just for them. But since I’m the lawyer and the writer, she often asks me to answer her email for her when these transactions come about.
So today she received this request:
My name is Rob Carter from Virginia.. I was looking for some artwork online and I found your contact and works while searching and I must tell you, You are doing a great job, I would really love to purchase some of your works for my wife as a surprise present regarding our forthcoming 20th anniversary, I would like to receive further information about your piece of work and what inspires you..Also, kindly email me back with some images and price list of your inventory that is ready for immediate sales within my price range ($2,000- $13,000).. Hope to hear from you soon..
Thanks and best regards.
I was immediately suspicious. No mention of her unusual work? No description of the art? Just “Hello, I want art. Please sell me some.” But just in case it really was a legitimate offer, we sent this response:
You can see all my work on my web page (www.HeidiHooper.com) with the prices. Just let me know what you like. And if you want a special order, let me know that as well. – Heidi
Soon the response came in:
Hello Heidi, thanks for writing back it’s nice hearing from you… Well, Can you please let me know the availability and pricing of this painting (Docs Playing Poker)? Kindly confirm the availability and pricing asap. Hope to hear from you soon, Rob.
Well, at least he looked at the website. But “Docs Playing Poker” is hardly a “painting” since it’s made out of dryer lint. And you’d think he’d make some comment like, “I want that one because my wife loves Dr. Who.” So we replied:
One of my favorites, as I’m clearly a Dr. Who fan. They’re all cheating, too. That’s one of the larger pieces, 24 x 36 (not counting the frame, which is of course included). It sells for $5500. Shipping would be extra, and I usually send them overnight because then it’s all insured and everything. That way you could get it for Christmas. Where in Virginia are you? I’m originally from Richmond and got my undergraduate degree in sculpting from VCU. I look forward to hearing from you. – Heidi
Note that since he mentioned Virginia, we did too just to see if he knew anything about Virginia. His response did not mention that, but he did start to run the scam now, thinking we were all excited about making that much money:
Dear Heidi, Thanks for writing back it’s nice hearing from you.. I must tell you I intend to give my wife a surprise with the immediate purchase of the piece. Also If you’d like to know, I’m relocating to the Philippines soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. So I’m trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a memorable one.. I’m okay with the painting and price (Docs playing poker $5,500) I think it’s worth it anyway, so I’ll be sending a Check..
As regarding shipping, you don’t have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise, as soon as you receive the check and it clears with you, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up..
I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I’m an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won’t be back for another couple of weeks..
PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) cell phone no. and mailing address (preferably for USPS or FED-EX not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you asap..
Here’s where it’s clear, and I’m mostly sharing this with you so that you don’t fall for these kinds of scams. Usually, it’s done when people are selling things through ebay or something, but they only want to send you a check and they want your phone number (because it’s easier to con you by phone) and your address.
So we responded as follows:
If you want to rush this, you can PayPal me at HeidiHooper1@gmail.com. Thanks!
Check payable to Heidi Hooper, PO Box 349, Tannersville, PA 18372
You can call my husband at his office if you have any problems: 570-629-6322
Note that we specifically did not give out our home address, and that phone number? Goes right to my law office.
This is how this scam works: They give you a bad check, usually from a fake bank or a bank far away, and they overpay and ask for you to refund them. Then the check bounces and you’ve just lost not only the money you gave them but the item you sold them as well. (Here’s a detailed article from Snopes on how this scam works.)
So, predictably, the next email from him was a bit more emphatic about how he would have someone come by to pick up the art and all we’d have to do is pay that person for picking it up — from the check he was sending, of course.
Dear Heidi, Thanks for the details which I’ve noted down, My wife handles the family credit card/bank issues, and in order not to leave any clue to her for the surprise, I’ve contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping agent fees to you, But courtesy demand I must first appeal to your self interest and ask for your help in remitting the overage (after deducting your fee for the piece) to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears..
I would have handled this much differently if I’d been at home but am a bit pressed for time as our anniversary is fast approaching and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite this transaction…. trying to kill two birds with a stone. kindly deduct any tax incurred on the overage before giving the balance the shipping agent, they are not sending any bill or holding you responsible for the payment of my shipping contract with them..
I am really sorry for the mix up and will appreciate if you get back to me asap to know if i can entrust you with this transaction..
Many thanks and talk to you soon..
To which we replied:
No, sorry, you need to take care of paying your shipping agent yourself. I can arrange for the piece to be able to be picked up at my husband’s law office for you though so it can be done quickly. If you use a money order, then we don’t have to wait for it to clear.
And then it was quiet. Perhaps the mention of the “law office” made our art collector change his mind.
So please beware of this very common scam.
EDIT: The TV show I couldn’t mention when this post was written was ABC TV’s “To Tell The Truth”