Scandal At the Workshop: Dance with a Con Artist

Scandal at the Workshop:  A Dance with a Con Artist

…who wasn’t very good at it.

So, I sold one of my paintings last week… or so I thought. It was such a nice letter I received in my email about one of my favorite paintings. I was so flattered.  I got excited because the subject line read: “Inquiry from your website”, meaning that I had received something from someone about my work from www.RachelHeu.org.

The email read:

“I will like to know that am interested in the purchase of your art work(Dahlia_DarkAndWhite1)..i am satisfied with all the details posted with it..i will like to know if the piece is still available for sale?– Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff”

So I replied, bubbly and happy, about this inquiry. I noticed the grammatical errors and the incompetence with simple punctuation, but I was already romanced. Plus, he happen to choose one of my own personal favorites for his collection, so score on the bonus ego-boost.

Dahlia Dark and White

Dahlia Dark and White by Rachel Heu

“Hi Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff (names have been changed),


Thank you for your inquiry about Dahlia_DarkAndWhite… The piece is available and for sale and I would love for you to have it. It’s 5″x7″ in watercolor and water soluble pastel on Crescent illustration board. The piece is #@^ dollars.

Thanks again,
Rachel Heu”

“Thanks for the response Rachel, I am satisfied with the piece and will be purchasing it.the piece will be shipped to Cool-Place-With-Rich-People..i will be paying through a bank certified check. The payment you will be getting will includes the moving fees..i hope i can trust you with it?**  (see footnote) The funds will cover the packaging of the piece,insurance,custom and excise duties..they are needed for a gift in a family reunion coming up..kindly send me your full contact details to mail out the payment..hope to read from you soon. Regards.”


Again, I still managed to overlook some glaring mismanagement of the English language and then I wrote back.

“Hello Mr. Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff,

That sounds perfect. I appreciate that you are so thoughtful about the packaging of the piece, insurance, custom and excise duties. Yes, I am trustworthy. Also, I can fix things so that we can go through Paypal if you would feel more comfortable. I will expedite the shipment to Cool-Place-With-Rich-People as soon as the check clears so the Dahlia can be there for your family reunion. I will be shipping through Fasty-fast Shipping and you will be billed on arrival for the custom and excise duties, as they collect these fees from the recipient. The cost for shipment to Cool-Place-With-Rich-People(with handling) will be %#@ dollars. The transit time is about 2 days with Top-Priority Shipping and I will mark on the form to bill recipient for custom and excise duties, so you can handle those fees at that time.

Mr. Huff n’ Fluff, I just want to say thank you for your kindness. I will make sure this is well taken care of. Let me know what is easiest for you.

Thank you,
Rachel”


“Thanks and you get  the payment in 5 business days.”

While I was wondering why the last email was so abrupt, I decided not to sweat it and I waited the five business days. It was two days late, so I figured that the deal was probably off when I mentioned the shipping cost, and that Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff was too nice to say. Even as I considered that, later that day, I received another email giving me the tracking number of the payment. So, it *was* really going to happen. As I thought about how I was going to lovingly package this painting and started to say my good-byes to it, it was finally happening: my career as a professional artist was being born! It will get easier to let go, imagining myself down the road, as a wise, seasoned artist who has become quite accustomed to letting go of her babies to new loving families.

Then, sure enough, the check arrived. My eyes just about popped out of my head when I realized that the check was  more than it was supposed to be. I thought, hmmm… maybe he sees my talent and wants to help a struggling artist…. then I noticed a couple of other details. First, I noticed that it wasn’t his name on the check… and then I realized that the name it was signed with wasn’t the correct name. I mean, it looked wrong, but I couldn’t figure out how. (I’m deliberately not going into too much detail because I don’t know who might read this and I don’t want to teach Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff how to get better at ripping people off.)

Then, like a shining beacon, I went to my website control panel and saw a big red link labeled “Is it a scam?” Here, the answers were all laid out– why the check was too big… why the name didn’t make sense… That there was much copying and pasting of the exact same email to a ton of other artists…. Yes, we artists talk in many art forums.

The days of taking advantage of artists are quickly coming to an end, my good people. So I learned that this guy is a Nigerian and he is a serial con artist. There are whole websites dedicated to men like this. You can research about common fraud schemes on the web (or click my links at the bottom if you’re curious). The US Postal Service even has a special box for “Nigerian Fraud” on the mail fraud form that I filled out. There are whole websites dedicated, specifically, to Nigerian scamshow to spot them, how to mess with a scammer and waste their time. It turns out that when a scammer writes you a big check expecting you to become his personal bank, where you are taking the payment for your goods and then giving Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff the overage. Then, after he sends someone to your house to collect the painting and the extra money, the check bounces in about a week. Then, the bank contacts you wanting their money back. By this time, Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff and his crew are no where to be found and you owe some serious cash and are out of a painting to boot.

Um, yeah ok. Not gonna happen. It’s best to break someone down quickly if they are trying to work you. So my last, blunt words to Mr. Huff ‘n Fluff were:

“Whoever you are, I don’t appreciate you wasting my precious time. I’m reporting you to the US Postal General, The Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI. Good luck.”

Wasn’t that gracious of me to wish him luck? After all, he’s going to need it. …and then I set my email to push further emails from him to a special, unread folder, held especially for the authorities– in case they need them.

THE END

(**BTW dear readers, in the name of becoming savvy, this is a classic “Confidence Trick” that con artists use or a type of “Social Engineering“– a way that con artists acquire your personal information.)

(PS My Heartfelt apology to the regular readers of my blog as I tried to publish this story already and was bombarded with strange technical difficulties and had to take it down. So here is my retry. Sorry for any inconvenience. I hope you’ll bear with me. I have more posts coming soon! Thanks again for reading.)

About Rachel Heu

"Creativity is an act of defiance. You're challenging the status quo. You're questioning accepted truths and principles. You're asking three universal questions that mock conventional wisdom: Why do I have to obey the rules? Why can't I be different? Why can't I do it my way?" --Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life (pg. 133)
This entry was posted in My Advice to Other Artists, My Little Soap Box and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Scandal At the Workshop: Dance with a Con Artist

  1. Satina Scott says:

    Same thing happened to me when I was selling a car, and like you, I backed out just in time. These assclowns are everywhere, and it’s awesome that you put this on your blog to call them on their sh**. Go girl.

    • Rachel Heu says:

      Satina, thank you! You know, it’s really amazing how a little research goes a long way these days… and we artists *are* talking in all sorts of forums. Technology has been great in this way.

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