This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
It just takes a few seconds, but it can save you hours of misery.
(6 minute read)
As online fraud and social media interactions get more popular, scammers and spammers get much more sophisticated.
Today, I checked my spam messages for examples. This one claims to be from a trusted sender, and asks me to verify my “unsubscribe” request. How do I know it’s spam? (Beyond trusting my spam filter, which occasionally does send a valid email to the spam folder)
1) I have never had to “verify” any of my “unsubscribe” requests by email, ever.
2) Their email address is wacky, a hot mess of letters and numbers.
3) The ID number they say is mine is “77”. Which I have never, ever used as an ID number.
4) Third, it clearly states, “This email is from a trusted sender.” Well, if you say so, it must be true, right? (Not.)
5) There is no company name, or any kind of information about who the sender is.
6) Fifth, it offers me a “yes/no” box—after the fact of my unsubscribe request. As in, “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” Why? I’ve unsubscribed from jillions of websites, and that verification of my intention shows up in that moment, on the site in question. So I’m guessing the “yes” is either a toxic link, or perhaps a sneaky way to get my “acceptance” to “something else”.
7) Last, it says it’s their third reminder, and vaguely implies there will be “consequences” if I don’t respond. (As in, they won’t be able to scam me? I’m happy with that!)
I am not an expert at detecting spam, and perhaps there are folks here who are who can add to the list. But I do have another strategy that works pretty well, and just takes a moment:
Copy-and-paste a portion of the email, especially the original, and use your browser to search for it.
If you get a lot of links to discussion boards or links reporting this as spam, pay attention.
For example, a scam that’s been targeting online sellers and artists for years goes like this:
A buyer contacts you by email (not through your selling venue, like your online shop or webstore.) They may overpay you and ask for a refund for the difference. Or they overpay the shipping costs, and ask for a refund. Or they ask if they can pay their own preferred shipper, and you can then refund the money after they receive the item. And they want to pay with a money order or check.
The latest “refinement” of this scam appears to be from a husband, who “just happened to notice” their wife looking at your work online. So he’s going to buy a piece from you. (It sounds very chatty and sweet.)
If you’re like me, the thought of someone buying a major work from me is sooooo exciting! And because we want to create a relationship with someone who might buy more (and, in fact, they hint they might) we’ll work with them just as we would work with a visitor to our show booth or our studio.
The scam is, they don’t give a hill of beans about your work. They want your refund, which is a valid payment (because YOU are not a scammer.)
And soon, you hear from your bank that the money order/check bounced. Although most banks will put the dollar amount into your account right away, it can actually take days, or even two weeks, for a check to really clear.
You are out your artwork, the hours you spent packing and shipping, and the money you refunded. And you are heart broken because they were not who they said they were, and took advantage of your good nature.
The first time this happened to me, I knew something was “off”, but wasn’t sure why. I did the cut-and-paste search test. It not only saved me from this, and other scams, it continues to give me at least a heads-up about what is going on.
In this case, with today’s spam, it was too short to come up in a search, although I’m guessing if I’d asked my high-tech savvy hubby to check it, he would have found plenty more warning signs than I did!
Still, once someone’s been ripped off, they usually share that information so that others will not be. (Our heroes!)
More recently, we are all being swamped with scam calls, spam calls, and robo-calls. Because I still have my phone number from New Hampshire, these can start at early as 6 a.m. in California! To help me ID some of these folks, I enter contact information on my phone. A short list:
Spam N Eggs
Spam Spam N Eggs
Tim Spam 1, Tim Spam 2, Tim Spam3 (When the same caller calls from multiple numbers)
And the list goes on and on and on. My personal favorite is “Your $250,000 Grant ApplicationSpam”, because I think of would have remembered applying for a $250,000 Grant! (They’ve now switched to “your $250,000 business loan”)
So protect yourself as best you can. Check out valid websites that identify the latest scams in play. (Oddly, my own Google search today turned up two great sites in Australia and Canada.)
Etsy, which currently hosts my shop, has a whole section in their sellers handbook on these scams. They also recommend being wary of people who ask vague, unrelated questions about the work, or whose writing is awkward or grammatically “off”. These may indicate people who are working scads of scam emails at once, and/or people from another country who are not fluent in English.
If you have a FASO website, you can also check in with your fellow artists, to see if they’ve received something similar.
You can also use the “cut-and-paste” technique for Facebook requests from friends who want you to forward a message to everyone on your friends list. It’s just another version of chain letters. Remember them?
Be safe, don’t jump too fast on something that seems too good to be true.
Because even though I know you deserve it, it may not be so.
If you need a few giggles this holiday season, you may want to check out CDs, downloads, or podcasts by Tom Mabe, a comedian who made it big in the late ‘90’s with his reverse-scamming of telemarketers. My favorites are his riff with a guy selling cemetery plots, and the guy selling carpet-cleaning services. (In the latter, Tom pretends he’s just shot his wife, and there’s “…blood all over the carpet. Can your guys get blood out of my carpet? How soon can they get here?”)
Unfortunately, scammers and spammers are way more sophisticated these days. Don’t bother “getting back” at them. Just walk around them like you would a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk.
And how ironic! Just as I wrap this up, I’m getting a call from my friend, “Spam Risk”!
Be safe, slow down, and pay attention to anything that feels “off”.
As always, if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if someone sent you this article and you liked it, you can sign up for more articles at Fine Art Views or more from me at my blog LuannUdell.wordpress.com.
* *Spam, spam and eggs” and “Spamlot” courtesy of Monty Python’s Flying Circus skits and musical.