I have a website which I'm still working on, from which I sell the odd painting. While I do illustrate scientific journals, I also do "gallery art" or whatever you call it, but I keep it all simple.no galleries, no reproductions, low prices, direct transactions and so on.
Anyway, last October a "Michael Kleemann" contacted me, purporting to be a businessman in Texas, on the cusp of moving to Turkey. He wondered if I had any other paintings to offer but the then relatively few for sale on my website (I still have only posted a fraction of what is available). Not knowing what his interest was, I just said that I did and sent him a few samples.
He choose the [name of piece], and the [name of piece]. The former is framed, so I told him the shipping would therefore be more expensive than if it weren't framed and made some sort of general conversation about my love of Texas, and southwestern birds. But I admit alarm bells were already ringing in my head as most first-time buyers express their interest in birds or comment on art or whatever, and Michael Kleemann was very terse, polite, but nothing personal.
He said that because he was moving he was in a state of flux and would it be okay if me mailed me the money in advance, with enough to pay the shipper at the door.
I had explained that I normally use a specific courier because I it is a local family-run company that I've dealt with, favourably, for years.
He instead said that he'd have his movers in Canada do the actual shipping.
That seemed strange, but hey, maybe he was a wealthy Texas business guy with all kinds of flunkies working for him, and a finger in many different corporate pots.
So I said, well, okay, fine.
But nothing happened.
Then, last Monday, my stepdaughter said there was a folder leaning up against the front door. It was from UPS. It contained a single check (or "cheque" as we write it up here) and it was $3,599.00. An odd sum. I had no idea what it was for. It was a company cheque, and the company was in Manitoba, as was the credit union it was drawn on. Google showed both existed.but the company manufactures medical equipment. I have only sold two or three paintings to Manitobans, none recently, no one there owes me anything and I don't produce a darn thing that would be of interest to a manufacturer of medical imaging equipment.
Then I remembered Michael Kleemann. Could this be the money he had mentioned? If so, it was way too much, approximately twice what would have been necessary for the arrangements we had made.
Sure enough, I got an e-mail from him after all that time, with an apology for the delay in getting back to me.
The next morning I phoned the company named on the cheque. "It's fake," I was told by the guy before I had fully explained the situation. "And I bet it's for more than had been agreed upon." It was. It turns out that a lot of these cheques were out there and the company quite annoyed, but helpless to do anything.
It took nearly two days to get a live person cop on the line, but I did this morning, and he opened a file, taking down all the particulars, which will then be distributed to fraud departments worldwide.
Michael Kleemann (obviously an alias) could be anywhere. He did write to me the name of the "shipper" (a "company" based in Alberta) and a "tracking number" and so on, but the cop also advised me not to open any more e-mails from Michael Kleemann, as they could include viruses (it appears not, thank goodness, but that could change), and certainly not to respond to him again (my last message was designed to keep him interested as I hoped the police might be able to find him by intercepting the shippers, and I'm more than happy to be part of a "sting" if we can catch this crook.
But I will take his advice. I do have a viewing pane so when Michael Kleemann wrote to me this morning that, okay, he'd wait until the new year (I told him I'd be away until then) I was able to read it even if I didn't open the message.
But the other thing the cop told me was that by virtue of my having responded, this person, or one of his or her colleagues, may try another scam, so I am now more on guard than before.
Frankly, it was a rather clumsy effort, but I HAVE sold art (and developed online friendships) from "cold" contacts, usually word-of-mouth, but a few times via my website, and I have sent art off to first-time-buyers before receiving payment. A sophisticated businessman I'm not.
I've never been cheated, but obviously I now will modify that practice for the first-time buyers.
I don't know if any of this will help anyone avoid being taken, but I felt better to tell you all then not.
I will forward his e-mails to you one by one, under separate e-mails (I'm not very computer-adept so it's the only way I know to do it).