Caveat Artifex

April 25th, 2011

I am a photographer, art reviewer, and curator. And for 17 years I worked in IT, and am a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Recently the latter came in very handy for the former.

The other day I received an email from an admirer of my photographs. She had seen them on my website, expressed interest in three of them, and asked for pricing details. I was flattered but wary. As a CISSP this was raising red flags. I’d never before been approached online about my work, and this could easily be a scam. I joked to someone that I was waiting for her to ask that they be shipped to Nigeria. I wasn’t far off.


I provided her with the requested information, and she said she wanted to proceed with the purchase. But when I asked for her address so I could determine shipping charges, I got a song and dance.


Uh huh. I immediately Googled a few terms from her original email and discovered the website reporting scams using almost identical wording. Note that they are specifically targeting artists, but this was going to be a variation of the classic 419 scam. They weren’t going to try to obtain my financial information and drain my bank account directly, but would “accidentally” send me too much money via a bad check, and ask me to send a partial refund (probably thousands of dollars) via Western Union.

I decided to play along for the time being. Either she was legit or I’d waste a scammer’s time. I followed some good advice and advised that I would not be able to accept a check.


I did not hear back from her, but the next day I received the following email, which probably came from the same person in a last-ditch attempt to get my money:


It appears to come from NACHA, the backbone of a network that “serves as a safe, secure, reliable network for direct consumer, business, and government payments, and annually facilitates billions of payments such as Direct Deposit and Direct Payment.” But note that the extension of the attachment is actually .exe, not .pdf. It’s an executable. There was no way I was clicking on it. Another quick Google search confirmed that it’s a separate phishing scam.

I’ve probably heard the last from my “patron.” I considered scambaiting, stringing them along to waste their time and resources, but since they found me through my website I’m not anonymous enough, so that seemed unwise.

Bottom line: I didn’t fall for the scam, but it would be very easy for another artist to. In fact many have. Our ego wants to believe the flattery is genuine. Let the artist beware!


Michael Singman-Aste
Postdiluvian Photo

2 responses to “Caveat Artifex”

  1. Sue Bright says:

    Michael, you are right on about the ego stuff.
    I have most always believed that it takes a more than average self centered person to be an artist (that’s how I see myself as well). It’s what allows artists to take risks, to go ahead when the going doesn’t look so promising.
    And yes, I’m not so sure I would have been able to overcome my wish that the scam was not a scam and that my work was touching a larger sphere.
    Thanks for the reminder to be ever mindful that component to creating art.

  2. Deborah says:

    Michael…same scan, same people, ah dear Clara. She indicated my work by name and I was wow! International acclaim. She went on to give me details about the wedding for her twin sister she was attending in Sweden, then she had a miscarriage, then her husband’s mother was sick, so please please send the remainder of the overpayment by Western Union. Quite the creative storyteller.

    I actually received a cashiers check (which I still have). When they gave me addresses I went on to google earth and zoomed in on what appeared to be a slum neighborhood and the other address was the English equivalent of Mailboxes Etc. My bank was almost taken in by the cashiers check but it was missing some small number and they were not able to cash it. They made some calls, but bottom line. A fake. So I told dear Clara to send ME the money by Western Union and I would tear up the check. I heard nothing else.

    They are evil to prey on artists, this life is tough enough putting our hearts/vision out into the world and hoping to at least get materials costs back. A pox on them I say!

    Glad you weren’t taken in, but now I don’t feel quite so targeted. Thanks for sharing.

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