by Michael Damico
NOTE: This is Part One of a three-part series. Links to the subsequent articles are at the bottom of the page.
Before I begin, please note that this warning applies to custom picture framers. I have not yet heard of specific picture framing scams directed at customers, but I’m sure they’re out there.
It seems like scams are a dime-a-dozen these days. If some Nigerian prince isn’t emailing you to help him with a “funds transfer,” then someone else is holding your computer hostage until you pay them a bitcoin ransom. And there’s a scam for every industry. Not even framing is immune. That’s right…. believe it or not, there are picture framing scams that hit our shops on a regular basis. In fact, they are also targeting artists. I know this because my artist customers have contacted me asking for rush print and framing jobs that they’ve never had before. Keep reading and I’ll tell you all about it.
Promises of a Large Order…. But it’s Complicated
Here’s an average scenario. I receive emails like this from time to time. The potential customer wants to place a large order. They will request a quote and often tell you the order needs to be shipped to another state or country. Many times, they will pay with a credit card – which is stolen, by the way – and will want to pay you more than the amount you’re charging. An over-payment is to cover a bizarre scenario wherein they claim the shipping company will not accept a foreign credit card or some other random barrier that doesn’t make any sense. Then they ask for a refund on the shipping or some other line item.
Confusing? Yeah, that’s the idea. It’s very confusing, but the promise of a large order with just enough information to sound a little plausible, and they’ve hooked you.
An online international forum specific to the custom framing industry continues to address this issue in regular threads. Recently, someone there sent me this response with a more thorough explanation:
In some cases, they are actually ordering real product to be shipped out. But they are using stolen credit cards, and they also use a stolen card to have a local shipping company come to your store to pick up and ship the items. In some cases, they tell you the shipper that can deliver it to them does not accept credit cards, so they have you charge another card and Western Union the money to them.
By the time the customer gets their statement and notices the fraudulent charges, the product has reached its destination and is exempt from US law.
Guess who gets stuck with the bill when the credit card company does a (completely valid) chargeback? YOU, the vendor. No valid signature, no ID checked, no protection. The full amount is removed from your account, plus a chargeback fee of $25-100.
Part Two: Sample Scam & Red Flags
Part Three: Artists Getting Scammed & What To Do