A Holiday Surprise…
Happy 2014! To start off this New Year I thought I’d share with you a story about a man who wanted to give his wife a holiday surprise. Early last December we received a message through our “Contact Us” Form on this website, it read:
Greetings! My name is Steve Pavlina from Houston, TX. I actually observed my wife has been viewing your website (piece: Outside the Gate . 21 x 16 Horizontal) on my laptop and i guess she likes that piece, I must also say you are doing a great job.
I would like to know what inspired that work. I am very much interested in the purchase to surprise my wife. Kindly confirm the availability for immediate sales.
Thanks and God bless, Steve.
We were very excited to receive this message. But we weren’t sure if we wanted to sell any of my grandfather’s original artwork as they are irreplaceable and invaluable to us. It really got us thinking about what we did want to do with all the artwork we have in our possession. We wrote back to him requesting him to give us a call so that we could discuss the matter further. A few days later he replied:
Dear Jennifer, Thanks for the message, I must tell you I am very much interested in the immediate purchase of the piece to surprise my wife. If you’d like to know, I’m relocating to the Philippines soon and our anniversary is fast approaching. So I’m trying to gather some good stuff to make this event a surprise one. I am buying yours as part of gifts to her (quickly before someone else grabs it). Kindly email me the asking price asap.
As regarding shipping, you don’t have to worry about that in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise. as soon as you receive and cash the check, my shipping agent (who is also moving my personal effect) will contact you to arrange pick-up.
I would have come to purchase the piece myself but, at the moment, am on training voyage to the North Atlantic Ocean (I’m an ocean engineer) with new hires who are fresh from graduate school and won’t be back for another couple of weeks.
PS: In the meantime, kindly get back to me with your full name (you want the check payable to) and contact address (preferably for fedEx not P.O box) where a check can be mailed to, so I can get the check prepared and have it mailed out to you right away.
We decided to write back quoting a ridiculously high price for the original painting (because we really didn’t want to part with any of Liu’s original work.) but gave him reasonable options for a limited edition copy of the piece or the packet of 12 prints Liu published in his later years which does not include “Outside the Gate.” His response was:
Hope you are good. I’m just reading your email now as I have been so busy. Thanks for the details which I’ve noted down. Also in order not to leave any clue to my wife for the surprise, I’ve contacted a client of mine to issue out a check which will include my shipping agent fees to you, so please you may have to help remit the balance to the shipping agent as soon as the check clears your bank. I would have handled this much differently if I’d been at home but am a bit pressed for time myself and do not have access to a lot of cash over here to expedite this transaction… trying to kill two birds with a stone.
Moreover, they are not sending any bill or hold you responsible for the payment of the contract between us. all I’m asking from you is a favor to help me send the extra funds on the check to the shipping agent who will be coming over to your location to pick-up the piece and have it delivered safely to me at my residential address.
Jennifer, I want you to understand that I’m concluding you are a responsible person and I can therefore entrust you with this arrangement. please i will appreciate if you get back to me asap to know if i can entrust you with this transaction.
Many thanks and talk to you soon.
Then the warning bells went off! I checked in with Matthew and we both said SCAM at the same time. What gave it away?
- The poor grammar?
- The lack of response to my direct questions?
- Talking about the pick up process and not negotiating a price?
I looked online for similar scams and found the “Buying a Car on Craigslist Scam.” This is when you advertise your car on Craigslist.com and the buyer, who is not in state or the country, sends someone else (the agent) with a check or Bankers Check to pay for the car. But instead of giving you the exact amount you are asking, the buyer gives you a check with extra $$ and asks you to give the extra $$ to the agent who is picking up the car as payment for his services. The deal goes down and low and behold the check isn’t certified or it bounces and you are without a car, bank fees for a bounced check and out the extra cash that you just handed over to the guy who picked up the car!
On December 9th we sent the following email to “Steve”, giving him the benefit of the doubt just in case he really was on the up and up:
Dear Steve, There are several questions to that need to be answered from my last email. What product do you wish to purchase, there are a few choices and subsequent research on my part once you let me know.As for pick up and shipping arrangements we would prefer not to get involved with paying your shipping agent. It gets too complicated with paperwork and taxes. Also for expediency sake we can also take PayPal or just wait for your check to clear.
Not only have we not heard from Steve since then, we received the exact same message again through our “Contact Us” form, this time from a “Steve Brogan from California” with a different gmail address!
We dodged a bullet on that one! It’s a good thing we weren’t attached to the outcome because that’s how they get you. We were actually amused and grateful that it gave us an opportunity to seriously consider what we would have done had the request been legit. So THANKS Steves! And the next time we receive a message from either of you, we will be filing a report to the Internet Crime Complaint Center!!