On Monday, May 30th, we received the following email:
Hi, I am an avid art collector and I saw your Inventory through the Askart website and would love to know if the under-listed art pieces are still available for sale, Get back to me with the estimated cost in USD plus shipping and do you accept wire transfer?
PITTSBURGH POINT BRIDGE FROM WATER STREET C.1880 (2000)
AT DAWNS CROSSING
G (Gerald Harvey Jones) Harvey
I’ll appreciate your prompt response in this regard.
I was a bit skeptical about the validity of this email, but I figured let’s see what happens. So I sent the following reply on Tuesday the 31st:
Thank you for your email.
The Stobart is $58,000
G. Harvey is $115,000
Shipping costs will all depend on the location … if you want to give me your mailing address, we can let you know what that is.
A few hours later, “Alexander” replied:
I’ll be happy to have these paintings with me next week in time for my lovely daughter’s birthday so kindly arrange an Invoice addressed to Pacific Mechanical LLC and also get back to me with Wire Instructions which has to Include your Account number, Routing number & Bank address.
My address is below for Calculation of Shipping cost.
2517 Maxine Cir
Sparks, NV 89431-4157
Later that day, I contacted my bank about the safety and security of our account. The only way you can secure an account is by putting certain safety features in place. Rather than creating an issue with our current account, I decided to open a new one and activated all the features – basically, money can come in, but taking money out needed to pass certain protocols that only we can do. With that now in place, I sent a fake invoice:
Attached is an invoice for the two paintings. We will cover the packing; the only additional charge is the freight (which is noted on the invoice). Please let me know when funds are transferred so we can confirm receipt.
The following day, I decided to give him a little push:
I want to confirm that you received the invoice for the paintings by Stobart and Harvey? Again, please let us know when the funds will be transferred and the best delivery date?
On Monday, June 6th, I still had not heard from “Alexander,” and knowing he wanted these works for his daughter’s birthday (ha ha), I sent the following:
I assumed you would be sending the funds last week since you needed the works this week. I guess you are not moving forward with the purchase?
Well, it did not take long to receive the following:
It is only a temporary delay and our accountant is working on it. Sorry for any Inconveniences.
I assumed this would continue for a few more days, but I was wrong. The next morning, we received a small envelope via FedEx from HA Friend & Co, Zion, IL. I opened it and discovered a check (image below) in the amount of $173,000 (a little short of the full amount $173,800 which included the shipping). I thought to myself, weren’t the funds going to be transferred in? Just one more red flag. I took the flimsy check in my hand and noticed the name of the company on the check was different from all the other names and addresses – Self Insured Group, Oklahoma City – and the bank was BancFirst.
I decided to call the bank to confirm that the check was fraudulent. Their people were only able to tell me that the company and account number were correct, but the signature on the check did not match anyone in the company. I then called Self Insured Group. After a few attempts, I finally reached a lovely woman who informed me that their account had been hacked and several bogus checks were issued — ours being one of them. She then asked if I would tell her the amount, which I did — that gave her a really good laugh!
I then sent “Alexander” the following:
I received the check today and canceled the sale.
It is not the first time someone tried to scam us with a bogus check, and it will not be the last. I recommend that everyone be a little cautious — remember the old adage – better safe than sorry. On a side note, if anyone would like to own a great work by either G. Harvey or John Stobart, just let us know… they are still available!