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A Tarbert artist has been targeted in a sophisticated scam – and she is warning others to beware of online fraudsters.
The fact the scam failed was down to a family member smelling a rat, but the outcome could have been very different.
Well known Tarbert artist Ann Thomas, aged 86, received an email on September 12 purportedly from a Peter Weston from Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. He expressed interest in two watercolours featured in Mrs Thomas’ website – Pink Light over Arran and Silver Light Loch Awe, worth a total of £590.
Mrs Thomas’ daughter Heather Thomas-Smith contacted Mr Weston with payment details, followed by a message on October 2 from the Canadian gent saying that his personal assistant had made a mistake and a cheque for $3,500 from London had been sent in error. And his father was ill.
Four days later, by his father’s bedside, Mr Weston was applying pressure to Mrs Thomas to enter a ‘negotiations process’ with her bank to release the sterling equivalent of $3,500 pending the cheque clearing – and refund the balance ‘any moment from now’.
By this time suspecting there was something wrong, Heather emailed Mr Weston on October 10 to say that only payment by bank transfer would be accepted, offering to return the cheque.
Amid all the emails backwards and forwards, Mrs Thomas wrote to Mr Weston describing the background and her feelings as she painted the pictures and offering framing tips.
‘They did fool us for a while,’ explained Mrs Thomas.
‘My daughter reckoned I could have been out of pocket by £4,900 by the end if I had refunded the overpayment and handed over the paintings, after the bank had clawed back the loan.
She was phlegmatic over the experience. ‘They didn’t succeed and at least I still have the paintings,’ said Mrs Thomas.
Artist Tracy Jones from Hastings had a similar experience with ‘Peter Weston’ earlier this year, with the scam also proving unsuccessful.
Tracy told the Advertiser: ‘I received an email expressing interest, though I was surprised as the work is conceptual in nature and not what I considered to be commercial to a private buyer.
‘I then received another email wanting me to use his usual transport company, he would send me a cheque/draft up front everything all paid for before I send anything.’
It was the standard of English grammar and punctuation in the emails that helped raise suspicions in both cases, and that can be a clue to a scam.
Ann Thomas concluded: ‘I don’t want anyone else to get caught out, so I want to let artists know what these scammers are up to.’
If you suspect fraudulent activity, contact the police. Action Fraud also has specialist fraud advisers available on 03001 232040.
The examples of scam-speak below are supplied courtesy of the Agora Gallery, New York