Online scams are not anything new. They have been around for as long as the internet existed just without the whole computer part. When you think about it con artists have existed for hundreds of years. So in reality the online scam is just a new way to run an old scam.
When I was young he tried to scam me.
While most of you think of me as a computer geek this is actually something new to me. I have always been an artist. I come from five generations of painters. There was a point in my life when I wanted to paint for a living. It is the dream of many artists. So I looked to this new thing called the internet to see if I could find a way to make this happen. After all anything is better than working retail.
At the time Google was still new. Yahoo was the big boy on the block and they had chat rooms. The idea that you could go online and chat to a stranger on the other side of the planet was still a novel idea. A friend of mine and I found a business to business chat room where people would spend a lot of time talking about business and marketing.
I had been active in the chat room for a few months when I was approached by someone who said they really liked my artwork.
The rope is a classic term for a con artist to pull someone into a scam. In the classic con artist movies, they will normally have some charming person mention who they earned money through ______ , They tend to pretend to push the mark away making them think it is some special deal.
While I can’t remember the guy’s name he claimed he was from India and worked for a chain of art schools. He told me that he was looking for western artists to teach art on a tour around 45-80 of these schools. He would be happy to send me a contact that would pay anywhere from 80-100K USD for the tour.
When you are tired of working retail the idea of 80-100K sounds like a dream. Making that kind of money while painting sounded even better! So what did I have to lose? (If you ever say “What do I have to lose?” ….. the answer should always be LOTS )
Filling my head with what I wanted to hear
He talked about fame, TV, and radio ads. He talked about how western artists can make easy money in India and become famous overnight as investors will fight over their artwork. The art classes were just a marketing ploy. While the classes would make good money … the real money would be in the art shows after I became a household name. He even stated that my friend could come with me and they would do the same for her.
I have to admit I liked the idea. I really wanted to get out of retail hell. (I was working three jobs at the time). I told a lot of people about it except for my parents who tended to shoot down any dreams I had presented to them.
Con artists target your emotions! It’s not just about the money.. They want your heart and soul into the scam as well.
False sense of urgency
He told me that there was another artist he was looking to hire but he could only hire one or two. Whoever got the task list done first would get the contract.
This is classic. By making it so that I needed to get all of this done fast I would not be thinking about the important details.
Bombarded with details
The task list I was given was huge. To gather all of this in less than a month on my budget was daunting.
- 400 word bio
- Profesinal head shot
- Collection of my best work in a portfolio
- India work VISA
- Lugage and clothing for warm weather
- Cell phone with international Sim Card (Still a new concept at the time…. I was still using a Pager )
The whole point of this was to get my head spinning for what was to come next. He wanted me to be overwhelmed by the to-do list. He wanted me to be so frazzled that when he sprung his trap I would not be thinking clearly….. what he was not expecting was my ADHD and a mountain of self-doubt.
Something was nagging me
My ADHD made this to-do list impossible. There is no way I could manage to finish that list in a month. And with having to work three jobs finding the time would have never happened
ADHD comes with what is called RSD … this is kind of like being paranoid but having to do with a lot of self-doubts (and not so much that people are out to get you … just that you are not likeable or incompetent) As an artist I have always felt that my work was sub-par. (I still do). So when I started to think about why someone like me could deserve something like this an important detail popped into my head. A VERY important detail… He had never seen my artwork. At the time I did not have a website. None of my work was online. I had never had a dedicated art show or had ever won any awards. There was no way he could have ever seen any of my work.
So why would someone who was all about the business be willing to pay me that much money to teach art and become famous?
Sending me the tickets
I was about to email him about what was going on and why I had concerns when he messaged me stating that he was going to send me the tickets but there was a problem with the funding. All I would need to do is send him $5000 to make sure that all the licences were taken care of.
This is where my alarms went off. I talked with my friend who started to call her family for a loan. I was able to convince her to wait. but it was not easy … SHE REALLY WANTED THIS!
He got really angry
When I told him that we could not get the money he got very angry. He sent a flood of cursing messages and threatened to take us to court. However, this was just his last-ditch effort to make the scam work. I had never signed a contract, He had never seen my artwork. He honestly did not even have access to art schools. He was a con artist who was really bad at picking his marks.
I would have never been able to come up with the money in the first place. He assumed that because I was in a business to business chat room I had plenty of money. When the reality was …. I was broke.
What did I learn?
The first thing that I learned was that there is no such thing as easy money. The more you want something the more it is that a scammer will try to use that to take your money. I’m not saying that you should not be passionate about your work or your dreams. However, I am saying that you should consider the source when a new opportunity presents itself.
While I learned a long time ago to not listen to my parents when it came to anything related to my dreams. It would have helped to talk about what is going on with someone who I trusted.
These days I’m obsessed with scams. When I’m not working on Mac computers I am researching new scams (Really old ones)