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Art scams

The Internet is a wonderful place, but unfortunately scammers see it as an ideal environment to develop their schemes, which are often quite naive and self-destructive, but the small percentage of people that still fall for Nigerian-type of web scams keep the illegitimate circuit alive. Some types of scam are somewhat more subtle, so it's my intention to collect data on art related scams and publish them on this page.

  1. Scam no. 1 happens when you receive an email with an invitation to exhibit your art in a gallery. In some cases you are invited to attend the festivities around the gallery's 30 year anniversary (sounds respectable, huh?), with meetings with local politicians and radio-interviews. At some point it will become clear that you are expected to contribute with a rather hefty fee, or an amount per artwork you are allowed to exhibit.

Of course a legitimate gallery will never ask for a monetary contribution from their artists - they will take a percentage of every art work sold. The email you receive will both flatter your ego and intimidate you in a rather stern and detached style, making you think they are the authorities and you should feel lucky to be invited, so that it seems reasonable and worthwhile to pay.

Some scammers even invite you to send your art works by mail, for them to be exhibited in their gallery or museum.
Some scammers will offer your art work to be published in an art "book" or "magazine", for which you have to pay, of course. The book will be something they pieced together themselves with an inkjet printer and a wirebound cover.

  2. The second type of scam happens when people offer buy your art work, using false credit cards or bad checks. A pretty sure way to spook such individuals is insisting on using escrow, because the escrow service will check if the buyer's funds are kosher.

  3. The third type of scam is the most insideous, because it isn't even illegal. The scammer will send you an email saying your website has won an award for it's beautiful design and such. Attached to the email will be an image representing the award and the scammer will ask you to put this image on your website's homepage and link it to the scammer's site. Search engines are configured such that plenty of links to a site from other people's homepages will greatly improve the site's ranking on search engines and high rankings are big business. More and more scammers are getting into sending awards to unsuspecting site-owners in order to get inbound links from homepages.
So why do these links improve a site's ranking on search engines? That's because search engines regard a link as a vote. If I link to you I'm saying "job well done" and search engines will assume your site has good content because I am linking to you. That's why many webmasters today are into link exchange (I link to you and in return you link back to me). Because search engines recognize that that a link exchange isn't really much of a vote, rather than a deal, they have reduced the effect that link exchange has on your site's standing. Today "one-way" links are most valuable (you link to a site, but the site does NOT link back to you) and that's exactly what the above-mentioned scammers are trying to achieve. By flattering your ego with the award, they convince you to link to them, without them linking back to you. On top of that, search engines rate links from homepages much higher than links from internal pages (webpages that are not homepages). So a large number of one-way links from homepages is a goldmine for a webmaster, because it will make his/her site rank high on search engines, get them a lot of traffic (people that visit their site), which will make them a lot of money through advertising or other commercial activities.

The moment you put one award on your homepage, you will quickly receive more awards and attract other types of scam, because the award will alert scammers to the fact that you're either on the naive side or new to the technicalities of the Internet. Some people have as many "awards" on their homepage as a sick hyena has ticks of his face....excuse me for the comparison.

Maybe you have heard about PageRank (or PR), which is Google's way to measure the quantity and quality of the collection of links pointing to a webpage. The more links you have on your homepage, the less PageRank your own internal pages will get and therefore the lower they will rank on search engines. So the "awards" will actually harm the search engine ranking of your own internal pages.
To get an impression of the value of links, see www.textlinkbrokers.com.
If you still want to show off your "award" and link to the awarder, you may want to put rel="nofollow" within the anchor tag, like: <a href="http://www.scam.com/" rel="nofollow">my award</a>. This will prevent search engines to regard the link as a vote and not pass PageRank to the "awarder".

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