Most likely other types of independent small businesses also are targeted, but it seems visual artists are highly targeted prey.
Undoubtedly, writers and musicians can tell tales too. And, abundant stories of phony modeling and talent agencies can be found as well. But, this post is about protecting visual artists from n'er do wells.
The Internet has given those with ill intentions access to artists who were previously harder to identify, and they have come out in full force attempting all manner of devious ingenious schemes to separate unsuspecting artists from hard earned cash. Given the inherent difficulty in launching a successful art career and the eagerness for success, artists as a group are prime to be taken by clever crooks with endless creative ways to foist their cons upon them. However, it works both ways and now these shady characters also are more easily found out than ever.
Proving Stephen Covey's adage, (paraphrased here), "There is no limit on the amount of good one turned on person can do." is sculptor, Julianna Yau. Having gotten fed up with the unending efforts of those with ill intentions for artists, she launched the Web site: www.bogusartfair.info. Here is a description from the site:
Scams and fraud are increasing problems for anyone with an online presence, be it as simple as having an email address or as active as having an intricate website and participating in several discussion forums. Artists are a particularly susceptible group because most of us are happy for a sale and looking for that big break.
This website is intended to be a place for visual-artists to share their experiences and warn others of potential scammers. I am also hoping to put together general information regarding various schemes and a resource area of legitimate agents, galleries, fairs and exhibitions. Use of and membership to this website is free (you are only asked to tell others about it).
There are other sites that help with reporting fraudlent schemes such as Wet Canvas and Art Scuttlebutt and Art News Blog. None, however, focus exclusively on thwarting scams on artists. To my knowledge Bogus Art Fair is the first and only site devoted to ferreting out the scum buckets that have chosen to prey upon visual artists.
I encourage any artist reading this post to join at Bogus Art Fair. Like so many of our favorite things on the 'Net, membership is free. But, sites like these only are as helpful as the members are in participating. Check it out, bookmark, join and participate. It's a can't lose proposition for you when you do.