Door to door art not so smart, says Oakmont resident
Saved from scam but still a warning to others
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 06:00 am
The world of scams sometimes takes abstract forms as one Oakmont resident found out this week.
On Wednesday evening, the woman (who didn’t want her name used) said she opened her door to someone named Topaz selling paintings.
“It was a young 22-year-old girl. She was from Israel. She was an art student here on some scholarship program and had all these oil paintings that she was selling.”
The story continued that the paintings were done by more senior art students and that 20 per cent of the profits would go to the actual artists while the rest would go to the school and a place called the Happy-Home-Gallery.
“She was very sweet and everything seemed very legit,” she said, later adding that she had just moved into the home and that heightened her interest in buying art.
After inquiring about other works, Topaz was joined by the team leader named Michael who put on more of a hard sales pitch. It was convincing.
The woman wanted two works that would total $900 but she negotiated the price down to $650. She wrote a cheque but later felt some bad vibes about the transaction.
“It all seemed a little bit weird. There were a couple of red flags.”
Some Internet research after the fact resulted in an interesting find. She did a Google search for ‘Israeli art student scam’. It’s so widespread that there is even a Wikipedia page devoted to ‘Art Student Scam’, a confidence trick that describes the same scenario.
Some of the search results actually directed her straight to the website where the paintings originated. She found one of the paintings she bought called Black & White With Red Tree Paris Street Arc De Triomphe on the website www.aliexpress.com. The name of the artist is not given.
“It’s almost a worldwide scam happening. They’re actually just a bunch of replica China-made paintings. You can buy them for $20 online. The gallery is part of the scam too.”
In a quirky twist, Topaz provided a cell number at the time of sale and the woman called it the next day to cancel the sale. The paintings and the cheque were once again exchanged. Michael was also present.
“At first they were trying to argue. Once we showed them on our iPad the page, ‘Well, here’s the painting right here for $20’, they just gave us our cheque and it was done.”
Tried to reach by phone, Topaz would offer no comments on the authenticity of the deal or provide any comments about the practice. She abruptly hung up on the Gazette. Repeated attempts to call back were ignored.
The woman added that Topaz and Michael were driving a grey minivan.
Representatives from the St. Albert RCMP could not be reached for comment.
Any resident with a complaint or concern about a scam can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre.ca.