Tar­bert artist’s warn­ing af­ter on­line scam bid

Argyllshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - Colin Cameron edi­tor@ar­gyll­shiread­ver­tiser.co.uk

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 on 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.

A mes­sage was then re­ceived 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, Mrs Thomas-Smith 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.

Ms Jones 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 sent 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.

Mrs 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.’ Any­one sus­pect­ing fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity should con­tact the po­lice or Ac­tion Fraud ad­vis­ers avail­able on 03001 232040.


Ann Thomas had a close shave with scam­mers, but is happy still to have her paint­ings.

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