Consumer Protection
en Español

How to Protect Yourself: Art Fraud
Source: The Florida Attorney General

Many consumers buy what they think is valuable art only to find out that they have purchased a counterfeit print or art work worth very little. Before purchasing expensive art, you should consider the following:

How the scam works.

Consumers may receive a post card in the mail telling them they won a "free" original and valuable piece of art. Next, after returning the post card, the consumer will get a call from a salesperson trying to sell them a piece of art. The telemarketer will try to convince the consumer he or she is being presented with a great investment opportunity. A common sales tactic is to claim the artist is close to death and that the death of an artist will increase the value of his or her work. The final selling point is the promise of a "certificate of authenticity" which the consumer will receive upon purchase. Often the certificate is worth nothing more than the value of the paper it is printed on.

Note: Some art galleries and auctions also sell counterfeit or worthless art.

Get professional advice.
Only an art expert can tell the difference between a valuable piece of art and a fake piece of art. Before purchasing expensive piece of art, have an independent art appraiser or a museum curator appraise the work. Obtain as much specific information about the object as possible. If it is a print or painting, ask for the edition size, print medium, year of publication, and the printer or publisher. Do not buy the piece of art until it has been appraised.

Be wary of too-good-to-be-true claims.
Consumers should be cautious and wary of promises of unrealistic investment returns and/or high pressure sales tactics. A legitimate business will not push anyone into a purchase until he or she has had an opportunity to have an independent appraisal.

Research the company.
Find out how long the company has been in business and research its past successes and failures. Call the Attorney General’s Office, the local Better Business Bureau, the County Consumer Affairs Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether any complaints or lawsuits are pending. For an out-of-state company, consumers may wish to call the appropriate agencies and authorities in the state where the company maintains its headquarters.