Commission Scams and How to Protect Yourself
As some of you know, I was recently scammed out of not only my commission money but also charged an extra fee on top of that. Basically a person commissioned me to make a piece of art for them. Pretty normal stuff. Once I had finished their art and they had paid me, I mailed the piece to them, which I thought would be the end of it. But months later, I got a notification from Paypal saying that the person said that they didn’t authorize my commission payment. As a result, Paypal removed the money from my bank account, opened a “chargeback” case against me, and charged me an extra fee for that case. I lost the all the money from the commission, had to pay the extra $20 fee, and the person got to keep the original art that I’d made for them.
Luckily Paypal took mercy on me since this was the first time it’d happened and gave me some of my money back. But I learned that there are many steps you can take to protect yourself as an artist from these scammers. So here are some things you can do to protect yourself.
1. Make a contract template that you can fill out for every commission and have your commissioner sign it BEFORE you start working. Be sure that everything is detailed and laid out; your price, exactly what you are doing, your copyright, and any other terms of agreement you think are necessary. There are plenty of contract examples online if you’d like to get a better idea of what to include!
2. Always use invoices! It will help you keep track of all your facts, like finances, shipping addresses, dates, project numbers, etc. The more documentation you have, the better off you’ll be if something goes wrong.
3. Keep your shipping receipts (aka Proof of Shipment or Proof of Delivery)! Once you mail off that final artwork to the commissioner, make sure you hang onto that receipt. Even after they’ve received the art, HANG ONTO THAT RECEIPT! That’s what really killed my case. I threw away my receipt once I saw that the person had received the art. So when it came time to prove my case months later, I had no evidence outside of emails saying that I had sent the art,
which somehow matters when a person says that they didn’t authorize a payment, but that’s a whole other story. Paypal told me the only evidence that would prove my case was that proof of shipment or delivery receipt, and I had nothing. I suggest stapling it to your invoice/contract and keeping it all together nicely, so if you need proof, it’s all there.
4. If you’re using Paypal, be sure to use “Seller Protection”! You only qualify if you’re sending a physical item to someone, but it will give you an extra level of protection if something does happen. They will assist you with any sort of complaints or anything that happens between you and your buyer.
5. Make sure you get a tracking number. It’ll help you and your commissioner know where the art is and if it gets lost along the way. Or if someone claims that it was never delivered, you will have proof of where it was last. And insuring your art is always another extra step you can take towards protecting yourself (if you can afford it).
TLDR: Give yourself as much legal documentation as possible!
I hope that these tips will help you fellow artists out there to avoid dealing with all this junk that I’ve had to deal with. I know it sounds like a lot, and can be a pain, but it’ll save you from months of frustration and money loss! People are always ready and willing to scam artists and we need to do our best to protect ourselves.
Let me know if you have any questions/concerns/etc about your own commissions or what I went through. I’m happy to help you guys out!
Hope you have a lovely day! Best of luck with your own commissions!