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Warning on art scam

BY SARAH MOYES AND MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2010

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An art scam that has been hitting headlines around the world is operating in the east and bays.

A Glendowie resident, who does not want to be named, recently opened her door to a young girl holding a portfolio of paintings.

The girl said she was from Israel and was travelling around New Zealand. To support her travels she claimed she was selling art work on behalf of artists.

The paintings were being sold at around $200 each, but the Glendowie woman decided to pass on purchasing one.

Instead she searched "Israeli art scam" on the internet and realised it was a worldwide issue where people claim to be art students and go door-to-door selling mass-produced pieces as originals.

The woman believes the paintings were copies that can be reproduced for about $5 in countries like China.

The scam has also appeared on the North Shore where a Campbells Bay resident, who does not want to be named, almost bought an oil painting from a young man claiming to be a French art student called Fabien.

He says Fabien, a forceful yet "charming French guy" approached him at his home, offering paintings by himself and classmates for up to $200 a piece with the proceeds going to their school in France.

The man suspected something was amiss when two other students approached him with the same story and almost identical art for sale, he says.

He too searched on the internet and learnt about the scam. He even found a lookalike painting selling for $4.50 on TradeMe.

Fabien Brurneg who visited the North Shore man to sell paintings says he is a Paris art school student and is holidaying in New Zealand with classmates.

He offers to photograph, draw or paint for people with the average price of a drawing being $90 or $180 for a painting on canvas, but these prices vary, he says.

He says he’s heard of scammers selling art in a similar way, but he is not out to con people into buying his work.

Newspapers around New Zealand have also reported similar stories about young men and women trying to sell what appear to be fraudulent Israeli oil paintings.

Some people have fallen for the scam and handed over cash cheques while others have refused to buy works after spotting that the artist’s signature was different to the name of the person on their doorstep.

Glen Innes senior sergeant Graeme Porter says he was unaware of the scam and no incidents have been reported yet.

He says residents approached by anyone trying to sell Israeli art should call police immediately.

He says they could be targeting the elderly as well as affluent areas.

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"Just be aware that there is a scam operating in the area."

- East And Bays Courier

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