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Door-to-door art scam

BY MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2010

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Scammers trying to sell off mass-produced paintings as original art are operating on the Shore, says a Beach Rd resident.

The man, who does not want to be named, almost bought an oil painting from a young man who introduced himself as 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.

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

After researching on the internet he learned about a scam overseas where people claim to be art students who go door-to-door selling mass-produced pieces as originals, he says.

He even found a look-a-like painting selling for $4.50 on TradeMe.

"It was really good art, I didn’t doubt it was painted by somebody."

But he says he "shivers" at the thought of the number of elderly Beach Rd residents who were likely to have been conned.

The North Shore Times spoke with Fabien Brurneg who visited the Beach Rd resident to sell paintings.

Mr Brurneg says he’s a student of a Paris art school 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.

"When they’re upset, I say don’t worry because I don’t really care."

He asked to have his mobile phone number included in this article so interested readers could buy his art. He later changed his mind saying he would be on holiday in the South Island and would not want to work during that time.

Consumer Affairs Ministry adviser Joanna Kearney says she has been notified of art scams a couple of times over recent years.

"All around the world students from various countries are doing this," she says.

She says it’s possible that organisers of the scam put ads in backpackers’ lodges offering a way to make money for a couple of weeks by selling "paint-by-numbers" type imitations.

Those involved are usually young but whether they’re French or not is debatable, she says.

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