Warnings out over art scam

BY BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 13:00 19/01/2010

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Waikato residents are being warned of smooth-talking art scammers who are flicking off what appear to be fraudulent art works.

The $180 a pop paintings are being sold by a group of men who say they're either just "trying to make some coin" or "raising money for charity".

Hamilton's Mark Sayer was visited by an Israeli man at his home recently.

"He came around with a big portfolio of artwork saying he'd actually done them himself. But you look closely at the artwork and it's been signed by an artist but it's not his name."

Mr Sayer said the man, who appeared to be in his early 20s, was travelling with a group of other men in a yellow Toyota Estima people mover which had a wire mesh cage on the top.

The man said he was an Israeli in the country on a tourist visa.

He questioned the man about the artwork's authenticity.

"He would always change the subject or say `some of them are my own and some of them aren't'." One of the pictures was of the Tour de France cycle race. A Google search found the same print with a slightly different shade.

It was the fourth time Mr Sayer, a sales rep, had been approached by the same Israeli men in Hamilton over the last 18 months. Another family member was also approached on the same day.

Hamilton woman Lucy Corry was also visited by a "very good looking" Argentinian man this month.

"He was saying he was an art student representing a group of art students who were raising money for charity. It was unclear for what charity or whether (the paintings) were their own ... he did this number on me and pulled out this portfolio of really awful paintings – like scenes of Tuscany and a bowl of fruit."

Miss Corry's story was similar to an incident in Wellington two months ago where a woman paid $600 for three paintings by so-called Israeli art students.

She later discovered they were worth about $3 each and were mass produced in Asia.

A Waikato police spokesman said while they were aware of the group they had not received any complaints.

"But people should be aware of the situation and if they believe the group may be misrepresenting their product, phone the police."

Other scams police want more information on were "tree pruners" targeting the elderly with over-priced services and individuals who claimed to be visiting sick relatives or who needed cash to take relatives to hospital. People with information on the scams should phone Hamilton police on 07 8586200.

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- Waikato Times

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