Oil painting scam hits the Border

A NORRIS Park woman is warning Border residents not to buy paintings from people posing as Israeli art students.

Raquel Wood bought what she believed was an original oil painting of an ocean sunrise for $195 only to find out the next day it was a mass produced item selling on the internet for $US5.95.

Mrs Wood said she saw the group selling pictures near her sister’s estate in Thurgoona on Monday but then a different group came knocking on her door on Tuesday.

They told her they were a group of Israeli art students who were trying to sell their pictures directly to the public because it was too expensive to exhibit them in a gallery.

They told her more than 200 artists were selling their paintings in Australia through an organisation called Bring Art to the People and 50 representatives were in Albury this week.

“I was a little suspicious but didn’t have time to research so I asked them a heap of questions about which organisation they were from, where the money went and whether they had a business card,” she said.

“They must have been very well-rehearsed because they had an answer for everything and the way they spoke about the paintings, the oils and the methods (used), was very convincing.”

Mrs Wood later searched for the group online and found a Northern Territory police warning about an “Israeli art scam” and a blog site with dozens of reports from victims, dated from 2006 to early this year.

A further search found a US site that sold mass copies of the pictures internationally.

“I’m not a gullible person and felt pretty silly when I realised what had happened but now I just want to warn other people that they’re in the area,” she said.

“It’s not the fact that they’re selling the paintings, just that they’re bumping up the price and lying about where the money is going.”

She managed to get a phone number for the group after they offered to frame the picture later this week and has passed it on to the Albury Fair Trading Centre.

Senior customer service officer Carolyn Roberts said the story should serve as a warning.

“Generally, we’d advise people to be really suspicious of any stranger wanting to sell something using door-to-door methods,” she said.

- Editorial — page 20

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