Someone offers thousands for my work but only as an NFT, is it a scam?

If you are reading this, probably you or an artist you know have received a message that goes something like this:

“Hi, I came across some of your artwork on ArtStation, and I was quite impressed with what I saw. It’s truly exceptional and I would like to buy some to add to my existing art collection for an upcoming digital exhibition where they would be auctioned as digital collectibles… Before proceeding, may I ask if you have had any previous experience with digital art sales?”

“I am willing to pay 3ETH for each of your works but only as NFTs. Do you know how NFTs work?”

Does it seem like a scam? Yes. Is it? Very much so. But let’s see how it works and what you can do.

Messages like these have been reaching artists’ inboxes for months, on platforms where they host their portfolios and on social media. Someone declares to be very interested in purchasing their work but “only as an NFT”.

The account from which the message is sent might seem legitimate: they may have normal-looking posts, followers… Sometimes it is a facade built by purchasing followers; other times, what you’re seeing is a hacked account.

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for “non-fungible token”. Fungible tokens, such as money, are interchangeable. Two 50-dollar bills are fungible because both have the same value, they are equivalent. Artworks such as sculptures, on the other hand, are non-fungible: they are unique and cannot be exchanged for another of exactly the same value.

However, when an artwork is digital it lacks that “unique” character. For this reason, NFTs use blockchain technology to give the digital file a unique identifier. Blockchain is the same technology used for cryptocurrencies.

This way, although there may be thousands of files of the digital artwork on the Internet, the NFT has a “serial number” that identifies it and its owner. Sometimes, NFTs are sold in such a way that the buyer obtains, along with the file, additional benefits. For example, there are NFTs that represent assets in video games that their owner can use exclusively.

The concept began to develop in 2014, when “monetized graphics” started. But it didn’t start gaining traction until about 3 years later. Although there are cases of NFT sales for millions of dollars, it is a high-risk speculative market. Also, according to the Wall Street Journal (2022) and other media, it’s currently in decline.

Scammers take advantage of the general ignorance about NFTs

The first step of the scam is to offer to buy the works for a very high price. Some artists receive offers of several thousand dollars per work. If the artist responds, it seems that several things can happen, usually revolving around the NFT creation process.

To create an NFT, you need to mint it. This is a process that turns the digital file into a unique blockchain token. This requires paying so-called “gas fees”, which vary in price depending on the platform, current traffic, the file… and are usually paid in cryptocurrencies.

If you inform them that you already sell NFTs with any other service, they reply that they work with a “superior” system or that they are “pioneers in the NFT space”. These are not arguments, since the technology is the same. SafeCreative, for example, allows [generating and selling NFTs from our Creators platform](https://www.safecreative.org/creators/es/faqs/#creators-vender-obras). The minting process in this case has no additional cost; instead, SafeCreative charges a commission on the sale price of the NFT.

Fake minting sites

In some cases, scammers direct their victim to a minting website to create the NFT. The process may cost a hundred or several hundred dollars but, as they offer thousands for the work, it seems like an investment.

The minting site is fake and, once the process is completed, the scammers disappear with the money and personal information: name, surname, credit card number…

If this happens and you are redirected to a website, you can go to Whois.com to find out who the hosting company is and inform them. These alerts usually receive attention and they may remove the site from their servers.

Sending cryptocurrencies

It may also be that the scammer generously offers to do the minting process. For this, they ask the artist to send a certain amount of cryptocurrencies to a crypto wallet, to pay the gas fees. Once the money is received, the scammer transfers it elsewhere and is never seen again.

Do not respond to these messages

Our advice upon receiving these requests is to ignore them, report the account, and block the user. NFT collectors do not operate in this way; instead, they buy directly on the sites where the NFTs are sold.

Thanks to the creatives who have contacted us to share your experience with this scam. Feel free to reach out if we missed anything or if you have received any other suspicious communication.

Sources: Art Business with Ness, Artsology, Artsy Shark, Reddit (multiple threads)

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