Forgery Scams

People collect a lot of things. Not just postage stamps, coins, dolls, and baseball cards, but also archaeological artifacts, antiques, autographs, and paintings.

The rarer the item, of course, the more it will fetch on the open market and in public auctions. And that is all the encouragement scammers need to pay an artisan to forge such items and attempt to sell them as originals.

Not all forgers, of course, succeed. Some of their work is so inferior that it can be identified immediately by a professional vendor, even an amateur collector. But there are forgers whose creations are so good that they are sold without being detected before then. Ultimately, what usually happens is that the forgery is exposed years, even decades later after a previously unnoticed minor flaw is detected, new research reveals that it couldn’t have been an original or the scammer or one of his associates is arrested for an unrelated reason and agrees to cooperate with the authorities.  

Ancient Artifacts

If you have no previous experience in purchasing an ancient artifact, the odds are that you will be scammed. There very well be more forgeries on the market than originals. You stand a good chance, therefore, of buying a forgery even if it’s advertised by a reputable seller as real. Even the ancient Romans produced replicas of even more ancient Greek statues. In fact, there are many cases in which the world’s leading experts could not agree on whether a specific artifact is real or fake.

The most famous example is probably the so-called James Ossuary, which was unveiled to the world in 1982. An ossuary is a stone box in which the bones of the deceased were deposited after the body decomposed. They were commonly used in Judea for the wealthy and elite in Jesus’s time. What made this one unique was its inscription, which identified it as the ossuary of “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Only one other first century Jewish ossuary has yet to be found that mentions a brother of the deceased. Moreover, a statistical analysis of the distribution of names among Jews in Jerusalem in the first century estimated that it was unlikely there was anyone else in the city at the time named James who was the son of someone named Joseph and the brother of someone named Jesus.

Everyone agreed that the ossuary was indeed genuine and dated from the first century. But was the inscription? World leading experts in the fields of ancient inscriptions, ancient handwriting and patina (the coloration that develops over time inside the surface of a stone – and in this case, in the inscription) investigated it. Their findings were inconclusive. Some were convinced the inscription was original, others claimed it was most likely a forgery. Ultimately, the issue reached an Israeli court, which declined to rule one way or the other.


Anyone who has seen at least one episode of Pawn Stars, the American reality TV series that appears on History (formerly The History Channel), knows that plenty of the presumed antiques brought into the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas are not authentic. Many of items exposed as fakes on the show were brought into the shop by people who first purchased them at yard sales, open-air markets abroad or online on eBay and Craigslist. Needless to say, these venues are awash with forged antiques. A provenance, or certificate of authenticity, is generally not supplied. That’s a red light.    

For the scammer, the benefit of selling a forged antique online is that he can disappear without a trace immediately after the item is mailed to the buyer from the post office.


It’s much the same thing with autographs. So much so that one eBay blogger advises that “most (80-90%) of all autographs on eBay are fakes.” Even if he’s exaggerating by 50 percent, that means that anywhere between 40 and 45 percent of them are forgeries. Another veteran eBay blogger, an autograph dealer himself, warns:

For the buyer of a fake autograph, the real tragedy is that it could have been easy to avoid. As a general rule, do not purchase any autograph that has not been verified as an original. Do not even consider purchasing an autograph if it does not come with a certificate of authenticity (COA) issued by a recognized professional authentication firm. Then contact the firm to verify that it indeed did authenticate the autograph owned by the seller, since a COA can easily be forged as well.

“There are many sellers who are only offering “copies’ of the original signed photo, which are of course worthless, but their careful wording hides this fact. Check out the seller as much as you can, and don’t take risks with your money (always use PayPal). If an item seems too good to be true, then you can be pretty damn sure that its [sic] a fake, so don’t take chances.”    


How widespread are fake paintings? Consider this: In January 2018, 20 out of 21 purported works by Modigliani that were being featured at an exposition in Genoa, Italy were later determined to have been forged.

While art forgeries are nothing new, the glut of forgeries on today’s market is fueled by the rapid rise in the prices being paid for genuine masterpieces. The frenzy is said to have begun in 1987, when an original Van Gogh was bought for £24.75 million, which tripled the previous record for a painting, which was £8.1 million paid just two years earlier. The jump coincides with massive acquisitions undertaken by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles using the $1.2 billion endowment it inherited from its benefactor in 1982. The knowledge that the Getty could purchase anything it wanted drove up counter offers from the only others who could afford to compete – a relatively small number of people who happen to be the wealthiest art collectors on the planet, for whom money doesn’t really matter.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a forgery scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.