Con Artist Scams Photog Out of Prints and Money Using Distance and Anonymity


Austin-based photographer Polly Chandler was recently the victim of an Internet sales scam that took advantage of distance and anonymity to create the perfect storm of events that led to her being out a few thousand dollars.

The entire situation came about after an English man supposedly named Corbett Bonilla reached out to Chandler to purchase two prints of an “editioned” photo of hers, priced at $1,100 each. The two corresponded back and forth via email, eventually exchanging contact information and shipping location. For payment, he sent her a Canadian cashiers check — this should’ve been the first clue — which she then deposited into her bank account.

Chandler then went about her business, dipping into funds that she had saved, thinking that the incoming $2,200 cashiers check would be going through in the coming days. She even waited two weeks before shipping the individual his prints, just in case, but in the end the prints were shipped and she, none the wiser, ended up accountable for what turned out to be fraud.


After finding out that the entire situation was a scam, Chandler spent hours filing a police report, talking to attorneys, discussing the situation with Well Fargo bankers and more. Wells Fargo proved useless to her, only telling her that she now owes them $2,736.56 in overdraft fees taken from the account. Without any sort of usable debit card or checks, she’s out the money with nothing to pay her bills with.

Speaking with Feature Shoot, Chandler offers a few tips to other photographers so that they don’t end up in similar situations. She explains the significance of always knowing your personal bank’s policy, as well as making sure that, from now on, you use only trusted forms of payment such as PayPal.

As an extra measure, from now on she’ll be Googling the name of future buyers, just to cross-reference any potential scam artists. This, it turns out, is a fairly well-known scam.


Out over two grand, Chandler decided to take a friend’s advice and turn to social media and her loyal fan base for help. She’s launched what has turned out to be a very successful print sale that ends tomorrow, and features four photographs (seen above) available as 10”x10” prints for $50 and 8”x10” prints for $100.

To purchase prints and help her recover from this unfortunate incident, you can get in touch with her through her Facebook page and/or website. And if you’d like to hear the full story, or learn more about Chandler and her work, head over to Feature Shoot where she gave an in-depth interview.

(via Feature Shoot)

  • Pickle

    I hate blaming the victim here because it’s the old “she shouldn’t have worn that dress” type of mentality thing but this has so many red flags that it’s not funny.

    First, she is an Austin based photographer. How did she not get suspicious when a “British” guy suddenly became interested in spending $2,200 on her generic fine art work. Sorry, while the work is pleasant to look at, it’s mostly generic selfies and random black and whites where the shadows and the lights somehow are supposed to make a statement about existence blahblahblah *yawn* ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzz. The point is, a real British person can go to any art crawl in London and get many more prints like that for his dental office or whatever.

    2nd, the “British” guy paid with “Canadian” cashiers check. Isn’t that odd? At best, she’d lose 10% on the exchange rate. She shouldn’t have been too proud to call the guy and say “Hey…that’s not what we agreed on.”.

    Wells Fargo here are jerks too because they approved the payment. The very least they can do is accept responsibility on their end and remove the fees due to their mistake. I think with enough pressure they probably will.

    In the end, it’s not that bad of a lesson for $637 (even if WF doesn’t remove the charges). The sale was never hers to begin with so she didn’t lose $2200. She still has the digital files. She lost the cost of the prints and her time for making those prints. She had already spent the time taking the pictures.

  • LucySinclairsyk

    like Jacqueline implied I’m
    taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month on the computer . see
    post F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • roxics

    Agreed. If someone walked into a bank with a gun to rob it but failed because police catch them first, they are still in trouble for attempted robbery.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    All due respect but when one says “I am not trying to be an ass…” they are. :)

  • Sam J. Dennis

    Well then. Let me rephrase. In my opinion and looking at this situation it looks like a scham for exposure. Being an ass or not is really irrelevant if you look at the facts, or in this situation, the lack of.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    So it was a scam on the photographer’s part in a bid for fame and fortune…? Sounds like the old grifter double McGuffin trick where the scammed is the scammer? That’s a little too conspiracy theory for me but to each this own.

  • Pickle

    But she’s in Austin! Everybody knows all the artists are in Austin and it’s the greatest place on earth for creativity and nobody else is like Austin because they all want to move to Austin and so of course a guy in London would just love to buy black and white pictures of selfies. Duh.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    I heard that if you deposit a check the bank has cleared it (or not) by 10 am the second business day. Probably takes linger for fake Canadian checks though…

  • Anthony

    Interesting that the solution here was to hold a “print sale” where the artist sells small prints of what would otherwise be expensive-to-purchase images as a one-time fundraising event.

    Oh, wait, didn’t we just read about another artist doing this recently?
    Is this now the thing to do?

    No offense to the artist, but the story seems a little suspicious to me.
    But it probably helped with the print sale.

  • T Kim

    OK so I guess what I wrote did not post. Basically, she is overdrawn $2,736.56. That means she spent ALL her money and then $2,736.56 more on top of that (minus overdraft fees). Wells Fargo will not release the funds if the cashiers’ check is from another country until it clears. That means she spent against an account that did not reflect the amount including the cashiers’ checks ($2,200). She would have still overdrawn $536.56 because she did not have that either. The lesson she did not learn is the most important one. Do not spend money you do not have.

    In fact, to anyone who can do basic math and has common sense, this smells of a publicity stunt from someone who is trying to have a profitable sale of her prints. At the end of the day, she is either someone with a spending problem who is far from clever or she is the schemer who is trying to use a story to make more money. Her story doesn’t check out especially since she states she was planning on using the Cashiers’ Checks to replenish her Savings account which she dipped into. Obviously not if she spent against the idea that it would clear.

    AND to those stating that Wells Fargo shouldn’t have approved the checks, the story states that the checks were being held and not released when she spent the money. “Chandler then went about her business, dipping into funds that she had
    saved, thinking that the incoming $2,200 cashiers check would be going
    through in the coming days.” Basically states she used up all her savings and then continued to spend against a zero balance.

    IF she was legit, she would have no overdrawn fees as she used the funds from her savings assuming she would have the funds cleared to put back into her savings. She would have just been out $2,200 and fake checks. To simplify, If you only have $500 in your savings and you receive $500 that will clear in a week, you transfer the savings into the checking to use and later will replace it with the $500 waiting to clear. You do NOT transfer $500 into your checking and then spend $2000.

  • T Kim

    The story implies the funds were not approved. She used her savings while waiting for the checks to clear to replace what she used… except she ended up spending so much that even if the checks cleared, she still would have overdrawn $536.56. After reading her “story,” it sounds like someone who is young and doesn’t know how to manage her money well unless it is all made up for publicity for her sale.

  • T Kim

    Actually, I agree. Say this was her bank account.

    Checking $1,000
    Savings $2,500

    She received $2,200 in Cashiers’ Checks which were held because they were from another country. (The story states she was waiting for them to clear when she spent the money).
    Now it looks like this.

    Checking $1,000 ($2,200 pending)
    Savings $2,500

    She said she used her Savings because she was planning on replacing what she spent with the Cashiers’ Checks.

    Checking $3,500 ($2,200 pending)
    Savings $0

    She then had to spend all that she had PLUS what was not released PLUS an additional $500 approx.

    Checking -$2736.56 ($2,200 pending)
    Savings $0

    IF her story was true, it should have looked like this.

    Checking $0
    Savings $0 ($2,200 pending)

    IF you are truly “dipping into saved funds” until the check clears, why are you using against ALL of the savings replacement plus some?

    Now she has a great sob story for people who do not look at the numbers carefully to purchase her prints to help her out in this horrible time of a shopping spree gone too far.

  • T Kim

    Story states she spent the money against non-available funds. The checks never cleared.

  • frankhayward

    upto I
    saw the draft for $7407 , I be certain that…my… best friend woz like they
    say trully bringing home money part time on there computar. . there friend
    brother started doing this 4 only about seven months and just now cleared the
    debts on their appartment and purchased a great new Smart ForTwo . check it


  • Mr Hogwallop

    So…is she a criminal or just naive,? You didn’t wrap up your opening argument.

  • Beverly Knowles

    what Melvin
    answered I cannot believe that any body can earn $7671 in a few weeks on the
    internet . Read Full Report W­o­r­k­s­7­7­.­C­O­M­

  • Beverly Knowles

    Sean . I agree that
    Bryan `s stori is nice… on monday I bought a new Jaguar XJ after bringing
    in $9364 this past month an would you believe 10 grand this past month .
    without a doubt it is the nicest work I have ever had . I began this seven
    months/ago and almost immediately began to earn minimum $83… per-hour . you
    could try here W­o­r­k­s­7­7­.­C­O­M­

  • bob cooley

    Check her website- She’s not young, nor new to the business. She’s a pretty accomplished fine artist; which makes me even more skeptical about the story – someone who has been around for this long really should know better.

    I agree with your suspicions.

    Best case scenario – she truly was scammed, and was foolish enough to spend funds that she didn’t have (which a huge no-no to anyone who owns their own business).

    Worst case scenario – this is a stunt to garner publicity and create print sales, which then makes her the scammer.

    If I were the person who were scammed (especially by a trick as old as the 419 scam), I wouldn’t take to social media to tell everyone about it, I’d be more likely to lick my wounds quietly.

  • Richard Ford

    All her fault. Isn’t this how the US almost crashed the world? People living on debt, spending money they don’t have and not knowing how to save?

  • arachnophilia

    this is a classic ebay scam. it works because the money appears to post AND CLEAR until they actually go through the paperwork; the money then retroactively comes out of your account, and any transactions after the money was initially deposited can be subject to overdraft fees.

    the time difference can be like 30 days. the money disappears much further down the line; the scam doesn’t work if it only takes a few days to not clear. the original article states she waited two whole weeks before even shipping the prints. after those two weeks, do you think she would have shipped the prints if the money didn’t appear to have cleared?

  • arachnophilia

    > she still would have overdrawn $536.56.

    or, you know, had ten $53 over draft fees. which can happen pretty easily if you make ten transactions, thinking you have money in your account, and you don’t.

  • arachnophilia

    the story probably didn’t understand the situation.

    this particular scam works because there’s a lag between when a bank declares a check cleared, and when they actually go to check the paperwork on cashiers checks with the other bank.

    if the check never appeared to clear, the scam would almost never work: it’s standard practice to hold shipping products until checks clear.

  • arachnophilia

    > But the reality is the bank is laughing all the way…

    …to themselves?

  • arachnophilia

    foreign cashiers checks can take a month or two to ACTUALLY clear. banks routinely make the funds “available” to you as a “service”. so it looks like you have money, when in fact you don’t… because when the check turns out to be fraudulent, the bank takes their money back.

    this scam is designed to exploit that fact, and the fact that people generally think having funds available means they really actually have funds available.

    do you still think this is all her own fault? or do you think she got tricked twice, once by a scammer and once by a bank?

  • arachnophilia

    the funds almost certainly became available within three days. she waited two weeks to make sure the money didn’t disappear, before shipping the product. the bank longer than that to ACTUALLY clear the funds; they don’t tell you that this is the way it works. they just show you the money in your account.

  • arachnophilia

    > Why don’t people use their heads when receiving payment like this

    she waited two weeks to send out her prints. it sounds like she kind of expected a scam, but the bank took longer to find it than she expected.

  • Richard Ford

    Right. So all that happened was a cheque bounced? Must be a scam then? In any case she is an adult and not a child. She knows what she should have or could have done and she made a decision. It is hers to live with and is not the fault of anyone else. So therefore it is her fault.

  • arachnophilia

    i don’t think you’ve understood. this isn’t a bounced check; it’s a FAKE check.

    it’s a fairly old scam that saw new life on ebay. usually, they double-down on the scam, and send a fake cashiers check for an amount larger than the cost, and get the seller to refund the difference in real money.

    you can say she’s an adult all you want, but she got tricked, once by the scammer, and once by the bank.

  • Chris D Johnson

    First of all.. yeah shouldn’t have happened. Accepting checks was where it all went wrong mainly.

    Secondly, how has there not been an investigation? Skype would reveal the IP address, an ISP will serve the customer info with no trouble given a court order and not to mention the fact that the photo obviously had to be shipped somewhere… seems like a pretty easy case, especially if there is a record of the conversations.

    Thirdly, Even paypal can be subject to similar fraud to this; should have used bitcoin and the payment would have been irreversibly in your pocket in 10-20 minutes.