Vancouver art student claims she lost hundreds in social media scam

Multiple students at the Vancouver School of Media Arts have fallen prey to an online scam, Angela Bower reports.

An art student in Vancouver claims she lost hundreds of dollars to a fraudster who she thought was buying her work.

Elena Pollock-Ostrowercha says social media user rho_de591 reached out to her on Instagram.

Pollock-Ostrowercha says she thought she was making a sale and agreed to make three pieces for a combined total of $150.

“I felt excited because I haven’t gotten an ask for a commission in a while, and when I heard how much they were paying me – I thought, ‘this is amazing, I’m getting money!’” she told CityNews.

The 18-year-old freelance illustrator says the alleged scammer sent her a digital cheque, which she then deposited through an online banking app.

“They said the cheque would be for $950 because that was the minimum cheque balance they could have. Then he said I should pay him the remaining $800 back because that is ‘what a loyal artist should do,'” she claimed.

what looks like a legit cheque trurned out to be fraud. the cheque shows payment of 950 dollars

Elena Pollock-Ostrowercha tells CityNews she was given a fraudulent cheque as payment for work. (Source: Elena Pollock-Ostrowercha)

Pollock-Ostrowercha says she sent the money, but after speaking with a bank representative the next day it turned out the cheque was fake.

She says the bank told her because the fraudster had set up auto-deposit, there was nothing they could do.

Pollock-Ostrowercha says she posted about the incident on social media, and soon discovered that the same thing had happened to some of her other classmates at the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts).

a person sitting outside sketching an image. a vancouver art student claims she was scammed out of hundreds of dollars

A Vancouver artist claims she was scammed out of hundreds of dollars. (Angela Bower, CityNews Image)

Tayana Baez-Feria claims the same user also messaged her on Instagram asking for artwork and claims they sent a cheque with too much money. She too deposited the money in her account.

“He asked, ‘can you draw for me these three pictures,’ I was like, ‘okay, yeah,” she said.

“[They asked for] the $800 back by e-transfer but it didn’t work, fortunately, so I did not send him anything at all.”

Feria says the money wouldn’t go through because her bank froze her account.

VanArts says it is aware that students have been approached on Instagram, and adds that it has advised students to be aware of the scam and the account in question.

“If someone is offering your something that seems too good to be true, it…usually is,” Robert Falzon, the head of engineering with Check Point Canada said.

a person holds up a cell phone displaying an instagram profile

Elena Pollock-Ostrowercha claims she was scammed by an Instagram user. (Angela Bower, CityNews Image)

Falzon works in cyber security and suggests depositing cheques in person and not through an app.

“Go into a branch with that cheque and show someone and they will be able to tell right away if it is fraudulent and will save you a lot of trouble,” he explained.

Pollock-Ostrowercha says the experience has left her feeling nervous and anxious that she might get scammed again.

“Know your firm boundaries with your business and make sure no one tries to haggle you and try to convince you of a different payment — because there are a lot,” she said. 

A spokesperson with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) confirms that a fraud report was submitted and that the file remains open. Police didn’t provide any further information.

With files from Emily Marsten 

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