Thursday, March 05, 2009

STOLEN NECKLACE

I hate that I'm sitting down to write yet another blog post of this nature.
But, here we are.

As humiliating as this is, I feel like it's important for me to share the details of my experience and how I was scammed in the hopes that it will prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.

In mid February, I was contacted by a man by the name of ADAM HERSHKOWITZ who claimed to be the owner of a legitimate PR/marketing/production studio in Manhattan. He said he was working on a digital campaign with Reader's Digest for the launch of their new publication called "Fresh Home." He even attached a copy of the campaigns "sell sheet" to the email.

The situation was presented as a seemingly straight-forward press opportunity at the time. (Although admittedly I was a bit confused as to why a DIY home improvement magazine would be interested in my jewelry specifically… I mean art jewelry made out of Barbie dolls meets home decorating? hmmm) I pressed him for more information, which he was more than willing to provide.

He was very convincing. He pitched the idea and although it still seemed a bit odd - he sold me on the concept, saying things like "Fresh Home is about reaching a younger, hipper audience, we want everything in the photo shoot to reflect that boldness, including the jewelry."

After a lot of back and forth emails, phone calls and "urgency" expressed on his part, I finally agreed to lend him my one-of-a-kind Orange Blossoms Neckpiece for the photo shoot. I drew up a contract permitting a one week loan out and informed him I would need his signature and that there would be a fee for each additional day the necklace was not returned to me after the end of contract date. He had no problem signing he said, "whatever terms I deemed fit." (of course he had no problem agreeing to my terms, come to find out, he never had any intention of honoring them in the first place.)

I was in the midst of my crazy Paris deadline, so unfortunately I did not do quite as much research as I should have about ADAM HERSHKOWITZ and his "company" before eventually agreeing to meet him in Union Square in Manhattan for a drop off, in person, of the necklace.

A week and three days passed. He has not responded to my phone calls, emails, text messages, or pages. His voicemail inbox is "full and cannot accept any more phone calls."

Much research and investigation later, it turns out I'm not the only one whom he has stolen from in this manner. ADAM HERSHKOWITZ in no way represents Reader's Digest/Fresh Home or the Marketing firm he's falsifying his involvement with. Though they are both well aware of his fraudulent activity. 5-6 others have come forward about being contacted by ADAM HERSHKOWITZ. Police reports have been filed. He is being pursued, thankfully. I'm filing a police report as well and intend to see this through as much as possible.

Looking back and re-hashing the details over and over, I realize there were many RED FLAGS I chose to overlook with ADAM HERSHKOWITZ.
THE RED FLAGS:

• He used a gmail account for his email instead of a professional business email address. (I use gmail too, and now I get why people always say it's more professional to use your company name email program)

• His persistence and urgency to receive the jewelry - to an annoying degree.

• His unwillingness to pay for the shipping to - most product placement/press interests will send a courier service for pickup and drop off.

• If he was the owner of this big deal company, why was he doing all the leg work himself? Wouldn't he have a team? Calling all the contributors himself, setting up/art directing the shoot himself, meeting me to pick up the piece himself (instead of sending an assistant) etc.

• He claimed he was going to be styling and art directing the shoot himself, and yet he couldn't provide me with any details as to what it was going to look like ie: what the model's clothes would be in relation to the necklace I was providing, etc.

…and the number one red flag I should have paid attention to, the one where my gut was really telling me "don't trust this guy…"

• He was wearing flip. flops. Dead of winter, in 20º weather. dude's wearing flip-flops. His toes looked like they were going to fall off.
He walked up, all 5 feet 2 inches of him, looking like a scruffy college kid in frayed jeans, a puffy brown down jacket, skull cap and torn t-shirt with beet red toes in flip-flops. Absolutely nothing about this guy spelled "Professionalism" in person. And yet, I still foolishly chose to hand over my one-of-a-kind, handmade necklace, to give him the benefit of the doubt, in good faith that it was all good, and I would get some nice press out of it. "I had him sign that contract after all," I assured myself. HA.

I have one less necklace, but more than that was stolen. I feel betrayed and humiliated and foolish for falling for this. I try so hard to cultivate solid business practices, cover all my bases and handle myself as professionally as possible. The problem perhaps, is that I am a trusting person. The biggest lesson I've learned from this experience is that I ALWAYS NEED TO TRUST MY INSTINCTS first and foremost, and that it's ok to say no. Even if it feels just a little bit off, there will always be other opportunities. No one - no press opp - nothing, is worth feeling that uncomfortable for.

I hope you all can learn from this and avoid this type of situation. Here's what lending out your jewelry or artwork should look like (sans flip-flops of course) and if you think of anything else to add to the list, please leave a comment…
WHAT TO DO:

• Do thorough research before you loan anyone anything, no matter who they are/ claim to be.

• Get a physical business card of the contact.

• Get references and follow through with contacting them.

Always have them sign a Borrower's contract! (I am thankful that at least I have that - which he signed - for further legal action.)

• Get a valid credit card and charge it! Put it in your contract that charging a credit card for the full retail value of the work on loan is required up front and will be refunded once the piece is returned in perfect condition. If it's a valid business, they will have a business credit card and the charge shouldn't be a problem. This protection is worth the processing fees.


In the event this necklace turns up and you happen to see it, I would be forever grateful if you would please contact me. Thanks for reading.

**UPDATE: Adam Hershkowitz has finally been caught and my necklace has been recovered by the police! For further details click here.**

62 comments:

juliet said...

Never trust a man in flip flops, That is all you have to say. I feel like I would have done the same things as you, you were pretty through. I hope it turns up.

annie said...

thank you so much for taking the time to write this post. i'm lending my jewelry out all the time for shoots and i don't have a borrower's contract!! i'm drafting one this second.

KitschenSink said...

Thanks for making us aware of this for our future reference, it's very good of you.

I'm pretty good at researching/stalking... so I guess I can put it to good use in this sense! I hope it turns up.

Margaux Lange said...

Thanks ladies.

Annie: I'm happy to email you a copy of mine so you can see what mine looks like if you'd like to create one off of it?

Valerie A. Heck said...

Thanks for telling us about your bad experience. Don't be too hard on yourself, it would be hard to turn down free press.

Beth Cyr said...

Oh no! So much time and effort put in on his part to create the facade :( I just know there is something really special coming his way. Don't you wish you could be there to see it?!

Thank you for sharing.

ruby door said...

what a nightmare. sharing your story is a good step in spreading awareness to stop these shenanigans. how horrible to lose such great art. :(

Lauren Braun said...

Oh man, I'm so sorry that happened to you. I hope the police catch him and that the necklace is recovered for you. Try not to beat yourself up about it-- you made an honest mistake and learned a valuable lesson, he on the other hand- deserves some karmic retribution!

Heather - CROQZine.com - Dollarstorecrafts.com said...

That's really awful! So sorry that happened to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry this happened to you. I would recommend that you also file at www.ripoffreport.com, to help protect others from this guy. I always check there when something doesn't seem right and it has saved me at least once from loosing money.

montserrat lacomba said...

It's really sad that there are such people. Thanks for sharing your experience, it helps us to walk throught the life.
Best Wishes.

Vashti Braha said...

Thanks! I learned so much. I would have done the same as you. Until now!

MissFifi said...

I am so sorry! It is a lovely necklace and I would not think twice about ripping it off someone's neck for you if I spot it.

Courtney said...

I am so sorry this happened to you!! Having your work stolen is such an awful feeling.

I lend pieces quite a bit myself, and have worked in the past styling shoots (and as an assistant for my boyfriend, who has done editorial & commercial styling for many years), so if it helps I can give you a couple other tips as well.

*Always* google the name of the stylist or editor requesting your pieces. Many stylists are freelance, and often use personal email accounts and personal cell phone numbers for business purposes, but if they are legitimate their name will come up somewhere attached to other projects they have worked on.

For TV & movie projects you should always ask for an insurance certificate. This will protect your work if its damaged or stolen from the set, but is also a sign that you are dealing with a legitimate request.

...and this may seem like a silly tip, but never hesitate to ask questions. If you are unsure about a request or if it seems too good to be true, you should call the publication they claim to represent and ask to speak to the appropriate editor or an assistant to verify the stylist and the shoot. If someone requests numerous pieces and you would feel more comfortable being on set to keep an eye on your work, or sending an assistant to be responsible for the pieces on set, just ask. Stylists are usually very willing to work with you so you feel comfortable lending your pieces!

Bridget B. said...

Thank you so much for putting yourself out there and sharing this . . . if we can learn from each others mistakes, it helps us all be more professional and more alert.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you get the necklace back . . .

Miss Dot said...

thanks for that post, it does us all good to be a little more vigilant and to hear the horror stories. You really aren't having a good run are you? first Paris and now this! hey, I know some Nigerians who need help getting money out of the country? oh sorry, trying to be funny not mean. I hope you get the piece back, what on earth does he think he is going to do with it?

Kathy Weller said...

Whoa... I am SO SORRY this happened to you. thanks for sharing the story with us and the steps we all can take to protect ourselves from this type of theft!

Anonymous said...

is this him? http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Hershkowitz/1290249573

Anonymous said...

I just sent you the facebook link. I may have found him on zabasearch.com as well. Go there and type in his name.

good luck..

Lisa

Anonymous said...

Or...http://www.123people.com/s/adam+hershkowitz

I hate scammers. Can you tell?

;)

Lisa

Ashley said...

Marguax, I'm sorry you are dealing with this. I hope the necklace turns up.

Margaux Lange said...

Thanks everyone. The facebook Adam is not the same Adam Hershkowitz, just so you know.

Courtney: thank you for those great tips!

I'll keep you all posted as to what happens.

boodely said...

Ugh, nightmare. Thank you so much for your honesty in sharing about the experience. Really helpful and brave.

If you have time I would love a copy of your contract, I'm just in the process of developing good paperwork.

Margaux Lange said...

I'm happy to share my contract with anyone who's interested… just email me: margauxlange[at]gmail.com

stOOpidgErL said...

I'm sorry to hear about that. :O(

I just googled him. Is this him?
http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Hershkowitz/1290249573

rachel said...

Just catching up on your wonderful blog, Margaux, and this truly makes me sick to my stomach.

I've been skeptical of people before, and not written back, but I've also covered WAY fewer bases and still sent things out to people I'm unsure of. I once sent out on consignment an entire box of apparel with a contract that I had signed, but that the shop had not.

that was over three years ago when I first started my business, and I'm still waiting, calling and emailing foolishly.

Thanks so much for posting this and making us all feel a little more human for our OWN mistakes. And for what it's worth- chatter about this happening to you can be heard all over the craft world - I've heard it from a few different people, who all read your blog - and maybe all that gossiping will alert new people to your work.

Good luck.

Rebecca said...

M- I am so very sorry this happened to you. It is however not a total loss. You have not only gained an important lesson you have set yourself up as an experienced leader by sharing your lesson with others. Look at the comments on this post.

Rachel is right about the web chatter. You are indeed getting back some of the PR that was promised. While respect among your peers will not pay the rent like a flashy print piece it does elevate you in your niche.

Something tells me you are not a "victim" sort of gal. Keep up the good work.

spawnofflame said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. It would have never occurred to me that someone would pull such an elaborate scam. I appreciate the warning.
~Rose.

Carmen Rose said...

Beautiful necklace, I am indeed sorry for your loss.

Mrs C said...

It is possible for you to have a "professional" email address yourself actually (while still using gmail). I'm not sure where you bought your domain name or where you host your professional site, but with my own I was "given" one email address of my choosing (I chose an email address that matched my site name). I then configured that email address to transfer to gmail and configured gmail so that I could choose to us the professional email address when emailing. It's pretty sweet if I do say so.

I'm so sorry to hear that an artist got suckered. As if this gig wasn't hard enough as it is.

Mrs C said...

"choose to use" not choose to us. Which, naturally, makes no sense.

knotaway said...

Thought I should add, you shouldn't trust someone on the basis of a physical business card either. People can and will put or have someone put ANYTHING THEY WANT on a business card. Just because it is in print doesn't make it reliable. (I work in the print industry.)

grovecanada said...

1) I have been lobbying for a ban on flip flops outside the home for years, but have met with much resistance (& it's really cold here all the time!)
2)Thieves today use other people's identities...This guy may have a totally different name, & the Adam name might be an innocent victim of identity theft...
3)I don't loan things out any more...After paintings came back stinking of hair spray, restaurant food grease...CD's reeking of pot...Stereo system also so laced with cannabis odour...I say, hey, why don't you just buy it? I'll give you a great price...The whole concept of lending something out is really for me a personal thing, like borrowing a book from mom- anybody else, well,good luck with that...People take all sorts of liberties, often just 'cause they don't know paintings shouldn't be stacked or something silly...
4)Are you from Manhattan? My friends in New York don't trust anybody, ever...I thought it was in their blood...Bring a friend along next time, if you choose not to quit loaning things out...(a local New Yorker)
5)your work is beautiful...
6)thanks for telling your story, Sari.

grovecanada said...

p.s. people only steal things that they really love, really want & are truly beautiful desirable things...In a really backwards way it's a compliment...

Jolie said...

I'm really sorry that you've had to go through this, but I deeply appreciate you sharing it with us.

Thank you.

And you're right about the flip-flops.

Stephanie said...

What a pain for you. So sorry. I think you are helping a lot of artists by sharing your story, though. Silver lining, perhaps...? I do hope the loser is found and prosecuted...and with any luck, you may get the necklace back.

And to Juliet and Jolie, about never trusting a man in flip-flops: That's a bit of a generalization, don't you think? Where I come from, it's THE footwear of comfort, function and necessity (Caribbean). Perhaps you meant "never trust a man in flip-flops in 20 degree weather".

Harriete Estel Berman said...

I have had a number of bogus requests to buy my work...ultimately it always comes down to the instruction that "they will wire the money to my account".

One place that contacted me had a web site that look legitimate with artists listed, but it seems just a touch "weird". They found my work through Etsy and wanted to buy the work for the gallery.

Like this scam, there is always a rush to their approach, quick emails, urgency to make arrangements.
Harriete

Kanika Marshall said...

Thank you for sharing. You are very brave and I appreciate your warning.

I myself had a recent experience with a potential scammer that I wrote up in my Cancer Survivor Art Blog (http://kanikacancerart.blogspot.com/2009/03/to-artists-scam-alert.html) and, like you, I am hoping that sharing my experience will help someone else avoid a possible problem.

You have beautiful work and I hope you have no more problems like this.

Peggi Habets said...

So kind of you to share your experience and warning to others. You have, no doubt, spared someone else the deception. I guess it could have been worse. Maybe because of your professionalism he didn't dare go after more than one piece.

Jan Blencowe said...

I am so sorry this has happened to you! Please be gentle on yourself you made an honest mistake at the hands of a very dishonest person.

I get scammer e-mails everyday asking to buy my paintings and I get so furious at them.

Thank you for sharing your story and the lessons you learned. Many of us will benefit from your generosity.

I hope this person is caught and is given the punishment he so richly desreves.

sfox said...

I highly recommend a book, "The Gift of Fear", by Gavin de Becker. Although the main theme is personal safety, his general point is an explanation of WHY you should always trust your gut feelings.

As you found out afterwards when you thought about it, the clues where there, but you never really let them float up into your consciousness.

I am so sorry this happened to you and think it very admirable that you are willing to share the experience to save someone else from a similar incident.

Tamara G said...

Hi there, I am so sorry you are going through this, but thank you very much for sharing it with us all. Good for you for having the professionalism to get a signed contract -- as you said, this will help in the prosecution. I wish you all the best that your necklace is recovered!

Hang in there -- we are pulling for you. :)

Don Friedlich said...

So sorry this happened to you. I'm on deadline for a show, so I don't have time to read the full thread. My only suggestion is to keep looking on ebay to see if your piece shows up for sale. The things we make are not very hockable. No gold to melt down, so unless he wants to keep it for himself or give it away to a girlfriend, he will try to sell it. There are only a few places to do that. If you aren't already on it, register for google alerts.

I hope you can find a happy ending to this troubling event.

Sandy Mastroni said...

I think most of us have had an experience like this or close to this . I always trust people way too much .... most people are wonderful, but not all.
Thank you for writing about this .
It's a good reminder to all of us !
Your work is just fantastic . I've always loved your work !
Thanks again

Shannon Christensen said...

Thanks for enlightening me on this. You are helping us all be the wiser. Unfortunately, it is needed. Also, very clever work.

SewDanish-Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies said...

Thank so you much for taking your time to write this post and share it with us. I'm sorry this happend to you! As a relatively newbie seller, I have only encountered the positive sides of having a small business. Mind you, it is due to post like yours, that I'm constantly learning about the ins and outs of having a business. Thank you!
Birgitte
http://SewDanish.etsy.com
Scandinavian Textile Art, Unique Handmade Supplies

Diana Evans said...

oh wow...that is a terrible experience...I am so sorry that your work has been stolen ....

You are very sweet to share this experience with all of us..thank you!

Anonymous said...

So very sorry this happened to you! When someone with no moral scruples at all meets someone who gives people the benefit of the doubt, the outcome is almost certain. Given your busy life, I am not sure you could have done more than you did! What I want to add is that at least you can use this encounter to get good publicity for your beautiful, interesting, jewelry. I hope you send out a media release (if you haven't already) emphasizing your art and the kind of con this was. Make it a readable story, and you may get some helpful boost for your sales.--Carol

Kathleen Fisher said...

This is so awful because we all put ourselves into our art ... this guy has stolen a piece of you.

Given that I've also worked in publishing for many years, what he has done is frustrating because it gives the rest of us a bad name. The fact is that publishing is made up of large numbers of freelancers ... we don't have company email addresses and business cards. Even worse, we have tiny budgets, so the process of borrowing for photoshoots is often really casual. It's hard enough sourcing stories and images to publish, and this guy has just made it even harder.

I'm struck by the amount of effort he has made to defraud artists. He clearly has a publishing background and is putting a lot of effort into stealing. Ironically, if these were paid hours, he'd probably have enough money to buy the pieces!

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your story and your beautiful jewellery.

robert mcclintock said...

Its easy to be FLATTERED and taken away by the possibility of the exposure in a magazine...grrrrrr

Jen said...

If the guy was claiming to be an investment banker or airplane pilot you'd laugh, but an artist can get away with a quirky unconventional appearence like that. That necklace is so distinctive and unique I can't imagine what he's going to do with it. Excellent post, thanks for sharing your experience, painful as it may have been. :)

Anonymous said...

Another tip...

The few times I've loaned items to magazines they have given me their Fedex number to use for shipping to them overnight and they shipped the product back to me.

I had no out of pocket shipping expenses.

As someone else mentioned, visit the company/magazine/ad agency website and look up the name of the person contacting you for the loan.

Sorry for your trouble and thank you for sharing the information.

Don't beat yourself up about it.

Frithmobiles: Modern Art said...

This guy got me to ship a handmade beautiful large mobile of mine, that I rushed to make to be in this new magazine. A $400 MOBILE!!! I put off other orders, got behind to do this. he seemed OK... But, it is exactly like the story of this blog. I was ripped off. My beautiful big Jujumo mobile

http://www.humboldt1.com/~mobiles/jujumo_stolen.jpg

Anonymous said...

So sorry this happened but thanks for posting. My father-n-law lost all his mother's antiques when she died. Some rip-off artist was hired and showed up with a truck...did not take inventory..said they would do that when they unloaded. Supposedly was going to sell them. It happens. But thanks to your posting, it may happen less. I just wish there was something we could do to these types of folks.

Beverly Ash Gilbert said...

Thank you for your warning - for going the extra bit to evaluate (for you and us) what happened, why it happened and what to do next.

I think your 'gut feeling' is the best indicator, but I have found myself to somehow feel obligated after going past a certain point. I completely empathize with you for handing it over after you had gotten to that point - even considering your warning flags on his appearance. By that time, you had already wrestled with yourself and there wasn't time to process the new info.

It helps me to hear this from you so that I can give myself permission to follow my gut, to question and halt at any point along the way.

You have unfortunately lost a valuable necklace - and with it, all the time, energy and piece of you that went into it. As a small consolation, you have gained well wishes, empathy and warm vibes from all around the world.

joyanne said...

In these hard times things are getting tougher and getting more dangerous. We all have to take a step back and assess he situation before we make fast moves like we are use to doing. I would hire an assistant or a partner. Hurry and make another necklace like that one in fact make hundreds we wll all by one. I will at least hang a picture of it on my wall. SHOW CASE THAT NECKLACE! WHAT A WAY TO MAKE A STATEMENT

Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

That really sucks to be taken advantage of like that! You could see it as a necessary lesson due to the fact that you will soon be an even more enormous success and your new knowledge is protecting even more valuable pieces in the future!!

Karma will get him girl! Besides, I heard this guy in flip flops showed up in Emergency with such severely frostbitten toes, that every last one of them had to be removed! Because of the numbness he fell and hit his head and now wont stop saying the words... Midge's... Barbie. The nurses retrieved the necklace clutched in his fingers (which also had to be removed) and are now in the process of Googling 'Midge's Barbie'. You should be reunited soon! ;-)

Paul said...

I keep forgetting to get an custom email address for my jewelry site. I'll be doing that shortly.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I've been approached by many people in real life who directly try to get my pieces or ask for the components for free. It's so obvious and transparent that a sale is not to be made. With scams like this, it's not so obvious but trusting your instincts and using the rules you've laid above will avoid any such problem.

Once you set that contract and advance refundable pay policy in place, you won't have to worry about this. After all, YOU are the known established business here and people who approach you professionally will act as such.

Had I gone as far as meeting this guy, I'd have walked away with my material if he showed up scruffy and cited unprofessionalism and discomfort in this business deal. Youy can always walk away, just like you can refuse a sale to a belligerent customer.

Let's hope we never get taken again.

Paul

Barbara said...

Oh, that's awful! I hope the investigation and pursuit of the con-man gets you results.

Lots of great advice out there -- especially the part about not beating yourself up about it. Lesson learned, right?

Internet/Virtual hugs.

Heather said...

First of all, I'm sorry this happened to you. It just plain makes me angry. Secondly, thanks for being so humble to share your story with us. I would be so embarrassed. Still, the most important thing, and you've found that, is to trust your own instinct. I'm glad that you have gained at least this out of your horrible experience. Hope they catch up with this crook. ;-)

GroveCanada said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Theresa said...

Thanks for sharing the lesson learned and am so glad to hear that the guy was busted so that you got your necklace back. I hate scammers too!