Art student scam
The art student scam is a confidence trick in which cheap, mass-produced paintings or prints are misrepresented as original works of art, often by young people pretending to be art students trying to raise money for art supplies or tuition fees. The sellers mostly represented themselves as Israeli art students, but the scam has recently been copied internationally, with instances of Chinese, French, Chilean, and other nationalities posing as art students or dealers in Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States since around 2000. The art is often sold door-to-door, bypassing exhibition sites or art galleries.
Mass-produced paintings 
Most mass-produced prints and paintings originate in Asia. Some are essentially posters, sometimes referred to as "Hong Kong horrors," printed on rough paper, making the absence of brush strokes less apparent. Oil paintings are mass-produced in China, which does a booming business in legitimate replicas of old masters. In the Dafen suburb of Shenzhen, China, 10,000 painters produce up to 30 paintings a day and some five million paintings are exported each year, about 10% of which are not copies but original works. The paintings sell for as little as US$10 each.
United States 
From the summer of 2000, news outlets in the Pacific Northwest reported that young people were posing as Israeli students selling mass-produced oil paintings, both copies and originals, for US$80–$200 each. The so-called art students were said to be going door-to-door, primarily targeting residential neighborhoods and businesses with people "who might like art." They claimed to be studying at art schools in Israel and to be in the United States selling works by talented fellow students to raise money for art supplies or school fees.
Through the early 2000s, some 130 separate incidents of "art student" encounters were reported across the United States. Several dozen Israelis in their twenties, including supposed art students, were deported for undertaking paid work not allowed by their visas.
In 2010 the scam surfaced again in Saratoga Springs, Northern Utah County, with allegations that the Israeli art students were asking about the new National Security Agency's data center being built at Camp Williams.
Spying allegations 
Some allegations that the scam was actually a cover for Israeli spying were raised after the leaking of an internal US Drug Enforcement Administration report that suggested a connection between the art scammers and a spy ring. The Israeli government dismissed claims of spying as "nonsense" and a later investigation by Washington Post reporters (as related by Haaretz) found the report to have been written by a "'disgruntled [DEA] employee,' who was upset that his claims of Israeli espionage were not being treated seriously." 
Australia and New Zealand 
People posing as Israeli art students were reported in Australia and New Zealand from as early as 2003.  The paintings, worth around A$5, are passed off as being worth hundreds of dollars. Three backpackers—an Israeli and two Chileans—were taken to court in Dunedin for the scam in 2003 but were discharged as the judge said that they were "minnows" in the organisation. They reportedly made NZ$15,000 in three weeks from the scam. The Consumers' Institute of New Zealand suspected that an Auckland man was the organiser of the operation. A 23-year-old man was arrested in New South Wales, Australia, for operating the scam and 50 oil paintings were found in his car. An adviser for the New Zealand Consumer Affairs Ministry said: "All around the world, students from various countries are doing this." She suggested that the scam's organiser may place advertisements in backpackers’ lodges to recruit students. The scammers have also claimed to be Greek, Argentinian, and French.
In 2004, a group of Israelis said to have been selling mass-produced paintings as their own work, for hundreds of dollars each, were deported from Canada for working in violation of their visas. The scam recurred in 2009 in Calgary and in Warman, Saskatchewan; eight people claiming to be students from Israel, Germany, and France were arrested, and 100 paintings were seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Border Services.
In China, scammers approach tourists at popular attractions such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The scammer speaks English well enough to get into a conversation with the foreigner and then claims to be an art student whose works are on display at a nearby exhibition, which is part of the scam and sells mass-produced art reproductions at exorbitant prices. There are warnings about this scam in tourist guides.
- "Scam art ripples Peninsula "Students" up-sell cheap, mass-produced works door-to-door". Peace Arch News (The (White Rock, British Columbia, Canada)). 10 August 2004. p. 1. "An Israeli art scam with suggested links to espionage and fundamentalist fundraisers may have turned up on the Semiahmoo Peninsula. At least half a dozen locals—probably more—were likely duped by the hoax, which has for years puzzled North American authorities. Young Israelis posing as art students travel door-to-door hocking mass-produced art as their own. The works are worth little, but still sell for hundreds of dollars to naive customers." More than one of
- Wilton, Suzanne, "Art-sales-scam ringleaders ordered to leave Canada", Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, B.C.: 7 Aug 2004. pg. A.8.
- "Information on an Israeli Art Scam". Komo News. 30 August 2006.
- Moyes, Sarah; Michelle Robinson (5 March 2010). "Warning on art scam". East And Bays Courier. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- "Foreign students caught up in fake art scam". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 April 2008.
- Gandia, Renato (19 August 2009). "Israeli art scam preying on people's kindness". Calgary Sun.
- "Oil painting scam hits the Border". Border Mail. 22 April 2009.
- Dye, Stuart (4 February 2004). "Brush with law reveals art scam". The New Zealand Herald. Text "NZ Herald" ignored (help)
Coulter, Narelle (18 January 2006). "Door slammed on 'original' art scam". Star News Group.
Feek, Belinda (19 January 2010). "Warnings out over art scam". Waikato Times.
- Chinese Art, shanghai-central.com.
- "Israeli student 'spy ring' revealed". The Guardian (London). 6 March 2002. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
- "Door-to-door spies in Utah County?" ABC4 News 29 September 2001.
- Guttman, Nathan (7 May 2002). "Spies, or students? Were the Israelis just trying to sell their paintings, or agents in a massive espionage ring?". Haaretz.
- Ketcham, Christopher (2002-05-07) The Israeli "art student" mystery, Salon.com
- Rogers, Sy (2 March 2009). "Beware of 'Israeli' door-to-door art scams!". Design Federation. Archived from the original on 19 July 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- "Police arrest 23yo over alleged art scam". ABC News (Australia). 13 December 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- Robinson, Michelle (4 March 2010). "Door-to-door art scam". North Shore Times. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- Thomson, Alister (12 April 2010). "Bogus student touting art fakes around Clive". Hawke's Bay Today. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- "Art sellers painting a suspect picture". The Northern Advocate. 18 April 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- Slobodian, Erin (4 September 2009). "Scam 'Artists' in Warman". News Talk 980. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
- "The famous art show ripoff in Tiananmen Square was recently cleaned up for the Olympics. This was a pretty funny one, where English-speaking 'art students' would strike up conversation with overseas visitors and tell them they happen to be in town for an art show across the street. The show was closing today when I first heard the spiel in 2006, it was closing today when I returned to Beijing in 2007, but the pre-Olympics cleanup really seems to have closed the collection of knockoff art." . See also .
- Frommer's China, New York: Wiley, 2010 ISBN 978-0-470-52658-3, p. 140.  "You should also be leery of any English-speaking youngsters who claim to be 'art students' and offer to take you to a special exhibit of their work.... The art, which you will be pressured to buy, almost always consists of assembly-line reproductions of famous (or not-so-famous) paintings offered at prices several dozen times higher than their actual value."
- China Tourism Scams