How to avoid getting scammed

Is this art buyer legitimate or pulling an internet swindle? I asked the hive for help.
I sold this painting to an online contact. Since then, she’s become a valued friend.

There are two schools of thought among artists: those who embrace on-line selling and those who don’t. I’m strongly in the bricks-and-mortar camp, but I do occasionally sell paintings to people who see my work online.

I’m usually happy to oblige and in most cases, it works just fine.
People who regularly sell work from their websites usually accept payment through third parties like PayPal. That insures that they get their money. It gets dicey when someone wants to pay by check.
This week, I’ve been communicating with a buyer who is setting off a low-level vibration in my fraud detector. I checked a number of sources for advice. Here’s their consensus:
Check references
That’s difficult with an online contact, but I Googled him and came up with nothing. As a control, I ran the name of one of my students, my late aunt, and a sister-in-law who doesn’t use a computer. I found all of them.
This painting of the Delaware Water Gap sold to someone who saw it on my blog. There were no problems in the transaction.
Always use a trusted middle man
The fees we pay to systems like galleries (online or real-world), eBay, PayPal and credit card companies are there in part to cover the risks involved in commerce.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Artists are particularly vulnerable because we are emotionally involved with our product. It’s hard to be objective about when a response is normal and reasonable, and when it isn’t.
I’ve noticed serious buyers generally have a specific painting or subject in mind when they contact me directly. Scammers have no real interest in the content, and don’t tend to ask incisive questions.
Don’t be overeager.
This is hard advice for the impecunious artist to follow, but scams work because their victims’ excitement blinds them to the deal’s faults.
Low Bridge (Erie Canal) 40X30, is probably only going to sell online, since I no longer have any gallery representation in New York.
Never accept personal checks and only accept checks for the exact amount.
I sometimes insist on a cashier’s or certified check drawn on an American bank, in the exact amount. This isn’t a guarantee that the check won’t be counterfeited, sadly, but they do clear faster than personal checks. I never give out my bank information for a wire transfer.
You mustn’t ship the painting until the check clears, no matter how much urgency the client expresses.
Does the money pass the sniff test?
We’ve all heard of the Nigerian money scamand its many daughters. Nearly all online scams start with an unusual financing request from the buyer, often including an overpayment.
The same is probably true of this little study of the Queensboro Bridge approach. It’s a good painting, but it’s not going to sell in a Maine gallery.
Avoid buyers with too many stories. 
This is a red flag for me in the conversation I’m currently having. He might be a “Chatty Cathy,” or he might be trying to muddy the waters. But the sob story, in all its wonderful permutations, is the oldest scam around.
As Frank Scafidi, public affairs director of the National Insurance Crime Bureau told USA Today, “Slow down, ask questions and don’t become emotionally involved in the sale.”
Trust your gut. “If it feels awkward, stop all contact,” expert Linda Criddle told AARP.
Be wary of overseas buyers. 
This is tricky for me, since I have sold paintings to people around the globe. However, it’s harder to verify payments across national borders.

Hydrate or die

Plein air painters may not often break a sweat, but we’re exposed to the same environmental stresses as athletes.
Niagara Falls, pastel, Carol L. Douglas.
Yesterday, I wrote that when my painting goes south, I ask myself basic questions about my process and the ergonomics of painting. Then I proceeded to ignore my own advice. I felt terrible all day, fighting a headache and fatigue. At 2 PM I took aspirin with a cup of coffee and tucked myself in my bed for a few moments to wait for them to work. At dinnertime, I awoke with a start when my friend Barb hallooed from my kitchen.  I’d missed an appointment and wasted an afternoon.
I wasn’t particularly overtired; I was thirsty. Proper hydration is as much a priority for plein airpainters and long-distance travelers as it is for athletes. Although the results of drinking insufficient water are less spectacular for us, they’re no less real.

Headwaters of the Hudson, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas.
I often bring my water bottle with me, only to use it as a wind-weight on my easel or for wetting paints. Why am I so resistant to drinking in the field?
The problem isn’t the opportunity to drink fluids; it’s the opportunity to expel them. Even if you’re accustomed to peeing in the woods, it isn’t always possible. Le pipi rustique is simply more difficult for women than it is for men, and I subconsciously avoid it.
As a teacher, I’m mindful about not putting my students in situations where there aren’t bathrooms. As a painter, I’m more willing to go off the beaten path.
Curve on Goosefare Brook, 8X6, Carol L. Douglas.
The same is true with being on the road. Beverage options are limited to coffee, water, or sodas. Rest stops are few and far between, and stopping takes time. Fast food, should you be unlucky enough to have to eat it, is loaded with sodium. While one could prepare food and beverages at home, it’s a third level of packing, on top of equipment and clothing. I never seem to have the time to do it.
It’s true that the benefits of water have been oversoldin recent years. Still, water is important, and we suffer when we don’t drink it. Our bodies are about 60% water. It plays a role in every major system. Cells that don’t maintain the proper electrolyte balance shrivel, resulting in muscle fatigue. Water helps our kidneys excrete toxins and keeps our bowels happy. It lubricates our joints and regulates our body temperature. It helps transport nutrients.
Kaaterskill Falls, by Carol L. Douglas.
Plein air painters may not often break a sweat, but we’re exposed to the same environmental stresses as athletes: heat, cold, and wind. Hiking with our kits, setting up, and tearing down are physically demanding. If we’re not hydrated, we can’t perform at our highest level.
So I’m resolved—once again—to drink more fluids, even when it’s difficult. Now, if anyone has suggestions on how to succeed at that, I’d love to hear them.

An addendum: I had an eye exam this afternoon, and I suffer from a common ailment called epithelial basement membrane dystrophy. That’s a fancy way of saying “dry eyes,” and it just underscores the need to drink more water.