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Help! A Photographer Claims I Stole Their Images

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Business, News, Web Design

man shocked at email scam

Heads up on an email scam that has been going on for a long time. We have seen it for years, but there have been many times a new client has received it and been caught off guard. It reads something like this, however scammers will often replace certain words or rephrase it slightly:

Sample Email:

Hi there!

This is Mel (they always seem to use Mel or a variation of this name, such as Melania, Melanie, Melissa, Melynda) and I am a licensed photographer and illustrator.

I was baffled, frankly speaking, when I found my images at your website. If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s license, you need to be aware that you could be sued by the creator.

It’s unlawful to use stolen images and it’s so mean!

Check out this document with the links to my images you used at [WEBSITE REDACTED] and my earlier publications to get the evidence of my ownership.

Download it now and check this out for yourself:


If you don’t delete the images mentioned in the document above during the next several days, I’ll file a complaint on you to your hosting provider letting them know that my copyrights have been severely infringed and I am trying to protect my intellectual property.

And if it is not enough, for damn sure I am going to take it to court! And you won’t receive the second notice from me.

What Should You Do?

So, you have received an email like this, what should you do now?

1.) Relax and take a deep breath.

This email above, and variations of the email, is a scam that has been going on around the internet for a while. This is an oldie, but a goodie.

2.) Do not click on the link they provided to you.

Never click on links in emails from people you don’t know. You could be opening your computer up for malicious installs and hacks. Instead of providing links to the actual images in question from your own website, or identifying them some other way, the scammer usually provides a link to a page on another website that they say contains all of the information to prove they own the images. If you click a link it could be a script that downloads malicious software to your computer.

3.) Contact your web designer or developer for help.

If you have an ongoing relationship with the web designer or developer who built  your site, ask them first. They will be able to help you out. A reputable web designer will have proof of all images they have licensed for your site. You also need to be doing your due diligence and not just grabbing any old image online and using it on your own site or in your blog posts! Make sure you only use properly licensed photos. 

How to Identify a Scam Email

These type of scam emails go around all the time. I am often asked how to know if what you have received is a scam. If you don’t have anyone to help you out in determining the legitimacy of an email here are some tips:

1.) Check if the message contains any grammatical errors.

Scammers are usually from countries where English is not their main language. If you get an email that is written poorly, chances are it could be a scam.

2.) Do a Google search of the email that the person sending the message is using.

Usually these type of emails are using “throw away addresses” that end in things like @aol.com, @yahoo.com, @hotmail.com, or event @gmail.com, since these are so easy to sign up for and then use until they get shut down by the email provider.

3.) Do a search on Google with part of the email body in quotations.

Search Google for a part of the email message. Make it a generic line or two that doesn’t include any identifying info such as your email or your website URL in it. Scammers often copy and paste these messages and then switch out the personalized word or two to try to make it try to seem legit.

4.) And, never click links in emails from people who you don’t know!

The main thing is to not click on links in their emails. They obviously sent it to you to have you click that link and it could do all sorts of things to your operating system and/or email program. Avoid clicking those links at all costs!


Nora Kramer
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