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Help! Someone Claims I Stole Their Images

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

man shocked at email scam

Heads up on several email scams that have been going on for a long time. We have seen these for years, but there have been many times a new client has received one of these messages and been caught off guard. We have decided to keep a running log of some of the more popular ones out there. Keep in mind, however, scammers will often replace certain words or rephrase the email slightly:

Example Email 1

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:
[REDACTED LINK – NEVER CLICK ON THIS LINK!]

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.

Example Email 2

Hi there! My name is (some random name).
Your website or a website that your company hosts is infringing on a copyright-protected images owned by myself. Take a look at this document with the links to my images you used at (your website URL) and my earlier publications to obtain the evidence of my copyrights.

Download it right now and check this out for yourself:
[REDACTED LINK – NEVER CLICK ON THIS LINK!]

I believe you have willfully infringed my rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as $150,000 as set forth in Section 504(c)(2) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”) therein. This letter is official notification.

I seek the removal of the infringing material referenced above. Please take note as a service provider, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires you, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receipt of this notice. If you do not cease the use of the aforementioned copyrighted material a lawsuit will be commenced against you.

I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Example Email 3

My name is (some random name).

Your website or a website that your company hosts is infringing on a copyrighted images owned by me personally.

Check out this official document with the URLs to my images you utilized at pleasantacresstallions.com and my earlier publications to get the evidence of my copyrights.

Download it now and check this out for yourself:
[REDACTED LINK – NEVER CLICK ON THIS LINK!]

I think that you deliberately violated my rights under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101 et seq. and could possibly be liable for statutory damages as high as $130,000 as set-forth in Sec. 504 (c)(2) of the Digital millennium copyright act (”DMCA”) therein.

This letter is official notification. I seek the elimination of the infringing materials described above. Take note as a service provider, the DMCA requires you, to remove and/or terminate access to the infringing content upon receipt of this particular letter. In case you don’t cease the use of the above mentioned copyrighted materials a law suit will likely be initiated against you.

I have a good faith belief that utilization of the copyrighted materials referenced above as presumably infringing is not approved by the legal copyright owner, its agent, or the laws.

I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in this letter is accurate and that I am currently the copyright proprietor or am authorized to act on behalf of the proprietor of an exclusive right that is presumably violated.

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. I totally get it, however. At first glance this seems very legit and very scary to a business. But, once your heart starts beating again, take a deep breath and really look that email through before panicking or clicking on links.

2.) Never, ever, ever click on the link they provided to you, no matter how tempting.

Never click on links in emails from people you don’t know. In fact, even with link in emails from people you do know make sure the email really came from them. It’s actually quite easy to make and email look like it came from a friend or colleague to the end user, when it really did not. In fact many US Counties have had their systems brought to their knees this way. Clicking on unknown links could be opening your computer up for malicious installs and hacks. Some links can even be ransomware (think Colonial Pipeline ransomware cyberattack) trojan horses that could lead to them taking your site hostage. 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 to initiate some kind of attack on it.

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!

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Nora Kramer
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