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Beware These Emails That Look Like Photo Copyright Takedown Requests

Beware These Emails That Look Like Photo Copyright Takedown Requests

It seems that there’s a new dangerous email making the rounds that is masquerading as a copyright infringement takedown request sent by an angry photographer. Fall for it, and your computer could become infected with some kind of malware.

Over the past months, we’ve received a number of emails that have nearly identical content (with only small tweaks to the wording). Here’s the content of one of the emails:

Subject: You have no legal rights to use my images for petapixel.com without my permission! It’s unlawful! It violates my rights! You must remove them right now!…

Hi,

This is Melea and I am a certified photographer.

I was discouraged, to put it nicely, when I came across my images at your web-site. If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s consent, you must be aware that you could be sued by the owner.

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

Check out this document with the links to my images you used at petapixel.com and my earlier publications to get the evidence of my ownership.

Download it right now and check this out for yourself:

https://sites.google.com/view/id03874773200[redacted]/home/drive/storage/file/download?FileID=7648267266824[redacted]

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

And if it doesn’t work, you may be pretty damn sure I am going to report and sue you! And you won’t receive the second notice from me.

Since we always make sure we have rights to the photographs we use, we were surprised the first time we received this email and responded immediately asking for more information about the alleged infringement. We never heard back from the “photographer,” and soon we received more emails that were nearly identical (from similar names and email addresses), and that’s when we concluded that this was actually a scam.

Visiting the link included in the emails — which generally isn’t the best idea — always leads to a standard “Not Found: The requested URL was not found on this server.” message by Google Sites indicating that there’s no file available at that URL.

We’ve been ignoring these emails over the past many weeks, but last week we were contacted by photographer Nick Fancher, who received the same scam email through his website’s contact form from a “Mel Coleman.”

Subject: You’re not authorized to use my images for www.nickfancher.com without my permission! It’s unlawful! This is a violation of my rights! You must delete these images out now!

Hello there!

This is Melissa and I am a qualified photographer.

I was surprised, mildly speaking, when I recognised my images at your web-site. If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s permission, you’d better know that you could be sued by the copyright owner.

It’s against the law to use stolen images and it’s so wicked!

Take a look at this document with the links to my images you used at www.nickfancher.com and my earlier publications to get the evidence of my copyrights.

Download it right now and check this out for yourself:

https://sites.google.com/view/id00397577730[redacted]/home/drive/storage/file/download?FileID=3663950531769[redacted]

If you don’t get rid of the images mentioned in the document above during the next couple of days, I’ll file a complaint against you to your hosting provider informing them that my copyrights have been severely infringed and I am trying to protect my intellectual property.

And if it doesn’t help, for damn sure I am going to report and sue you! And I won’t give you a prior notice again.

Fancher was initially concerned about the email, thinking that it could be someone who he had worked with in the past, and was relieved to learn that it was just a new scam email that’s now circulating.

“I receive my fair share of scam emails from the random requests to bid on too-good-to-be-true, high paying editorial gigs to emails from bots asking how they can wire me money to shoot their family reunion,” Fancher tells PetaPixel. These spam emails are typically fairly easy to spot since there are often grammatical errors and often start by offering me a lot of money right out of the gate. This email was a new one.”

It seems that Google Sites has always removed the linked file by the time we try accessing it, but we’re assuming that the goal of the email is to get victims to download some kind of malware, whether it’s a worm, virus, trojan horse, ransomware, adware, spyware, etc.

“The thing that gave it away (apart from the fact that I’ve never stolen anyone’s image in my life) was the fact that the link they sent me was to a Google Drive folder,” Fancher says. “Though I’ve learned to never click links or download files from an unknown source, I’m afraid this scam might fool some people.

“I think the lesson to learn here is that it’s critical to be skeptical of any email from any unfamiliar source. Look up their name or business or social media handles to see if they’re legit before responding or clicking on links. As Fox Mulder so eloquently put it, Trust No One.”


Image credits: Header illustration based on photo by jukai5 / Depositphotos