So someone’s claiming I poached their photos. It’s a phishing scam. Don’t fall for it.

Here’s the deal. I am extremely scrupulous when it comes to any photos on my blog. They were either taken by me, or … well, there is no “or.” I made a mistake about eight years ago when I used someone’s flickr photo, thinking it was available through Creative Commons, the photographer contacted me, I apologized, and we agreed that I would send a $200 donation to the charity of his choice. Lesson learned.

So I was very surprised to receive this message in my direct contact link to my blog.

Hi there!
This is Melissa and I am a certified photographer.
I was confused, mildly speaking, when I saw my images at your web-site.
If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s approval, you should know that you could be sued by the copyright owner.
It’s illegitimate to use stolen images and it’s so low!
Check out this document with the links to my images you used at chuckthewriter.blog and my earlier publications to obtain the evidence of my ownership.
Download it right now and check this out for yourself:
(link to site)
If you don’t delete the images mentioned in the file above during the next couple of days, I’ll file a complaint against you to your hosting provider stating 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 take legal action against you!
And you won’t receive the second notice from me.

Ho boy. This looks like it could cause me lots of trouble.

Maybe I’d better click on the link … but … something’s not making sense here.

First off, “Melissa” seems to be talking in a combination of politeness and indignation. And although Melissa claims that her copyrighted photos have been violated, she provides no images of proof in the e-mail that there’s a copyright violation on her “web-site.” And the link she does provide is to some Google Drive that I’m feeling really queasy about visiting.

Here’s the thing. If I ever caught anybody using my photos, I’d send a message to them with evidence of their use, and of my copyright. I had to do that a few years ago when some interior designer used my photo of The Jumbuck and claimed it as their own work. A couple of letters later, some certified mail / return receipts requested, along with the threat of a lawsuit, and the offending image was eventually removed from their website.

Also, a professional photographer worth his or her salt would have a useable e-mail that was easily traceable by doing a reverse Google search. That way, you can identify the photographer’s website or some identifying contact information. Nope, the e-mail address provided didn’t link up to anything or anywhere.

So I decided to take a portion of “Melissa’s” cover letter and load THAT into Google.

And guess what I found.

From the insercorp.com website:

Hello there!
This is Melinda and I am a licensed photographer.
I was discouraged, frankly speaking, when I came across my images at your website.
If you use a copyrighted image without my approval, you must be aware that you could be sued by the copyright owner.
It’s illicitly to use stolen images and it’s so disgusting!
Take a look at this document with the links to my images you used at REDACTED and my earlier publications to obtain evidence of my copyrights.
Download it right now and check this out for yourself:

SITE
If you don’t remove the images mentioned in the document above within the next several days, I’ll write a complaint against you to your hosting provider stating that my copyrights have been 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 I will not bother myself to let you know of it in advance.

Hmm. Sounds familiar.

From Sangroidwebdesign.com comes another variation of this little message.

Hello there!
This is Mellie and I am a qualified illustrator.
I was baffled, frankly speaking, when I came across my images at your website. If you use a copyrighted image without my approval, you need to be aware that you could be sued by the owner.
It’s illegal to use stolen images and it’s so nasty!
Take a look at this document with the links to my images you used at [website URL] and my earlier publications to obtain evidence of my copyrights.
Download it now and check this out for yourself:

SITE
If you don’t delete the images mentioned in the document above within the next several days, I’ll write a complaint against you to your hosting provider stating that my copyrights have been 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 I will not bother myself to let you know of it in advance.

So it sounds like “Melissa” / “Mellie” / “Melinda” is just like an abandoned port-a-john. All full of shit.

I should note that the other sites I linked to mentioned that the “SITE” that “Melissa” wants me to visit is actually a site that contains programs to download ransomware on my computer. Or worse. Yikes.

Now I’m inquisitive enough to look around for more information before I go clicking on suspect links, but even I was curious enough to want to click that link. And thank God I had enough brain cells to avoid clicking on that link, or even trying to e-mail this Melissa chud back and asking for more information on the photos she claimed were of her copyright.

But, see, here’s the thing. There were plenty of clues to this person’s scam. The weird grammar. The similarities in the e-mails (with only minor alterations) that were posted from different websites. The inability to provide anything that looked like proof of a stolen photo, other than a link to some nebulous Google Drive site that could have turned my computer hard drive into confetti in a matter of seconds.

No. Not falling for that. In fact, I’m posting this message so that, if anybody else comes across that skeevy message, either through their WordPress blog or some other outlet, to understand that it’s just a crude phishing attempt to try to take over your computer and hold your data hostage … or worse.

So Melissa … or Melinda … or Melanie … or Melbatoast … or whatever your name is …

Go kick rocks.