Don't be scammed
Blogging,  Copyright,  Great information,  Internet Safety,  My Two Cents,  THOUGHTS

#Email #Scams and #Tips on how to deal with them

calm scam

Are you receiving scam emails requesting payment for items you never purchased? Or are you receiving emails from companies you are doing business with, requesting updated information to your account? Have you been in receipt of a demand letter for copyright illegal image use?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, then it’s important that you learn how to protect yourself from these internet trolls who can disrupt your life and your finances.

 

Many of these cyber criminals thrive on sending out numerous emails, and they only need to catch a few unknowing victims to grow their profits. In a world where so much of our daily activities are done online now, it makes us more vulnerable to scammers. It’s sometimes overwhelming the amount of emails we receive, and subsequently, when time is short, we have a tendency to click on them a bit too eagerly to get through them. But when it comes to receiving emails from companies you aren’t familiar with, or do business with, regarding payments, we have to slow down and do a little more digging.

 

In these past few months, I’ve received scam emails from LCS – one of the biggest alleged scam copy infringements currently circulating, a scam letter from a company I’ve never heard of, saying I owe $55,000 in arrears, a gmail support letter to my ‘alternate’ alert email, and a request for updated information to my Paypal account.

 

You may be wondering how we can sniff out the scammers, and what to do about them. And today I’m going to share how to deal with these illegal annoyances.

 

Gmail support is pretty darned good at sniffing out scammy things. Last week I received a notification from them, informing me that they had deleted something scammy out of my mailbox. When I tried to find that email, it was not even available to view in junk. Although I was happy that Gmail is doing their due diligence, I would have liked to have been able to see the offending email so I could see if I should have taken further action.

Paypal is also good at staying on top of and informing clients about scammy occurrences and how to handle them. If Paypal sends you an email, it will always have your name and correct email address on it. It will come from Paypal.com, and won’t have any other weird attachments such as someone’s name and email added to the URL. And they will never ask you for sensitive information in an email. You’d have to go to your account and log in to fulfill any requests they are asking for. They also ask that if you’ve received any emails saying they’re from them, and discovering they are not, to forward that email to their spam department, something I’ve done numerous times over the years. All you do is forward the email to www.spoof@paypal.com. You don’t even have to write your name or any explanation, just forward it. I do all the time, because this helps Paypal find these scammers. Here is a link with more info: https://www.paypal.com/ca/webapps/mpp/security/what-is-phishing 

There are numerous scams going on through email servers that we must be diligent in ciphering out. And remember to NEVER open any links from suspicious emails, as they may also contain viruses.

This week I also received an email from a company I’d never heard of, demanding $55,000 in overdue payment. The email was rather lengthy, but what didn’t it contain: My name, what exactly I purchased that was in arrears, no mention of dates of previous correspondence, NO WEBSITE in the address or salutation, a strange erotic email address return, and a phone number to contact, which when I searched it, turned out there was no area code for in North America.

So after doing my search, although finding the email had nothing to do with me, I didn’t like the fact that someone had chosen my email to scam, and as I always worry about unresolved repercussions, I decided that I should be reporting it to the fraud squad.

Every country has a government website where we can report these fraudulent scams. And I just felt better sending it in, just so there is documented evidence of the incident on file, should anything further pop up. Here are the Canadian and U.S. websites where you can forward these scam emails. Each website has explicit instructions on how to handle the situations and forward them for recording. – https://www.us-cert.gov/report-phishing and http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm

Now, as far as cease and demand letters go from LCS (the name that Getty Images hides under to claim extortion-like payments from unknowing users of images, accused of copyright infringement), this process is spreading like wildfire, with hundreds of people daily being sent these letters. There is much controversy on the validity of these letters and how to respond. I myself received one last December, as I wrote about below:

 

Listen Up! – #5 Tips to Protect Yourself from #Copyright #Infringement

I have discussed this problem with a lawyer friend and various forums I found from googling ‘LCS demand letters‘, and there still doesn’t seem to be a concrete answer on exactly how to handle these extortion letters, or to check their validity. I was very frightened the first time I received one, and chose to comply immediately, before learning more about this trend.

I never intentionally used someone else’s photo knowingly. The first time, they found a photo on my blog that I had used to share a post from someone else’s website as a reblog. The photo THEY used, was showing on my site, therefore, I was accused of infringing, because obviously, the blogger who used that photo wasn’t aware it was copyrighted,

The scary part about these threat letters now is that Getty Images is crawling the web 24/7 with their spy bots, looking at thousands of photos a day and seeing where they’ve been downloaded to. Many of the photos used to accuse ‘infringers’ aren’t even owned by Getty, or they’re accusing that part of a photo is from one of theirs, or even better – Getty puts up some ‘free’ images on a particular site, then someone uses one on their blog, and perhaps you decide to copy it, since it’s stated ‘free use’, then Getty goes after those that have copied the original ‘free photo’ and you instantly become an infringer. It’s almost as though they are setting us up as prey.

We also have to be careful of using images from sites which declare the photos ARE free to use, as possibly as the years pass and we forget about those photos we’ve used on a blog and find that there may have been an expiration on the free use.

Then there is the business of people posting images available for free use on image sites, which they have in fact stolen themselves. Who can we trust? This nightmare of possibilities to be unknowingly accused continues daily, and here is an important link to read about how this business keeps thriving.

I also came into receipt once again, of another infringement notice, in January. Apparently I’m accused of using two ‘illegal’ photos. (They scour the net and take screenshots.) One of which I don’t have anywhere in my files, but vaguely remember seeing and taken off a year ago, which coincidentally, I understood to be free at the time, and another which has a distinct watermark through it, which doesn’t match the one I had used on my blog 2 years ago, with no watermark. Both photos, incidentally, were taken from a site which I was a member of, and stated we could download and use photos from those which were publicly displayed. The site also has a policy where people can only download their own photos, nothing unlawfully. Obviously I trusted that where I got those photos, were owned by the poster.  I would never intentionally steal the work of another artist, and the thought of being accused of doing so is quite unsettling.

I’m sure this matter isn’t over yet, because I haven’t succumbed to paying, but as I’ve been reading up on so many other blogger/writer experiences with this business, I’ve discovered that once you’ve been ‘selected’ for a demand letter and you pay up in fear, they know you’re an easy mark, and they’ll be back.  Also note, that no matter the dispute, it’s very important to delete the image in question off your blog AND from any files you have copies in, as that’s how the robots find them snooping on servers. Certainly their ‘search and destroy mission’ sounds almost illegal itself.

Below is another informative link about the whole Getty demand letter titled : Scam or Real?

http://womeninbusiness.about.com/b/2011/08/23/getty-image-settlement-demand-letter-scam-or-for-real.htm

I hope that by being armed with this information, this can save you all some grief down the path of our internet lives. And if anybody has a related experience they’d like to share here, please do.

Follow Me on Social Media!
More Sharing Buttons - The WP button is for reblogging!

D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

73 Comments

    • dgkaye

      Well that’s good Marian. It seems the more we are exposed to the world wide net, the more we are susceptible to such goings on.

  • ghostbusterbev

    Scammers have been targeting the British Columbia area, especially elder retirees, with telephone calls about arrears in taxes. The callers are quite aggressive and demand immediate payment, often in gift cards or credit cards, which should raise immediate suspicion. Despite warnings, many elderly people continue to fall for this scheme and end up paying thousands of dollars to scammers.

    • dgkaye

      It’s awful Bev. While researching around on the Canadian fraud site, they mention some particular scams that are rampant, such as the one you just mentioned. The sad part is, many seniors aren’t well versed in technology, and aren’t aware of the many scams going on. The government makes it very clear that they would never ask for person information in an email. It’s alarming to find how many succumb to these thieves.

  • macjam47

    Wow, Debby, this is scary. Most photos that I’ve used are my own or have been sent to me by authors, however, when I reblog or share a photo on facebook, I am trusting that the originator has checked it out. I guess this could potentially put us all in jeopardy. Thanks for the information. I am definitely going to be careful about what appears on my blog and FB page.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Michelle. Yes, because this infringement stuff seems to go layers deep, it’s not even a matter of trusting another author because even though we know some authors well who would never infringe, the places we obtain some photos from that say they are free, often aren’t. I would worry more about your blog than FB though. It appears that from my findings, that FB is much too large for anyone to take on, and apparently, FB’s policy is already what’s posted there becomes their right. I would be more concerned with posting anonymous photos FROM FB to your own blog. I’d also be careful more about posting on Pinterest. Again, make sure everything you post there has the source listed where it came from. Hope this helps.

      • macjam47

        Thanks, Debby. Pinterest is one of those things I do, but don’t have a lot of interest in. It’s a huge time soak. I may just go back and delete a lot since I have no idea if they are free or the sources of the pinned photos.

        • dgkaye

          I’m with you on the Pinterest Michelle. I do pin things from articles I like which have a pin button available. But I also went through my boards last year to make sure that all my pins had the source of where it originated. I had some nice quotes and photo memes from Facebook which didn’t have an author’s name to them, and I deleted all of the questionables.

          • macjam47

            I understand copyright laws, but it’s a shame that people who innocently pin or share something have to suffer the consequences when most of the time they are unaware they have done anything wrong.

          • dgkaye

            That’s the worst part about this. So they’re fishing out innocent unassuming people to pay the price for someone else’s crimes of unlawfully posting ‘free’ images when they are in fact not. The little guy gets the heat.

  • Christy Birmingham

    Hi Deb, I agree that Gmail is good about weeding through the spammy posts for us (although it’s kind of like Big Brother that they are looking at our messages!). Thank you for the contact information for PayPal as I do sometimes receive imposter emails… Now I know where to forward them to! I’m now on alert – and you’re helping out many people with this informative post!

    • dgkaye

      Hi Christy! Thanks for dropping by, and glad I’ve helped. Yes, I agree, it’s kind of eerie that Gmail and Google spies on us all. We have to be diligent in caution and reporting when we find scammers. 🙂

  • blondieaka

    So scary, thank you for highlighting this now in the process of deleting images that I thought were free and maybe not….sounds like the proverbial minefield 🙁

    • dgkaye

      Hi Carol. Good idea! I went through that whole process last year of deleting images, going through every blog I wrote. Tedious, but necessary. If in doubt, toss it.

      • blondieaka

        Hi , Tedious it is but better than the alternative although I did come across a good article or two on Creative Commons and Public Domain Pictures but so much to take in but I am using no more unless I am 110% certain I can. But a great article thank you 🙂

  • Aquileana

    Very interesting…. as to Getty images, If I were you, I´d just say … `I am deleting the image ASAP and end of issue´… If I ever received a note of this sort, I would do that…. because I wonder what can they do against you… not much, I guess…
    Sending love and best wishes, dear DG. Aquileana ?

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Aq. Of course, always delete the image. But you see, there is no warning letter asking to remove first. The letter states clearly that removing the image doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay. This is why they are called extortion letters. And what they’re demanding is in the hundreds or thousands of dollars for what cost a $2 or $5 image! 🙂 You see, if an artist who created an image finds illegal use, they would contact you and ask you to remove. This company takes it upon themselves to spy the internet for photos and tell you they own the rights, or they are writing on the artists behalf. This is where it’s shady.

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Excellent info. Wow. It’s easy to spot many scams but the infringement scam is tough because we rely on image providers to be honest and thorough about what they provide. Scary.

      • D. Wallace Peach

        I use pixabay for everything. I’ll have to check into their policies a little more. I’m almost thinking I should just get account somewhere and purchase the images. I assume that’s safer (?).

        • dgkaye

          Pixabay is the only site I use now Diana. The licencing is clear. Besides that I’m creating more and more of my own with my own photos and using sites like photofunia and shareasimage to create my own text on approved backgrounds or my own. 🙂

  • Hugh's Views and News

    Great information, Debby. We’ve currently got a scam in the UK where many pensioners were conned out of their life savings. I get these emails just about everyday and just pass them on to the various companies they claim to have come from. I never click on any links in the emails and never respond to any of the emails. So far, so good, but these scammers are getting very clever. Many now will phone you rather than email you and they can be very convincing.
    I now use all my own images for blog posts (sometimes with the help of Canva).

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing Hugh. Yes, we also have a huge ongoing scam here in Canada, scammers emailing and phoning people, telling them they are with the Canadian tax department. It always seems to be the seniors who are so vulnerable to this, mostly because they are not so tech savvy and aware of just how scammy the internet is. I was reading about so many poor pensioners falling prey to this. And then when I called the fraud squad the other day to report another email from these scamsters, she was telling me that the call volumes are so huge because of the government fraud scam.
      I just don’t understand why people have to be so damned evil! Technology just makes it so easy for these trolls to find innocent prey,.
      I’m glad you’re using your own posts Hugh. I mostly am, and what’s not mine is from Pixabay only. You just have to make sure you don’t use ‘sponsored’ photos. Then beside their image is the author of the photo and CCO – zero license required. For extra safety you can send the image to http://www.tineye.com to verify the copyrights. 🙂

      • Hugh's Views and News

        I had a phone call yesterday claiming to be from Windows computers. They told me that now they had fixed my computer I owed them £200! I pretended they were talking about a scooter rather a computer and said it was wasn’t fixed because it still had the falt tyre and when were they going to come and fix it. They soon got fed up with me and slammed the phone down (after calling me a few not very polite names).
        Thanks for the link, Debby ?

  • olganm

    It is a scary world out there. I regularly get invoices from companies I don’t know and of course, people who’ve left me millions somewhere… The images thing is a worry….

    • dgkaye

      Yes Olga, it is a worry, that’s why I wanted to spread some awareness. I hope people are spared by being more cautious. 🙂

  • Carol Balawyder

    I regularly get scam e-mails, some telling me that FED-EX has a parcel waiting for me – all I have to do is supply personal information OR I receive notification from my e-mail account saying that it will be shut down until I update my personal information. I simply delete and ignore these. And like Hugh I never click on any of the links and I also use Canva for images. Interesting and valuable post, Debby.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing your experiences here Carol. Glad you’re doing everything safely. The more experiences with scams people share, the more we can make others aware. PS I’m reading your book! I love it, 🙂

        • dgkaye

          You know I love your writing! I just wanted to read it in one sitting. As it is, I’ve been reading in stolen hours for 3 nights now. I’ll finish in a day or two and look forward to writing a review. 🙂

  • Sherri

    Thank you so much for sharing these links Deb, scams are worldwide. I periodically get one from the company that provides my internet, saying that my credit card details on file are not current and so I am past due with my payment, asking me to proved up to date details. Firstly, I don’t pay the bill with my credit card but by monthly direct debit, and secondly, I know without doubt that my account never goes into arrears. I’ve reported it to the company and they said to just ignore it and trash it as they’ve had a problem with many customers from this scam. I hope you don’t get any more hassle with the so-called ‘infringement’ problem…xoxo <3

    • dgkaye

      Hi Sher! Thanks for sharing your email scam here with everyone. It’s important that people are aware of these scams in order not to fall prey to them. xoxo <3

      • Sherri

        You’re welcome Deb…we need to be ever more vigilant it seems! Hope your week has gone well…will be catching up asap…love & hugs to you my friend! 🙂 <3 <3 <3

        • dgkaye

          Hello sweet friend. My week has been busy indeed. I’m hoping in another week to get back to my book!! 🙂 I hope your week has been good to you and looking forward to catching up. Happy weekend <3 xoxo :)

          • Sherri

            Hello lovely Deb…I will be over to you as soon as I can. I’ve only just got a post up, only 5 weeks since the last, so not too bad I suppose, ha! I’m really struggling trying to keep active on blog and social media while rewriting and editing my memoir..most rewriting I might add. But I’m determined to do what I can and not let it slide. I so appreciate you keeping in touch with me my dear friend. I hope that you are soon ready to get back to your edits! We’ll do this…yes we will! Big hugs, see you very soon… <3 xoxoxo <3

          • dgkaye

            I guess we’re both two peas in a pod once again Sher. I’m back to rewrites and editing! Lol us!!!!! Glad we have each other along the way. I’ll be over to visit! And PS, my first memoir is on sale FREE all week, in case you haven’t seen my recent post. You may want to grab a free copy! 🙂 oxoxo

    • dgkaye

      For sure it’s annoying Teag. But the trick is for people not to get sucked in. We must be diligent in sniffing out the scammers. 🙂 xo

  • elainemansfield

    I’m annoyingly cautious. If there is any doubt, I ask my son who has a computer business. Thanks for the reminders. I will not click on that link… I will not click on that link… I will not…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: