Scams are nothing new, particularly in the online world, with most of us having been subject to one or two in our time. The key is to recognise them before they achieve their purpose, whether that’s to get us to share sensitive information or to inadvertently download malware onto our devices.
But there’s a different type of scam on the block and its intended victims are webmasters. The scam itself is nothing new but it has just seen a resurgence, probably due to the increased use of imagery on blogs and websites. Here’s how it works: the scammer sends an email to the website owner accusing them of copyright infringement and asks them to take action to resolve this. Because of the perceived grey areas around copyright laws, it is entirely possible that one can breach these laws without knowing, and as such, may click a link, or undertake another action, unaware that the email is from a scammer.
These scams may ask for a direct payment to cover a settlement fee or request that the owner of the site adds a link to the scammer’s website, incorrectly citing themselves as owners of the imagery. Often, they will go as far as to edit Wikipedia pages to pretend that the imagery belongs to them. The third scam is the old malware trick — you click on the link, your computer gets covered in nasty malware or you find yourself well and truly phished.
As with any scam, the key is to be aware. The first step is prevention — being certain of the copyright of imagery will give you the confidence to know a copyright scam when you see one. Google the company which has sent you the email — you will often find pages dedicated to these scams, with people posting excerpts from their own emails. And finally, do not, under any circumstances, click any of the links in the email. Because then they’ve probably got you.