Recently we have heard from some of our clients that they have received one or more threatening emails from someone named "Mel." The sender claims to be a photographer and/or illustrator (depending on the email) alleging that the client used her photos or illustrations without permission.
In all instances, this email is submitted through the website contact form from someone named "Mel, Mellie, Melinda, Melisha, or Melina." These email variations have basically the same message, which threatens legal action against the client for copyright infringement.
The emails also include a link to a Google folder, which, when clicked, takes you to a file download that probably contains a virus allowing the hacker to get control of your device. From there, he or she may be able to demand a ransom, obtain access to other important accounts (like banking or email), or release a virus which can infect your device so it can be used to attack others.
Here's an example of one of the emails.
Sample Phishing Email
Email: Megallery325@gmail.com <mailto:Megallery325@gmail.com>
Subject: Why do you use my images for [Your Website Address] without my consent! It's unlawful! It violates my rights! You must delete them immediately!!!!!
This is Melissa and I am a qualified photographer.
I was baffled, to put it nicely, when I found my images at your website. If you use a copyrighted image without an owner's consent, you should be aware that you could be sued by the copyright holder.
It's unlawful to use stolen images and it's so wicked!
Download it now and check this out for yourself:
[Google Link Redacted]
If you don't get rid of the images mentioned in the document above within the next several days, I'll file a complaint on 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 work, for damn sure I am going to take legal action against you! And I will not bother myself to let you know of it in advance."
Safety Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to Phishing Scams and other Cyber Threats
The intent of these types of emails is to intimidate or scare you into taking the desired action, which in this case is clicking on the link and likely downloading a virus. Don't fall victim to this tactic.
Here are some other tips to remember:
- Install a good security software on your computer.
- Beware of emails or messages with spelling and grammatical errors.
- Never click on links within suspicious emails.
- Hover over links that you are unsure of to see if the hover URL matches the one in the email (but don't click on it).
- Don't open attachments of suspicious/unrecognized emails.
Here is some additional information from the FTC to help you avoid phishing attacks as additional ways to protect yourself.
Hopefully this post helps you avoid compromising your device and your personal information. Please pass this along to others! If you need help securing your website to protect against online attacks, get in touch with us. We can help you secure and backup your website so you are always protected.