Spam: The Latest in Online Headaches for Businesses

If you are a webmaster, business owner, blogger or just a decent human being, you probably are not a huge fan of spam. It is frustrating to deal with, makes email even more challenging to manage and clogs up inboxes.

We are always working to keep up-to-date on the latest anti-spam technology, ensuring our clients are not getting inundated with spam emails from their contact forms. Overall we’ve been winning the fight, but spammers have been growing more creative lately.

The latest email sample some of our clients have been receiving looks something like this:

Hello (Client Name),
You have received a submission from the contact form on (Your Website) 
Here are the message details:

From: (Spammer URL)
Email: (Spammer Email Address)
Subject: powerful backlinks for your site
Message Body:
Hello guys, I would like to make offer for you. Please buy my services from (Spam Link) or I will create negative backlinks to your website and get it removed from Google index. Please choose. I recommend that you buy my gigs to avoid losing business. If you order my gig, I will take your site to top and if no, I will spam it with bad links and get you removed from Google. I hope you understand the serious matter.

Pleasant, no? Bad grammar aside, this has the additional layer of looking threatening, like if you do not buy products or services the spammer will work their voodoo web magic to blacklist your website.

You can take it from us; these are empty threats, and they are trying to steal from you in order to make money. It’s a scam, and it’s coming in the form of contact-form spam.

So if you receive something similar to the above, do not hesitate to let us know if you are unsure. If you are having trouble telling the difference recognizing spam email from legitimate email the following list of spam or scamming warning signs may help:

  • Poor grammar, spelling errors
  • Too many links in an email or links from URLs that have long domains or a lot of numbers in the domain are spam at best and at worst a phishing scam
  • Messages from an email address you do not recognize immediately trying to offer you a product or service
  • Messages labelled as potentially dangerous by your email provider
  • Password reset prompts or bank account login requests from an unknown source that you did not authorize. This is true even if you recognize your bank’s logo. Always look at the “from” email address. If you get a message with a USBank logo but the “from” email address has no mention of “US Bank” then it is almost certainly a phishing attempt on your account.

Overall we do our best to stay on top of the latest trends in online scamming to help our clients. If you are ever concerned about an email you received please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Why Sourcing Your Images Carefully is Critical to Business Survival

You’ve probably heard some of the horror stories about incorrectly used images. And if you haven’t, we are happy to share a few:

  • A company being sued to the tune of 5-figures for using copyrighted images on their blog.
  • A brand brought to court over the background of their website coming from Google Images.
  • Getting a cease and desist letter and a notice of copyright infringement to take an audio track off a website that an editor thought was open-source.

The stories above are all true, and are a showcase of the challenging times in which website owners live. As a result, we’ve put together a helpful and simple guide on how to effectively source images for your websites and media.

It is important to note that when we design a website, we always strive to use images that come from open-source, free to use and from non-copyrighted catalogs. We do everything in our power to help absolve our clients of liability. However, if you are selecting images to use for your blog, please read on to make sure that you are sourcing your images correctly.

(Note – we are not attorneys, and so the advice given below should NOT be taken as legal advice, nor are we responsible for any damages you may incur as a result of using one of the services we recommend below)

Do Not Use Google Images

First, stay as far away from Google Images as humanly possible. I cannot overstate the importance of this enough. Sure, when you do an image search on Google you might find what you are looking for, and it might seem like a perfect match for the blog post you are writing. However, even though it says “Images may be subject to copyright”, you need to assume that you cannot use any of them.

The issue is that someone might post an image that they think is open-source, but it is possible that the license expired, or they purchased a one-time license for the image that only applies to the buyer. So if they re-post this image and you use it, you technically do not own the rights to the image.

Sure, some of these images might be safe to use, but most of them are not. Better to be safe than sorry.

What Happens if I Get Sued?

It will vary, but these days what can happen is that attorneys will search website images to see if the site owner legally owns an image, or images on their website. If not, they may wait for a period of time and then claim that their representative (possibly the owner of the image) is suing for a specified amount, usually over $8k, over copyright infringement. This has happened to many website owners.

Once this happens they may try to settle with you for the above amount. If you do not settle, they may or may not try to take you to court for more significant damages. Either way, having to drop $10k or more is often a hit that a small business cannot survive.

The best way to avoid it is to be careful where you source your images.

Ok – I Am Sufficiently Worried. Where Can I Get Safe Images?

Pixabay offers free, open-source images. Some images claim to have model-releases for images to be used for websites or blogs safely. Others require that these shots are only used for a specific purpose, such as for editorial use. Generally, you can go to Pixabay, do a search and find the image you are looking for to use on your site.

However, please make sure to read their disclaimer on each image, the image details, and if any credit needs to be given to the photographer or image owner.

Alternatives include Unsplash and FreeImages.

If you would rather use a premium service for paid options, then 123rf, Dreamstime and Shutterstock are good alternatives. These all contain high-quality images and you are essentially buying the rights to use them, sometimes for a limited period of time. However, as with the warning above about Pixabay, make sure that you read the details of use for each image.

Can I Get Help With Images?

We are happy to take a look at your situation and assist you with sourcing your images. Again, while we are not attorneys, we can at least help point you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us if you should have any questions.