Copyright Scammers Getting More Sophisticated, Just As The US Is About To Make It Easier For Them

from the giving-more-power-to-the-scammers dept

Back in May, we wrote about the growing number of pure copyright scammers, using completely made up claims of copyright infringement as a form of a phishing technique. As I mentioned in a comment, we get multiple such messages every week here at Techdirt — with almost identical comments being placed (or attempted at least — since our spam filter seems to have caught all or most of them) on various Techdirt articles claiming infringement. They always came with a link to “the evidence,” (which we never clicked of course).

These scams are different than standard copyright trolling, in which there may even be a kernel of truth in the initial copyright claim. Here, the scammers are just phishing for logins or other private data, and using the ridiculously overbroad power of copyright statutory damages to frighten people into coughing up the information. And, not surprisingly, the scam is evolving. Sophos recently reported that it’s now seeing scammers sending the copyright threats with phone numbers to call, rather than phishing links.

In this case, the crooks are deliberately avoiding using a ?call to action? link that leads to a fake login page or an unlikely domain name, which could easily be blocked by cybersecurity products or even by your browser.

They?ve copied a trick that tech support scammers have been using for years, and that some ransomware scammers have recently adopted, namely giving you a toll-free phone number to call for ?help?.

Given that the call is free, and given that phoning up doesn?t directly expose your computer or your browser to fake websites or booby-trapped downloads?

?it feels as though dialling the number ought to be a low-risk option by means of which you can quickly find out whether this is a scam or not.

All we can say is, ?Don?t do it!?

Never feel bullied, pressurised, lured, seduced or cajoled into contacting someone you don?t know on their say-so.

Remember that the crooks at the other end of the phone line in this case are almost certainly not in the US, even though the contact number is directed via a US tollfree service.

And these scammers take calls like this for a living, so they know every trick in the social engineering book.

The best that can happen if you do call back is that you will reveal nothing about yourself that you didn?t mean to; the worst is that you might just blurt out something you later wish you hadn?t.

Of course, what’s really concerning about all this is that, very soon, these scammers will have another tool to use to intimidate people. At the end of this year, the Copyright Office is supposed to be launching the Copyright Claims Board, the key part of the CASE Act that Congress slipped into a “must pass” government funding bill at the end of last year.

Defenders of the CASE Act insisted that the system can’t be abused, because it includes an “opt-out.” We’ve already detailed why that’s not going to work — but it also ignores that not all abuse actually involves using the system in the first place. Instead, merely threatening people with taking them to the Copyright Claims Board will almost certainly be added to the playbook of these scammers. Since there will be news articles and coverage about the CCB and what it means for people, it will feel that much more “legitimate” to potential victims of these scammers.

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Comments on “Copyright Scammers Getting More Sophisticated, Just As The US Is About To Make It Easier For Them”

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25 Comments
Blake C. Stacey (profile) says:

Man, I wish my domain-name registrar had your spam filter. Someone who claims to lead a "medical association" founded by Biafran Druids in 1200 BC keeps writing them threatening to sue for half a billion dollars because in 2008, I shared a copy of a blog post. And yes, they’re claiming copyright infringement. (Or, more fully, that my poor little website "has been wrecklessly [sic] (and unlawfully) violating our various Trademarks , our various Copyrights , and our various rights to a Peaceful Racial Existence.") The subject of the blog post was them making legal threats to have blog posts taken down.

Blake C. Stacey (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Orac and I were even on the same blog collective for a while (scienceblogs.com, then owned by Seed Magazine). His was one of the blogs that people actually read; mine, less so. The story of how scienceblogs.com was implausibly funded, badly managed and eventually fragged could make an interesting retrospective that I ought to write some day. But it would need a BoJack Horseman style intro set to "Generic Two Thousand and Ten pop song".

As for Professor Doctor Joseph Chikelue Obi GKB (Biafra) FIDPO (UK) FRCAM(Dublin), his Royal College of Alternative Medicine was only a mailbox and a telephone service in 2005, but now it’s risen in the world, giving out medical degrees "duly recognized by the Medical Licensing Council" whose Executive Chairman and Chief Regulator is Professor Doctor Joseph Chikelue Obi. But it’s a "Fully Accredited Regulator of the Government of Biafra", whose State Counsellor, "Chief Public Servant & Top Government Envoy" is "The Most Excellent Professor Obi GKB".

That One Guy (profile) says:

Threats and extortion are a lot easier when the law is insane enough that a legitimate case of infringement over so much as a single song/photo/video can carry fines large enough to buy cars or houses, as with fines that large it’s trivial to scare people and even if they suspect that they might not be as guilty as the crook is saying they are caving is still likely to be cheaper than trying to fight back leaving the system practically tailor-made for exploitation.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's the difference between a Copyright Scammer and Techdi

Oh, bwahahahaha. Jesus, good one. I laughed so hard i cried. And so insightful, too.

You must have a stellar career in analysis and witty critique. Also your ability to discern differences between two things is astounding.

Do you sell books, or is there somewhere on the net i can follow you other than this horrific cesspit into which you deign to dip your intellect for retort against howling evil, and the edification of the receptive?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's the difference between a Copyright Scammer and Te

Sorry, this "horrific cesspit", as you so aptly described, is the only focus of my penance. Should I have caused any in earshot to shed even a single tear;

The tears I caused you to shed
Are like sins I must confess.
Forgive me. I’ll do penance
By any means you address

Anonymous Coward says:

They’ve copied a trick that tech support scammers have been using for years, and that some ransomware scammers have recently adopted, namely giving you a toll-free phone number to call for “help”.

The problem with tollfree numbers is that, because it’s technically a collect call, if you’re stupid enough to call one – they now have your telephone number. To use. To abuse.

That’s why very few calls with 1-833, 1-844 and the like appearing on call display are legit; most are debt buyers, telemarketers and other sleaze.

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