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Saturday, 31 October 2015

When Imitation Goes Beyond Flattery

Fake virus warning screen
Don't call this number...
Threading My Way blogger Pam posted about a mildly disturbing event recently when she found out that someone had opened up a Twitter account impersonating her.

Now before I go any further, let me say that Pam is one of those rare bloggers who continues to provide great content on a regular basis despite having been around for several years. She has not abandoned her blog in order to pursue other successes as some craft bloggers invariably end up doing. Suffice to say, she serves as an inspiration to many of us! But while my efforts thus far in terms of blogging pales in comparison to hers, I think I may have "one-upped" her in terms of someone ripping off content. (Not that I'm proud of this, Pam, but these are entire posts, not just tweets!)

A while back, I posted about unscrupulous crafting websites. The update is that on one of those sites, I can no longer find my purse organizer project "featured". (Doesn't necessarily mean that it's been removed; I just can't access it.) It's still up on the other site.


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Today I'm reporting on a site called handbagspurses.info. This one is likely doing a somewhat regular scrape of my blog, since it also decided to duplicate that very post about unscrupulous crafting websites... ironically enough:

handbagspurses.info stealing my blog content

I mean, it's ironic in two ways: look at how the Google entry seems to identify the handbagspurses.info site itself with the descriptor of "Unscrupulous Crafting Websites".

Here are three other pages/posts of mine that I easily found with a Google search (I know there are more):

handbagspurses.info stealing my blog content

Now I know that from the Google descriptions, this site is giving the impression that it is doing us all a favour by collecting blog posts about a certain subject and then classifying them by tags. Sounds innocuous enough and even helpful, right? Well, read on and find out whether things aren't actually nefarious.

Here is what one of my pages looks like on their site:

handbagspurses.info stealing my blog content
This is my PDF page that's accessible from the menu across the top of my blog...

And here is what the bottom of that page looks like:

handbagspurses.info stealing my blog content
The content on the left side of the screen is verbatim reproduced from my blog, but
the copyright apparently is now held by handbagpurses.info...!

You may be curious enough to want to take a look, but I would advise you to be careful. While digging around, I clicked somewhere — I don't recall where — that instantly froze the ability to control my web browser while my speakers rang out with a repeated warning that I had been infected with a virus and that I needed to call the 1-800 number flashing on my screen to rid my system of the infection.

And you know what, even though I am a techie and know better, it was unnerving to have my senses be so "assaulted"! The warning was loud and the box on my screen wouldn't close. (Actually, I should not have even clicked on the close "x", as that could have led to something being downloaded... so much for "knowing better" — LOL!) After doing the old CTRL-ALT-DEL combo and accessing the Task Manager to shut down my browser, I then ran an immediate scan with my virus checker. It didn't find anything. I restarted my browser but was careful not to allow it to reload my old set of tabs.

A little research gave me some further insight into this bit of malarkey. The aim is to have panicked users call the number and pay anything to have a fake virus be removed. In the process, the software you download to resolve your non-existent problem will likely be loaded with all sorts of not-so-fun stuff that may result in your needing some real tech support services.

I went back to the page a few days later and at one point, hit my browser's back button. I think this may have been what I did before. This time, a different warning came up (sans loud voice), filling my entire screen:

handbagspurses.info scam screen
A variation of that blue screen of death...

Again, the browser froze right up and the only way I could shut down was to go through Task Manager. (The two text boxes on the above screen show a toll-free tech support number that apparently leads to a call centre in India; the picture at the top of this post is a close-up of the box in the lower right corner.) This removes any guessing as to what this site is all about.

But back to the original problem of these folks blatantly stealing my posts... I will do what I can to convince these folks (the domain appears to be registered in the US) to cease and desist. I may or may not go to the trouble of reporting them for DMCA infractions. In the end, my time is valuable to me and I don't like to waste it on unpleasant and un-winnable tasks. On the other hand, letting people get away with playing fast and loose with someone else's creations is just not right.

By the way, speaking of DMCA, they have a DMCA link across the top of their page. In rather unsurprising fashion, it actually just links to their own email address.

JANUARY 2016 UPDATE: I did report these guys and after still seeing my posts replicated for awhile, they have now taken down the site and the domain is currently for sale. Sometimes you win a little.



I will end this post on a more upbeat note. Since it's Halloween, here's a treat for you: check out the Creativebug (affiliate) link on my sidebar at left. With the promo code of HALLOWEEN, you can get a one month free trial. That gives you access to all of their premium content for one whole month — rather than the usual 14 days — and of course, you'll also get one class to keep forever... maybe the Betz White Flight Bag class??

Or maybe you want to try out this class from Nicole Mallalieu?

Sew a Hobo Bag Creativebug class by Nicole Mallalieu
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I was recently told that her patterns normally cost an arm and a leg (well, in the neighbourhood of over twenty dollars), so how can you say no to taking her class and making this great looking hobo bag for free?

Each subsequent month of membership at Creativebug costs $4.95 and entitles you to keep another class forever, so for under five bucks, you can potentially enjoy both of my suggestions.

Enticed? If you want "in" on this deal, take advantage now because they didn't tell me when the promo ends! Enjoy Your First Month FREE With Code: HALLOWEEN...




1 comment:

  1. What a pain for you!!! Give me a little Twitter impersonation any day. It's all very well to know the right thing to do, but in that split second it's very easy to click where we perhaps shouldn't. I'm glad you got everything sorted at your end.

    I've had two cases of people copying whole posts - without all the problems you have had, so you beat me hands down. In one case, I was lucky and all it took was an email and they took my content off. I was a bit wary, though, and set up a new email address that I then deleted after the problem was resolved. In the second case, I was told that the owners had no control over what their members posted. I gave up on that one.

    Good luck deciding what to do. And thanks for the kind words!

    ReplyDelete

You have the power to brighten my day. Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear your thoughts... you can even remain ANONYMOUS! And rest assured that I acknowledge all comments, either here or via email. (That is, if you don't see a response from me here, I would have responded privately to the person. Spam and unrelated links, however, are promptly removed.) Thanks for reading! (✿◠‿◠)