Well, I got hit by extortion scammers.
Thankfully though, not soon after I had already become aware of their threats to other photographers, both nationally and internationally. Just days before I shared a blog post by another photographer who had received the same threats.
So I am sharing this information to help spread the word and educate the public on these vile creatures and to possibly help others as Eden Bao Photography helped me with her blog regarding the situation AND to take these crooks down.
So here's how it started with me. I received an email on December 16, 2014 at 3:27am from a Mark Schwartz :
To which I unfortunately replied, I'll blame my niavity:
According to some other photographers who had been hit they received additional emails from other individuals following Mr. Marky Marks email. As far as I know I did not receive any other emails until today, from a Mohammed Abdullah (firstname.lastname@example.org) February 24th, 2015 at 1:12am.
According to others who have been targeted it seems as though these crooks have an objective of getting money out of their victims. They want you to hire an attorney/online reputation management company that will contact you to help with reviews shortly after you receive these harassing emails. The woman mentioned is a Jennifer McMahon Lawyer. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any emails following this. The order in which this is typically happens is as follows:
2. Online reputation management
3. Threat of bad reviews
4. Bad fake reviews show up
5.Pay to have them removed
I agree with Miss Eden that this seems awfully fishy on whom might be hiring these people to do this... in order for them to make more money.
So this is where I'm at today :
1) I called the Federal Trade Center and issued a formal complaint (1-877-382-4357 or http://www.ftccomplainassistant.gov/#crnt@panel1-1). Fortunately as soon as I gave them the individuals email and correspondence information they perked up. Seems as though these little turds are already in their system. Good!
2) Immediately after I reported the crime to the FBI with documentation and specifics to www.ic3.gov.
Next I plan on contacting Google Alert and checking Social Mention. Then to make sure that as many other photographers and small business owners as possible know about this - know they are not alone - and have references on how to beat the bad guys.
If you are hit:
• Keep record of every correspondence and occurance. Report these crimes to the above mentioned authorities if you are in the United States.
• Respond to fake reviews in a positive, professional manner. Remain transparent and honest.
• If possible get the review sites to remove these fake reviews.
Please refer to Eden Bao Photography's blog for further information on how to combat these crooks. She has a great deal of incite, resources and wisdom on this.
I will continue to update this blog should anything progress.
Thanks for reading and let's work together to get the cat out of the bag so-to-speak.
UPDATE : Friday February 27th 3:05am
Just received the extortion part from an Elena Kagan (email@example.com) claiming to work as a private investigator and online reputation management....