Scams abound online.  Sure, we all know the old Nigerian ones ( I didn’t know I had so many relatives there! ).  Or simple fake email Paypal phishing ploys ( you’d think they’d at least spell correctly in those).  Sometimes, however, you have to scratch your head and wonder.  I’m talking about a current site out there that would appear, by the site name and the content within, to be associated with iStockphoto, licensing stock images.  I’ll put a screen shot below, so as not to add links for search engines to see.

Now, today’s blog is for both buyers and contributors.  Buyers first.

Buyers

First off, I know that you see this site, and think “Duh, obviously, that’s a scam site.” .  I know, I know.  Yes, iStockReseller is a scam.  Plain and simple.  However, let’s mention a few obvious things.

  • This site has nothing to do with iStockphoto.com .  Yes, it will show thumbnails in a returned search, and if you care why, read on down below.
  • As a scam site, any information you enter is unsecure.  Your email.  Your password.  You get it.
  • When you legitimately, “buy” an image or other content at iStockphoto, you are really buying the permission to use the content that is also provided to you at the requested size.  If, somehow, you manage to get an image out of this site, you do NOT have permission to use it, and are legally responsible for the penalties for using copyrighted work without a license.  Ouch.  Again, the licensing permissions are really the important thing you are “buying” at iStockphoto, and you do not receive those here, or actually, any site you may find works being offered on.
  • If they manage to get their “payment” gateway working again, and you somehow are convinced you should enter your financial data there, it is likely you will lose more than just your pride.

So, if you want iStockphoto imagery or other content, run, don’t walk, away from this scammer, and to the official iStockphoto.com .  You may now return to your scheduled programming.  Or read on.

Contributors

Stop freaking out.  Seriously.  Relax.

Yes, if you do a search there, your newest accepted image of a cat wearing a Santa hat will likely show up in the search return.  No, this guy does not sneak into a missile silo somewhere in eastern Calgary with a handful of 750GB Western Digital hard drives every night to hack the latest and greatest images.   The search results you see are merely the iStockphoto search results scraped and reformatted for presentation.  With PHP, you send a request to iStockphoto for a search page with the search term in the URL and then the server grabs the response and pulls out the data it needs.  Same for the image details page.  Sure, they add in there the fake pricing, but the rest is straight from iStockphoto, just reformatted.  So, stop worrying that the site has your content.  The first image below is a search on “tailgate party” on the scam site.  The second is the same search on iStockphoto.  Same content, see?  Scam:

Real site:

Yes, you can “Signup” at iStockReseller.  Yes, there is a link to add money.  No, the link does not work, as iStockphoto had Paypal shut down the account.

Yes, you have likely heard that accounts will get an email promising $2 promotional “money”.  Yes, it has been reported that the aforementioned accounts have managed to “purchase” and receive an XS image.  And yes, these people have “purchased” their own images, and can see that an XXL or larger version of said image was actually downloaded instantly on iStockphoto.  This information, with user names and image numbers is in the hands of iStockphoto Compliance ( from today ):

Please know that we that this matter very seriously. Our Legal and Compliance teams are aware of this site and currently in the process of a full investigation.

Since “we” know the exact download, it should be easy to track the buyer and shut down the account running this, and keep an eye out for further issues.  I doubt there is any need for further experimentation, and besides, by doing this, you are letting them have your XXXL images.

Will “we” be able to shut down the site?  As individuals, no.  The site is hiding behind “Domains By Proxy” at GoDaddy, which is a way of hiding your contact information.  For a legitimate business, this isn’t bad, as one would respond to emails sent through the proxy.  However, this guy isn’t going to care.  The site is hosted on HostGator, as far as I can see, and its nameservers appear to be in Vietnam.   It isn’t likely an individual will have much luck dealing with any of this.

Is what they are doing illegal?  The mere scraping of site data and hotlinking of images is probably not the most egregious act out there.   The main problem here, is that this may damage the iStockphoto goodwill ( as much as there is any ), because people ( buyers ) may associate the process with the official iStockphoto site, and decide to avoid the name at any cost.  Also, if they, in good faith, manage to “download” content, it is likely they will get burned for using the content without a license.  That is a good reason to keep working on shutting down the actual site, aside from closing any accounts associated with it.

Conclusion

For the reasons above, I’m not too worried about it, but I definitely want something done in time.

To return to the first paragraph, I have no idea what the point of this scam is.  To get a couple of bucks?  To make a collection of high-rez work ( probably not, as they could do that without the site in the first place ).  To get emails/passwords?  Who knows…

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One Response to iStockphoto Scam Site

  1. WilSmit says:

    Take a look at this page:

    istockphtoto.com (misspelled)

    You will be forwarded to

    http://www.royalty–free–images.com/

    that is a page advertising for Thinkstock!

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