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SCARS|RSN™ Guide: What To Do If Your Photos Are Being Used By Scammers

What Should You Do!

If your photos are being used by scammers you have some power!

First, it is important to understand how this happened.

You Probably Let Them Do It!

In today’s internet world, you have to be in control of your privacy and who has access to your information.  Facebook, Instagram, Google, Tumblr, Picasa, Pintrest, all allow control over who can see your photos – take advantage of these controls and lock them down.  If you don’t know, get your friends to help you.

When you post photos to a dating website, you have lost control, so be very careful about what you post.  Once they are posted, the dating website operator has complete control of when, where, and how those photos are displayed – it’s in their Terms and Conditions agreement.  Yes, you agreed to that!

What Do You Do After The Scammers Have Them?

If you are in the United States, we have a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  This allows you to force their removal if you did not place them there.  There are limitations, for example, SCARS falls under the common “fair” use provisions because we present them for Crime Evidence Preservation and because we are a media outlet.  But a dating website has no such right and you can not only force them to be removed but hold them liable if they refuse or reappear.

Digital Media Copyright Act

The Digital Media Copyright Act, otherwise known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or simply the DMCA, is a Federal copyright law that was meant to curb Internet piracy of digital media. The bill passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous decision on October 12, 1998 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton seventeen days later.

Since that time, the DMCA has been implemented in many notable court cases and heavily criticized by society in many other cases. It is essentially the law that made it illegal to download copyrighted digital media such as music, movies, and software, and is what the RIAA and MPAA have used to combat piracy in the courts.

So What Is the Digital Media Copyright Act?

So exactly what is the Digital Media Copyright Act and what’s all the commotion about? Well, the DMCA is still a heated topic today because of its use in the fight against online piracy and its effects on Internet users.  But it can also help in the fight against online scammers that use photos to steal identities of others.

The DMCA is comprised of five titles and implements two treaties signed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Geneva conference in 1996. The five titles are as follows:

  • Title I: WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act
  • Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act
  • Title III: Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act
  • Title IV: Miscellaneous Provisions
  • Title V: Vessel Hull Design Protection Act

Now that’s a lot of legal wordiness and doesn’t really explain the key points of this document. Allow us to translate this for you. We will list the important points made in this law doctrine and cite examples of how they have influenced activity on the Web.

File Sharing

The illegal file-sharing of copyrighted materials is probably the most widely known and openly discussed effect of the Digital Media Copyright Act. It is illegal to host, share, or download copyrighted works, including music, movies, books, software, etc.  This is what we are focused on here.

Safe Harbor

Title II of the DMCA creates a safe harbor for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) against copyright liability if they meet the guidelines and block access to ”or remove” allegedly infringing material after receiving notification from the copyright holder.  In other words, after you notify the ISP or Hosting company.  Remember, there are limitations, but a scammer’s use of your photo seriously qualifies.

A safe harbor is a legal term that means that as long as the ISPs comply with the copyright holder’s request (and take down the material) then they will not be held legally accountable for the infringing material.


In summary, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act lays the groundwork for all Internet-related copyright law and is the basis that a lot of court cases and online activities are carried out on.

Sample DMCA Notice Letter

You would send this to the Dating Website Owner/Operator or Social MediaCompany (such as Facebook) and if that fails to their hosting company!

Look up the company contact information here:   Use The WHOIS Search for their Domain name

You should send this by Registered Mail – yes in an envelope – so you have a record of it being sent and received.

Insert your information below: