Copyright Infringement Notices Unleash Ransomware


Don’t fall victim to this scheme by opening e-mail attachments!

by Intellectual Property Attorney Bill Honaker, the IP Guy

ransomwareRansomware is being distributed through copyright infringement notices. An e-mail accuses you of infringing copyrights and threatens litigation unless you immediately respond. The proof of your bad act is in the attachment. Obviously, alarmed recipients open the attachment, and the virus infects their computer.

Copyright infringement is serious. Damages can be the copyright owner’s actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer. If the copyright was timely registered, the copyright owner can elect statutory damages of $750 to $30,000, and up to $150,000 for willful infringement.

Obviously, alleged infringement is not something to be ignored. So, what do you do?

  1. You should always be suspicious of any infringement threats (or any threats of any kind) sent by e-mail. When your threatened in an e-mail, red flags should be waiving! You could delete the e-mail; but you run the risk of not resolving the issue before a lawsuit is filed. However, if it’s legitimate, the first e-mail will generally be followed by more e-mails of increasing threat levels to get your attention.
  2. Hover over the sender’s e-mail address and consider whether it’s suspicious. Typically, legitimate emails will have the name of the business in the address. Such as or Even then, carefully look at the business address to make sure it isn’t misspelled. Misspellings can be a big indication that it is not legitimate. E-mails with generic addresses such as are highly suspect.
  3. Do not reply to the e-mail you received. Instead, locate the business sending the threat on the Internet and call or e-mail to ask if they sent the e-mail. You want to verify the accusation with a separate e-mail or phone call to the actual business. For example, on the websites com and, there are e-mail addresses and phone numbers to call.I recently received a fraud alert on a credit card. Not thinking, I called the number in the e-mail. I clearly woke the guy up as he asked for my credit card number to find my file. I hung up and called the company’s listed number, and no surprise, it was a phishing call. If you think it is a phishing e-mail, report it. The Federal Trade Commission has some helpful information on identifying and reporting phishing attempts at THIS SITE.
  4. If you have confirmed under Step 3, that the allegation is legitimate, you should still not open the attachment! Ask to have the information sent to you by snail mail, such as the US Postal Service, FedEx, etc. Frankly, if it is a law firm sending the notice, they usually use snail mail to notify you or will follow up with snail mail delivery to ensure that you have received the information.
  5. If it is legitimate, give me a call. I will help you resolve the issue. You can call me at 248-318-7015 or e-mail at


Bill Honaker, The IP Guy

About the Author:

Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.

To get answers to your questions click here. To schedule a time to talk, you can access my calendar by clicking here, email, or call me at 248-433-7381.


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