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Debt, Stress, Depression & Pain

Debt, Stress, Depression & Pain

I know that my typing about our financial situation is a recurring trend, but as my wife does not seem to take our situation seriously, this blog is my main outlet to vent, other than my UK based friend James, who listens to me bitching about our financial/debt problems weekly and never complains.

I’ll start with this; we live roughly 5 minutes from where my wife works and we spent $434 at Samsclub on groceries on my AMEX card last Friday because we did not have enough funds in our checking account to pay for the groceries. And, this week, every working day she bought fast food, using all but a couple of dollars in our checking account, and today, payday, the first thing she did is to buy Starbucks.

In the past six weeks, she has given Starbucks $220 of our income, despite increasing our overall debt by $500. I find this wholly irresponsible when we have just maxed out our bank credit card. I had to quickly transfer $1.70 to the VISA credit card to avoid being hit with an over-limit fee. I feel like I have to check our online banking at least twice a day, to make sure that we are not overdrawn or over-limit, stressing me out to no end and pushing me further underwater in terms of depression, I feel like I am drowning.

Last night, I sat down with my wife and showed her our bank statements, our credit card and loan balances, and how much money is going towards interest charges. And she said “maybe I should cut back on Starbucks”, only for her today to buy fucking Starbucks. But what does she have to worry about, she is only on the hook for about 22% of the total debt, 80% of that 22% is a joint responsibility, the rest of it is on me as I consolidated her debt into a loan in the hope of getting back on an even keel, which failed!

My wife complains about how she is fed up with renting, and she wants to buy a home. I would also like to own a home too, but I am not even remotely interested in acquiring another $125k+ of debt in the form of a mortgage when we have no savings and $21k of existing debt eating up about 1/4 of our income. I want to have $5k+ savings or at least no balances on credit cards to cover those unforeseen costs of owning a home. At least with renting, when those things happen, it’s the landlord’s responsibility.

My depression has gotten so bad that I am struggling to do my day job, I find it hard to concentrate, and I’m in constant pain, my back, my shoulders, and a constant headache, feeling like there is no hope, my thoughts, when left to my own devices, turning to self-harm. And because I elected to not take up the option of medical insurance from my employer, a doctor’s office visit is too expensive. I chose to not take insurance coverage as my wife and children’s insurance more than doubled in price, so I had to sacrifice my insurance to make sure they have coverage, as my wife is chronically sick, and needs extensive care.

What do I do? just say, fuck it, I’m not paying the almost $21k of debt anymore, to hell with it, I don’t care about maintaining a good credit score. Or do I just take 100% control of the finances, paying all the bills, then immediately buy groceries, put fuel in the cars, and the remainder gets paid onto credit card balances, leaving nothing for my wife to spend on fast food, forcing her to come home to eat?

I feel like I should not have to do either of these things, my wife should be more responsible with money, but that seems like it’s never going to happen, based on the evidence I have seen. My mother in law has loaned us thousands of dollars that she has now said, don’t worry about paying it back, which is so amazing of her, but I feel like such a fucking deadbeat for not being able to pay her back.

Maxing out a credit card has had an extremely negative effect on me. I should have never allowed myself to have credit cards, like the first 38 years of my life, it has brought me nothing but misery.


I Should Have Taken Online Security More Seriously!

I Should Have Taken Online Security More Seriously

Many of my online accounts were compromised last week, as described in my previous blog. I believe I have secured all my accounts, with new randomized passwords and 2-factor authentication, which is a pain in the posterior, but a small inconvenience is better than fraudsters having control of your accounts.

These hacks have put us in a precarious position of not only having no money but being $65 overdrawn. This is very frustrating as my mother-in-law gave us $150 to help us get through to payday, and this fraudulent $200 payment from Walmart via PayPal immediately wiped that monetary gift out.

I managed to get into Walmart.com and cancel the fraudulent order, and PayPal showed the money as being refunded in my dashboard at 9am on Thursday 10/22. But despite this, PayPal took the money from our bank account late Friday, 10/23, resulting in being overdrawn, with a $32 insufficient Funds penalty to boot. It is now Wednesday, 10/28 and the $200 still has not been refunded to our bank account, it’s not even showing as a pending deposit online, leaving us up shit creek without a paddle.

The charge of $150 was also posted on my Best Buy credit card, which is less of a problem, as it’s a credit card, which has more protections built-in. I reported this fraudulent charge and Citi Bank, who underwrites the Best Buy card, has canceled my card and sent out a new card. Citi Bank has not said they will take that charge off the card, but I expect them to do so, after investigating my disputed charge.

This situation has sent my depression spiraling into the pit of despair. I blame myself for not enabling 2-factor authentication on my accounts before they were hacked. Even more so as I was using compromised passwords on some accounts, which the Last Pass security dashboard warned me about previously. I should’ve taken my online security more seriously, and maybe I wouldn’t have been hacked.

My advice, don’t be like me, take proactive steps, use secure passwords, and 2-factor authentication before you get compromised, or you’ll literally pay for it, or at least be badly inconvenienced.

UPDATE, OCT 30, 2020: BACK ON AN EVEN KEEL

To close out this whole sad story, it’s now Friday, 10/30 and we finally got the $200 refund from PayPal on Thursday morning, and also got a surprise, and welcome check from one of my wife’s doctors, refunding us $100 on Thursday afternoon. Then, of course, the wife and I received our regular bi-weekly salaries today, which is now 70% gone after paying rent and our bills and debts up to the next payday, ho-hum.

Finally, our credit union refunded the $32 ISF fee, so after a week of being in the red, we are back where we should’ve been. I’m still not feeling great, mentally, but I feel better than I did a few days ago.


Online Accounts Compromised + Fraudulent Purchases

google play store E-GIFT card fraud

Yesterday, I woke up and checked my phone, and I saw a text message from PayPal notifying me of a $200 payment to walmart.com. I was pretty sure that I had not visited walmart.com and purchased anything while I was sleeping, these purchases were made at 5:02 am, a full two hours before I woke up.

The first thing I did was check my Paypal account, and indeed there was a $200 charge from Walmart. The second thing I did was log into my Walmart online account, and indeed there were two $100 Google Play Store gift card purchases. Fortunately, I was on it very quickly, so I managed to cancel the order, and the $200 was refunded to my credit card. After this, I immediately changed the password, as I had not used the Walmart account for quite some time and it was using an old compromised password.

I did wonder why I never received an email notification of this purchase, so I checked my Gmail and nothing was in my inbox, then I checked my trash mail folder and to my surprise I find a bunch of Emails from BestBuy.com notifying me of multiple purchases of Google Play Store gift cards. The fact that these were in my trash mail folder indicated that my Email had also been compromised.

This was not your average fraud, whoever did it was smart enough to set up rules in my Gmail, so the purchase notification Emails skipped my inbox, going straight into the trash folder, meaning I did not get a notification on my phone. I never did find the Email from Walmart, so I guess they must have deleted this from my trash folder before I got in and changed my password, which was randomly generated by LastPass using 16 characters, a mixture of upper, lower case, numbers and special characters. This is concerning as it wasn’t a password that could be guessed, even I could not remember it without LastPass.

In addition to changing my password, I also enabled 2-factor authentication on my Google account, for an extra layer of protection, meaning any future fraudster would need to have direct access to my phone for the second layer of the authentication. I feel kinda stupid, I should have enabled 2-factor a long time ago, but I thought that it was an inconvenience and that I was safe with a strong password, so felt it unnecessary. I also enabled 2-factor on the other accounts that I know to have been compromised.

The BestBuy.com purchases seemed to have gone through and I see the code that was sent to my Email address, although now 24 hours later I don’t see any charges on my Best Buy credit card, to which the Play Store purchases were charged. So I wonder if I caught it before the fraudster had time to redeem the Google Play Store digital codes. I will have to keep an eye on it and take appropriate action if the $150 charge does appear in the recent activity section of the Best Buy credit card online portal.

Speaking of Best Buy, I called them up to see if I could do anything about these fraudulent purchases, and the representative claimed that they could not find my details, neither my name, Email address, phone number or address, so they could not help me, telling me to file a police report. And yes, this was the correct number I called, unless the fraudster managed to compromise the Best Buy website.

Finally, I went through all my online accounts that I actively use and have payment cards attached and changed the passwords, with the help of the LastPass security dashboard and every one of my accounts now has a unique, randomized password using upper, lower case, numbers, and special characters.

The moral of the story, take your online security seriously, use a strong password, and 2-factor authentication whenever possible. If it was not for PayPal sending me a text message, I probably would not have noticed due to the Gmail rules making Email notifications from Walmart and Best Buy skip my inbox, meaning the fraudster could have kept using my Email address, sending notifications to my trash folder, then permanently deleting the evidence once the fraudulent transactions had been completed.


This Is Why I Dislike Working With Third Party Web Developers

 This Is Why I Dislike Working With Third Party Web Developers

This is related to my employers’ websites, so the names have been changed to protect me from getting fired. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that in the backend admin interface, which I believe is the developers’ own bespoke CMS that newly uploaded images are not being dynamically resized. Initially, I didn’t think much of it, sure it looks terrible with 1024x683px photos being displayed full-size instead of the thumbnail size of 200x133px in the backend, but recently, it became a big issue when we noticed that images are being displayed at full-size on the frontend, breaking the website template.

I have had issues with this web development company from the first time I worked with them, several years ago now. When I am told that something is not possible when I know it is possible, being a web developer myself, that pisses me off. The bottom line is that most companies that use their web development services don’t have someone like me on staff, someone who can call them out on their bullshit, with owners, CEO’s and other top honchos simply believing what they say.

My most recent experience was the most egregious, trying to push the blame on the user, that being me in this case. Claiming that the reason why the resize script was not working is that I was uploading 96dpi images and not 72dpi, which I immediately called bullshit on. Even my good friend James saw through it immediately and he is not a web developer. DPI or Dots Per Inch is a standard for printing, the more DPI, the higher quality the print, in online use, DPI means nothing, all that matters is the number of pixels.

I proved this fact, by specially creating a 72dpi photo, and uploading it to the server, and guess what? Yup, that’s right, it did the same thing, completely failing to resize the image server-side.

Moving onto today, after waiting a week for a response, we hear that the current CMS our website was based upon five years ago has reached EOL (end of life), and support will end on December 31, 2020, and that active development had stopped more than two years ago, which is news to us. This means that the issue with resizing of images will not be fixed, resulting in me not being able to upload new photos for our properties or add new properties as the image resizing problem also affects this.

So, we are left with the option of shelling out even more cash to ‘upgrade’ to their new WordPress-based platform, stating the following “the image upload feature is broken because¬†of the fundamental way the code processes images. That cannot be fixed.” I call bullshit once again, one simple fix would be to add width and height values to the CSS on the class for the image on the property list. Yes, the image will still be loaded as full-size and may take a little longer to load, but it will be displayed correctly on the frontend. Also, I think they are trying to excuse their sloppy coding using the EOL messaging.

The other option is to bring the development of websites in house, we already have a server, which I use to develop and host community websites, but that is a massive undertaking for me to single handledly build a whole website with backend functionality for employee management, availability and reporting.

So they have us over a barrel, leaving us with one realistic option, we cannot continue to use the end of life CMS which is broken, and the devs are not willing to fix it, while charging us to host a broken website.


I Put A Big Smile On My 16-Year-Old Son’s Face

I gifted my ROG Zephyrus GA502 To My Son

I bought this laptop, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502, back in July 2019, and have logged less than 20 hours of usage over the past 15 months, opting to use my Ryzen 7 desktop computer instead.

My 16-year-old son has been using this laptop for the past six weeks for remote learning, and I had planned to give him this gaming laptop at Christmas, putting it back in the box and wrapping it up to put under the tree. But I decided to give it to him a little early, making sure he knows this will be his present from me, as I still have another 9 months of payments on it before the balance is settled.

This decision came about because he wanted a new game yesterday, and the machine he was using is definitely not high end, it was designed for basic real estate work, for my wife, and the game he wanted was under the minimum spec required. Suffice to say, the Zephyrus G GA502 is a big upgrade.

It did not take much to switch it over to my son’s user account as I didn’t have much installed on the laptop as I used it so infrequently. I removed Adobe Creative Cloud and made his user an administrator, had him log into his account and removed my user account, leaving Conner as the only user.

Finally, the thought process in buying this laptop was for me to use if I went into the office, where I work, but since buying the laptop, I literally have never taken it into the office as I work from home, where I’d rather use my desktop machine for work. I’d rather let my son have the laptop and it gets used than sit there collecting dust. On a side note, I actually heard the fans audibly running for the first time while my son was gaming, I had never played a single game on the GAMING laptop since I bought it.

I might get another laptop in the future, but it’ll be something more suited for my use case, I’m not much of a gamer, it will be used for work stuff, so website design, photo editing, video creation etc, and I’d like a 17.3 inch screen, I found a 15.6 inch screen to be a little smaller than ideal for me.


Kansas Senators Roberts & Moran Response To My SCOTUS letter.

He's A Republican, SCOTUS vote

On September 19, 2020, I sent a letter by Email to Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran through @Resistbot in regard to the hypocrisy of Republicans regarding voting on a new Supreme Court justice, after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the term “he’s a republican” springs to mind.

My letter expressed my concern that Republicans have stolen a supreme court seat by refusing to even vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, despite President Obama having 11 months remaining of his term. Only to ignore that precedent in 2020, vowing to vote on Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, with the likes of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and many other Senators flipping, using the argument “it’s different when the same party controls the White House and the Senate”.

Senator Pat Roberts used the same bullshit reasoning as Mitt Romney, citing the precedent of parties only filling a Supreme Court seat in an election year if the same party controls the Senate and the White House. I don’t pretend to be a Constitutional scholar, but I’m sure the founding fathers didn’t introduce language saying, it only counts if the President and Senate majority are of the same political party.

Screenshot of the full Email reply from Senator Roberts.

The reality is there is no defined rule for nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice in an election year. Furthermore, a rule is something that has to be evenly applied, which it has not been. It doesn’t suddenly become precedent when one party, in this case, Republicans decide to move the goalposts to suit their own agenda. I call Bullshit on Senator Roberts and Republicans saying it is their constitutional duty to vote on and confirm a SCOTUS Justice, where was that constitutional duty in 2016?

The sad thing is that SCOTUS is supposed to be nonpartisan, which it is not, the majority of rulings go down party lines or even religious beliefs of Justices, especially on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Just recently, two Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito spoke out on how the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage is posing problems for religious freedom. This is what I would call bigotry from the highest court in the land, using their religious ‘liberty’ as a way to force their ideological will on others.

Senator Jerry Moran just dodged the question, crowing about how amazing Amy Coney Barrett is.

Screenshot of the full Email reply from Senator Roberts.

This is not about Trump’s choice, Amy Coney Barrett, this is about ‘rules’ being applied evenly. I don’t expect Republicans to honor anything they say, they are Republicans, rules don’t apply to them, but I do expect Democrats to fight tooth and nail against Republicans, instead of unilaterally surrendering, taking potential options to block the vote and confirmation off the table, gifting the GOP and President Trump a third SCOTUS seat, after Republicans stole a SCOTUS seat in 2016 by saying “let the voters decide”.

If the Senate voted on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, I would not be angry at all, it is just unfortunate that Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed so close to an election, as was the case with Antonin Scalia in 2016. The hypocrisy of the Republican party is astonishing, and the lack of pushback from Democrats is equally as astonishing. From what I see, there is no opposition party in Congress, there are Republicans and Republicans Lite. “We, the people” is nothing more than an epitaph to a bygone age.


A Mixed Bag Life Update VI

Life Update

It’s time for another mixed bag life update, we are up to episode VI. And we start with remote learning for my kids, as we didn’t want to send our kids to in-person school, given the COVID-19. For Conner, my sixteen-year-old son, he had no option but to attend school virtually, and, we chose to also have our 10-year-old daughter, Alya do her schooling from home, to avoid any risk of COVID-19 coming home.

Conner is doing excellently, he currently has straight A’s across the board, it seems that remote schooling really works for him, we never had these sort of grades when he attended in-person school. Alya, on the other hand, likes to lounge around, no matter how much I tell her to sit up and pay attention. Inevitably, she falls asleep, missing vital class time. I set her up with my Surface Pro 3 and a Bluetooth keyboard at a table with a chair, but every time I take a break from working, she’ll be on the floor laying down.

We’re in the process of getting her evaluated for autism and ADHD, as she is all over the place, squirrel-like, and gets easily upset at minor things, which would not bother most of her peers. With a diagnosis, we might be able to get funding for therapy, to help her cope with possible autism, or more likely, ADHD.

In the meantime, we are considering the option of in-person school for Alya, as she does better when in a more structured classroom situation. This is not ideal as my wife, Erin has a compromised immune system, making her high risk for COVID-19 infection and death, so it’s a tough choice.

Moving onto my wife, Erin has been getting progressively worse, her Fibromyalgia and Lupus are sending her to the ER every 2 – 3 weeks for painkilling shots after her pain exceeds what her pain management doctor prescribed can cope with. Erin has been getting Remicade infusions, which is supposed to help with Lupus flares, she has had two rounds, with a 3rd round being delayed due to other medical issues.

The rate at which my wife’s health has declined is very concerning, especially for the future, when acquiring healthcare insurance could be impossible for many Americans, not just my wife. At the moment, our premium is over $1,200 per month, of which, we pay $247, the rest is picked up by the ACA. If Trump and the Senate GOP push through Amy Coney Barrett, the ACA could be a thing of the past, bringing back the bad old days of people with pre-existing conditions being denied medical insurance coverage.

Onto the ever-present financial struggles, with the $20,000 of debt I am personally liable for, $8,500 in credit card balances, $8,600 in personal loans, and another $2,600 in car loans, plus another $2,500 my wife is liable for, in addition to her hefty student loan balance, we are in terrible financial shape. We have gone overdrawn for the past 3 months and are a double-digit charge away from maxing our bank VISA.

We were considering buying a home after our rental rate for our current home increased by $70 last month, and we elected to not sign another 12-month lease, as the month-to-month penalty is only $30, bringing the rental rate to $100 extra. If we cannot manage to make it through the month without going overdrawn, buying a house should not be on the agenda for the time being, that’s too big a commitment.

We still have not received our tax refund for 2019, I had to send Form 8962 to the IRS after initially e-filing without it, which was my mistake, I misunderstood the instructions after the ACA individual mandate was repealed. Because this form had to be sent by snail mail, coupled with the backlog of returns at the IRS, as of today, October 2, 2020, we have not seen a cent of our 2019 federal tax refund.

The refund is only $3,200, but that would’ve made a significant dent in our debts and more importantly, paying less in interest charges, which is the real problem, the minimum payments we make barely cover the interest payments. The interest alone between February when we filed and now is over $1,800. I feel sick every time I look at our financial situation, fuelling my depression, I feel like I am failing my family.

As I mentioned before, with Erin’s health deteriorating; this might mean she is unable to work at all in the coming years, losing $1,200 per month is no small loss. If that happens, we’ll have no option but to file for bankruptcy, if we did not have this massive, over $100,000 of debt all in, I could afford to support my family on my income alone, but that is not the situation we are in, and I feel absolutely hopeless.

Something positive to end this life update, I have earned $800 in additional money from companies, who had used my photography without permission when they took over ownership/management of said properties from the company I work for. That took a little time to resolve, but every one of these companies agreed to pay in the end, making legal action unnecessary, which obviously was the desired outcome.  And the company I work for gave me an additional bonus of $1,200 for going above and beyond during the transfer of the six properties, which was more like $950 after the tax man took his cut.

This did help pay down the debts a little, being able to pay double the minimum payment on each credit card, meaning all that additional cash went to the principle, instead of just the minimum payment, of which 50 – 70% is interest charges. And paid some regular bills earlier than I normally could have, to keep ahead of the curve, giving me more wiggle room, instead of payment at the due date or just after.


R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Notorious RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a true giant on the Supreme Court of the United States has sadly passed away at the age of 87 due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. RBG was a fierce advocate for women’s rights and equality for all serving on the Supreme Court for 27 years, as an appointee of Bill Clinton.

I sit here feeling numb, and fearful for the future of the US. Every time I saw #ruthbaderginsburg trending on social media, I feared she had passed, and sadly today is the day when that fear became a reality. I would love to write something about Justice Ginsburg, without political bullshit, but it had already begun with Mitch McConnell already pushing a vote on the Senate floor as soon as a nomination is made.

The scary thing is that the next Trump SCOTUS nominee only needs a simple majority, just 51 votes in the Senate, and Republicans have a majority of 53 seats, even if every Democrat and Independent voted no to confirm, they would need four Republicans to join them to block any nominee.

Wind the clock back four years, Mitch McConnel refused to allow a Senate vote on President Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland and there was almost a year left on President Obama’s term. So Senate Majority Leader McConnell, does the same rule apply now in 2020? That question was, of course, rhetorical, your a fucking hypocritical Republican, you’ll push through a pick as soon as humanly possible.

The only question; is there enough Republicans in the Senate with any principles to vote NO on any SCOTUS pick until after the inauguration of the next president. We need just four Republicans to ruin McConnell’s plans, I’ll have everything crossed that we can persuade four GOP’ers to cross party lines.

Justice Ginsburg is reported to have said just days before her passing that her “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed“, obviously influenced by the #McConnellRule. Of course, we know he will not stand by his words, America needs to learn the Republicans are the spawn of evil and will screw you over in a heartbeat, exposing their hypocrisy does nothing, they have no shame.

That said, Senate Democrats. Are you going to give President Trump and Mitch McConnell an easy ride to a third confirmed Supreme Court justice in four years? Or are you going to pull out all the stops, using McConnell’s and other Republican’s own words against them, screaming and shouting about the Republican hypocrisy all over the media? If there was a time to step up to the plate, it would be now!

Political considerations aside, The Notorious RBG was a woman of immense conviction, fighting for what is right against massive odds, defending the rights of minorities, women, and the LGBT community, fighting for equality for all. R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you are an inspiration to everyone.


I Have GAS!

I have gas, I don't want to adult anymore

I hate having to adult, gone are the days where I get money and I buy the shizzle I want, now I have responsibilities and have to pay bills, it sucks! So, the GAS I have is; a photography term, for someone who always wants better, newer equipment than they have, i.e. Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

As some of you might already know, I work in rental home marketing, and part of my job is to photograph the properties that I am marketing. I have used a number of cameras and lenses, starting with a Canon T3 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 lens, through to a Canon 80D with an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-f/4.5 lens, to my current setup, a Canon 6D MkII with an EF 16-35mm f/4, and the itch to upgrade is strong.

On occasion, I find the 16mm lens is not quite wide enough, meaning I have to cut off the edge of windows or door frames, irritating me greatly as I cannot get the framing I want, even at 16mm. I would love to have the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens, but at $2,700, it’s a little out of my price range.

I already have two Sigma lenses, 24-105mm f/4 Art lens, and 100-400mm f/5-f/6.3 Contemporary lens, both of which I have been happy with, so the 12-24mm f/4 Art lens is very appealing, but is still on the pricey side at $1,600, but, it would complete the Sigma trinity from 12mm through to 400mm.

There is an older cheaper 12mm Sigma lens, the 12-24mm f/4.5-f/5.6 AF II DG HSM, which sells for about $700, but it is close to a decade old, and the reviews are not favorable by 2020 standards. I don’t want to sacrifice image quality, which the Canon 16-35mm f/4 provides, to get 4mm wider.

I have the option to sell the Canon 16-35mm for around $500, but I don’t want to sell until I have a replacement lens and I am happy with it. I don’t want something worse than what I have, even if I go with the $1,600 12-24mm Art lens. I need to test a new lens before I can sell the old one.

This is a pie in the sky dream at this time, I have access to credit cards to buy any lens I want, but I don’t want to increase my current credit card balances. My heart says “go for it”, however my brain overrules my heart, saying “don’t screw yourself by increasing your minimum payments”. If the purchase of the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 would increase my income, I could justify it, but my employer is happy with the photos I produce with my current kit, it’s simply a case of “I want”, not “I need”. ADULTING *boo*


Photography Theft!

Photography Theft

Last week I was tasked with transferring assets for six properties on behalf of my employer; which I did successfully. Upon checking that the domain names had successfully transferred and the new website is working, I find that my photography was being used, without permission. In the case of the first property, there was a miscommunication between parties, and suitable compensation was agreed upon.

The second batch of five properties was another story; after transferring all domain names and assets, I again checked that everything had been transferred successfully; and guess what, this company, which will remain nameless for the time being, had literally stolen my photos, downloading them from the previous websites that the company I represent hosted on behalf of these five properties.

Given that the photos were downloaded from our websites, prior to the closing of the sale of the properties, before we took down these websites, then reuploaded to their websites, after removing the watermark at the bottom right of the photo, this was an egregious, intentional breach of my copyright. I suspect that Photoshop’s content-aware fill tool was used to remove the watermark, which works well on simple backgrounds, but often does not work well on more complex backgrounds, see the images below.

Starting with the original photograph that I took;

Stolen Photos - Original Image

And the stolen photograph, I have circled the distortion in red after watermark removal.

Stolen Photos - Altered Image

I have written an Email to the company, who are infringing on my copyright, basically giving then two options, remove the photos, or pay me $300 for a license to use my photography. I’ll give them a week to make it right, and as I don’t have spare cash to get a lawyer, I will name and shame them publicly. I’m sick and tired of people stealing my work and using it for profit, while I get nothing for my hard work.

Update [Sep, 04 2020, 11:10]: This issue has potentially been resolved. A representative from the company infringing on my copyright reached out to me at 5:26pm yesterday, with an offer to pay my $300 asking price for the photos. To cut a long story short, I submitted an invoice, and the representative for the company said, I should get payment in 5 – 7 days. Now, I wait to see if the check arrives, then I will share all 706 photos with a license to use them. I’m not greedy, all I want is to be paid for my work.

Update [Sep, 08 2020, 10:17]: I thought this was dealt with, but, I get an Email from a different person who said, to get paid I have to fill out a contractor contract, and a W9 for them to send me out a check. The first person to contact me is supposedly new and did not know their company procedures when agreeing to have a check sent out. The bottom line, I am not signing anything legally binding with this company, they have already proven the type of company they are when they stole my photography. After some research, I discovered that I can create an invoice in Pay Pal, which I have done, and I have asked to be paid by credit card, which they can apparently do without having to fill out any contracts.

Final Update [Sep, 09 2020, 14:12]: I have received payment, minus Paypal’s fee and I have sent a link to the photos and release. I’m happy this has been dealt with, I just wish I did not have to chase after this company, why they didn’t just contact my employer, and ask about the photos I don’t know; that would have been the right thing to do. Anyway, it’s done, I have been compensated for my work.