A small Queensland-based casting agency's credibility is in tatters after phishers used the company's name in an e-mail scam.
On Monday morning, Darcy Ryan, the general manager of the National Online Talent Management agency, was shocked to find the company's e-mail inbox contained hundreds of abusive messages from clients, partners and random strangers all berating the company for spamming them with an unsolicited advert.
As it turns out, scammers based outside Australia had created a phishing e-mail that was based on an online advert placed by NOTM. The scam e-mail used the company's name and copied most of the text in the original advert. They even spoofed the "from" field in the spam messages to make it look like the e-mail originated from NOTM's servers.
"We are getting a lot of abusive e-mails. [The scammers] have e-mailed companies we have worked with in the past and that has destroyed our credibility with them," Ryan told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
"You really have to nurture these business relationships with clients and they are not just getting one [scam] e-mail, they are getting hundreds at the same time. They have done a lot of damage to our organisation ... We just want to clear our name," said Ryan.
Paul Ducklin, head of technology in Asia Pacific for antivirus firm Sophos, told ZDNet Australia that NOTM was a victim of corporate identity theft: "It looks like somebody has just gone online, found an advert for a company that happens to be Australian and cut and paste some of the text from one of their online job ads."
Ducklin said he expects NOTM will have a "miserable time" trying to explain what happened to recipients of the scam e-mails.
"I guess they are having a miserable time of it because it looks as though they have spammed people and they are left carrying the can. People will be phoning up saying 'delete me from your database' when they are not even on it.
"It is not a huge company, not a multinational. It is just a company that had adverts online that suited the needs [of the scammer]," said Ducklin.
According to NOTM's Ryan, the company will not be able to do anything to fight back because the scammers are not based in Australia.
"I have been in a meeting with our solicitor about how we can clear our name and he said we have got our hands tied behind our back because these guys are based overseas. He said we can't do much about it -- but I have to try because they have done a huge amount of damage to our name," said Ryan.
On discovering the scam, Ryan immediately contacted federal police, who informed him that the scammers are suspected of operating a child pornography ring.
"I was told by the federal authorities that it looks like a child porn scam, which makes it even worse for us. National Online Talent Management didn't have anything to do with this -- we are just the victim of a crime.
"We have worked very hard for many years to build up our credibility and to have it damaged like that overnight is disappointing to say the least. They have done a lot of damage to our organisation," Ryan added.