What do You do About E-book Thieves?
I was recently the victim of an e-book thief. It’s not something you can easily prevent, and you won’t get much help from Paypal if it happens using their service (as it frequently does). Here’s the gist of what happens.
- Someone uses a credit card or Paypal account to purchase your e-book.
- They wait until they receive the download.
- They dispute the charge, claiming they were a victim of fraud (as in someone stole their card or accessed their account without their permission to make the purchase).
- You’re pretty much SOL with Paypal as they don’t protect you with digital product sales (despite the fact that they actively promote their service for the sellers of digital goods).
In the several years I’ve used Paypal to sell digital goods, this never happened to me until recently. Then I was suddenly hit with two of these complaints within a week. One was disputed just 7 minutes after the purchase was made (a pretty good sign you’ve just been screwed).
So what can you do about this kind of theft? Unfortunately not much. These disputes won’t hurt your own reputation with Paypal because they know you have no control over the payment information others provide. But they also don’t intervene on your behalf even when the claim is utter BS like my little 7-minute wonder.
You can stop using these payment processors for sales. But that would hurt a lot of legitimate buyers. Given that I’m not one to tolerate this kind of crap, if I found out exactly who did it, I might very well pursue it further. But in this case it isn’t worth it.
What’s the biggest risk of this? It’s not that some dumb schmuck is going to steal your hard work. It’s that this kind of content thief sometimes also tries to distribute that work. That means you could find your paid e-books up for sale by a third party, completely cutting you out of the sale process (and potentially undercutting you). Or you might find it added to free .pdf distribution sites (although I have a long history of dealing with them in these cases). For now all I can do is keep an eye out for the stolen goods being distributed elsewhere.
Have you had to deal with digital content thieves? Were you able to do anything about it? If so, I’d love to hear your suggestions, so share them in the comments below.