Beware the “Send Verification Code” Scam

This scam has been around for at least a year but we were unaware of it.

We recently became aware of this scam when we listed an item for sale on Craigslist.  We immediately received a response that was clearly automated.  You can tell this when the title of the email is something like, “I want to buy your ______” and the text then matches your item description exactly, no matter how awkward the wording.  

Our suspicions aroused, my husband responded anyway, reasoning that the supposed buyer had his phone number from our listing anyway.  He then began speaking to an actual person, but this buyer had an odd request.  He wanted to “send a code” like a verification code to my husband.  The buyer claimed that this was the only way he could tell if my husband was a legitimate seller. This was a very suspicious and odd request.  

It turns out this is a very dangerous scam that takes advantage of two-factor authentication.  Two-factor authentication is a method used by many businesses to verify your identity. As detailed in this article by Apple, two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security designed to ensure that you are the only person who can access your account, even if someone knows more information about you, like your password.  It involves you receiving a code on a device like your smartphone and then you must enter that code before you can get into your account. The point here is that you should NEVER give this code to anyone else. 

This scam allows the scammer to create an online account with your phone number.  The scammer starts to create the account which triggers the sending of an authentication code to your smartphone.  The scammer is only pretending to generate this code himself.  If you agree to receive the code and then repeat it back to the him, the scammer will have access to an account in any name he wants but associated with YOUR phone number.  This method can be used by the scammer to create any accounts using two-factor authentication, for example Google Voice or Craigslist. Any spam or illegal activity he does with that account will be associated with YOUR phone number.

Bottom line:  don’t give any verification code to anyone.

agnv-august20

My work currently on exhibit at Art Gallery Napa Valley

Photoshop Tip: Magnetic Lasso

If you enjoy this article, please consider supporting my art at FlyingPig Farm.  I am currently running a promotion where I select a piece to be 30% off each week.  Currently, it’s the White-crowned Sparrow.

Magnetic Lasso

I am currently studying Background and Shadows in an online course with Birgit O’Connor. While reading the section on preparing reference photos, I discovered I have a tool I didn’t know about.

Occasionally you might want to extract a subject from one of your photos to use it in a new composition.  It can be difficult to select only that object, especially if the edges are complex.  You’d like to separate a subject from its background, but you don’t want anything else in the image. This is often referred to in Photoshop as Making a Selection. 

I didn’t realize I had a Magnetic Lasso tool because it sits below the Lasso Tool by default.  The Lasso Tool allows you to draw a freehand selection around an object which can be difficult. 

The Magnetic Lasso Tool helps you detect the edges of an object by automatically clinging to them.  It works especially well where there is a lot of contrast between your subject and the background.  You can adjust the Edge Contrast and Frequency of anchor points to improve the selection.

My image shows a rose from my garden and a selection I did in less than a minute with the Magnetic Lasso.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a great starting point.  This was much easier to do than trying to drag the regular Lasso around all the edges myself.

This tool is also available in Photoshop Elements.  If you’d like to try it, I recommend searching for Magnetic Lasso online and following one of the many tutorials available.  You can also access the relevant Photoshop help files by clicking on the question mark in the tool bin. 

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Protect your Online Images with Pixsy

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Nectarine Spring Blooms

Sadly, people seem to think that online images are for the taking.  They either don’t know or don’t care about image copyright laws.  Nor do they stop to think that the photographer or artist should be compensated for their work.  It is very difficult for an individual to protect their online images.

But that may be about to change.  In an April 9 blog post, the photo-sharing service Flickr announced a partnership with Pixsy.  Pixsy is an image monitoring service that can help you find and fight image theft.  

A member of Flickr recounted how he uses Pixsy.  In one case, he found one of his images on an album cover on iTunes!  Pixsy helped him detect copyright infringement and get fairly compensated for unauthorized use of his images

Flickr claims to be the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.  It has changed a bit since I first joined.  In order to survive financially, Flickr was purchased by Smug Mug.  It still has a free option, but the Pro option has many features that make it quite attractive.  One of the new features is Pixsy.

Pixsy provides a wide range of services from monitoring your images to sending legally binding takedown notices on a global level to have your image removed.  You can even submit a case to Pixsy’s legal department to recover lost revenue on your behalf.  And Pixsy doen’t get paid unless you do.

You may ask if you need image protection.  Here’s one way to find out. 

  1. Go to Google.com 
  2. Click on Images in the upper right corner.  This should take you to the Google Images search box. 
  3. Click on the Camera which says Search by Image when your mouse is over it.
  4. Click on Upload an Image and choose an image from your computer

Google will search the internet and display any visually similar images.

The focus of Flikr is on photography, but I see no reason this would not work for images of fine art as well.  You can read more about Pixy at https://www.pixsy.com

Arteza Markers

2020-01-25-Arteza2020-01-25-Tombow-4-webI recently received a gift of some Arteza Brush Pen Markers.  These are described as Blendable Water-Based Ink.  You may have seen ads for this product all over social media.  Normally I am suspicious of such ads, but after meeting a fellow artist who had ordered some, I put these on my wishlist as well.

Well!  I can report that I am very impressed with this product.  I made a color chart of the 48 pen set, and it is so much more vibrant than my Tombow Dual Brush pens.  The difference is stunning.

What happens down the road remains to be seen.  My experience with markers is that they tend to dry up, especially if you do not use them often.  And I have a bad habit of doing chores instead of artwork.  But I cannot deny the initial quality of the Arteza Brush Pens.

Student Reference Interpretations

The following paintings are Birgit’s lessons on interpreting photos submitted by her students. Each has its own challenges.

The summery day with clouds is a good exercise in keeping the whites in the clouds and painting a meadow without painting every blade of grass.

Atmospheric Landscapes- Commonweal Lesson

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I hadn’t managed to complete this exercise from Atmospheric Landscapes the first time around.  It looked intimidating and I procrastinated a long time.

It was actually the only painting I hadn’t attempted, but since that first course. But Birgit O’Connor continuesto add content to existing courses(which is another good reason to sign up . I knew I had to get started if I really wanted to complete the course this time around.

It isn’t so much the subject- the reference image is actually not that detailed.  It’s Birgit’s interpretation and final painting that looked unobtainable. But I should have known by now that Birgit has a gift for guiding students step by step towards successful paintings.  If you look at a picture of any of her painting classes, they are ALL holding up beautiful paintings.

I followed the video lessons, and bit by bit, the painting emerged.  It’s amazing how certain strokes here and there can really “make” a painting.  I’m pleased with my result, and can only hope that I learn to incorporate this approach into my own inventions.

Materials – Watercolor Pencil and Mixed Media paper

I should mention the medium for the previous post since it was an eye-opening experience in itself. I used the Marine Assortment set of Caran D’arch Museum watercolor pencils on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.

I don’t know why I haven’t thought to use pencil on the smoother Mixed Media paper before. This time I found that darker values could be achieved by applying the pencil to dry paper and wetting it afterward. Lighter wash-like effects resulted from wetting before applying the pencil. I was very pleased with how easily the pencils moved across the surface.

I’ve purchased an embarrassing number of sets of different brands of both watercolor and regular colored pencils. They sit largely unused in their dedicated drawer in my art materials metal filing cabinet. They each have their own degree of hardness and flow. I just never liked the grainy residue they leave on #140 lb cold press paper. Why didn’t I try a smoother surface before?

It’s not like I haven’t previously tried pencil on smooth surfaces. The botanical art class I attended at Filoli estate in Woodside, California featured Prismacolor pencils on bristol vellum. The results were fantastic, almost photographic. But you had to be willing to put on so much pencil that techniques needed to be learned to reduce the waxy residue. Perhaps I was put off by that. More likely it was the bad memory of how the instructor seemed to choose favorites by lavishly praising the work of some but not others, including me.

In any case, I will definitely be taking my w/c pencils and some smooth paper on my next vacation.

Creating an Accurate Sketch

When I want a sketch to be very accurate, I use my iPad as a sketching aid.  I almost always find inspiration out walking so use my iPhone to capture the image.  Then I use Airdrop to transfer the photo to my iPad.

The next step involves any iPad app that has at least 3 features:

  1. Layers with opacity settings
  2. Photo import
  3. Fine line pencil tool

My go to app is ArtRage.  This last time, however, I used ProCreate since it also has the ability to overlay a grid of any size.

I import the photo and move it move it to the bottom layer.  Then I set that layer to an opacity of approximately 80% or less to make it easier to see the trace.  On a second layer above, I use the pencil tool and eraser to create the sketch with my Apple Pencil.  I keep checking to make sure I’m drawing on that layer and NOT on the image layer.

Two very helpful features at this stage are pressure sensitivity and zoom.  The apps understand how to make the line thinner or thicker with the amount of pressure I use.  Being able to zoom in and out makes it easier to get intricate areas accurate.

When I complete the sketch, I turn the imported image completely off to display only the sketch.  Usually at this point, I Airdrop it to my desktop computer and size it the way I want for a sketch to use on my light table.  In this case, however, I used the overlay grid as a guide to transfer the sketch to my hand-gridded paper.  That’s how I created Fifth Element at Cap Sante

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Local Resources for a Father’s Day Project

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Fifth Element at Cap Sante

In between completing the Atmospherics Landscapes class, I decided to hand-paint a Father’s Day card.  There’s a fairly good little art store within walking distance of the marina, Good Stuff Arts.  We are even given a coupon for 10% off this local business when we check into Cap Sante marina.  They do carry my favorite Pro Art tape, but they only had the note-sized frame cards.

I checked Bayshore Office Supply across the main drag, Commercial Ave,  and they had the Strathmore photo-mount cards.  I was looking for the frame cards that have a 3.5×5 opening, but this would have to do.   

Read my next post to learn how I created this card.