Is it possible that it is not a scam? Actually, it is possible. It is possible that the author might be in the wrong, and could have legal exposure.
For instance, if using Hubble telescope images of space, one is expected to display attribution, and sometimes to inform the Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI (using this form that pops up if one clicks the text link on https://hubblesite.org/copyright). The hubblesite copyright page also is explicit about use of photography: "If a recognizable person appears in a photograph, use for commercial purposes may infringe a right of privacy or publicity, and permission should be obtained from the recognizable person."
Legal blogger Mark Weston writing expertly for Hill Dickinson explains that there is more to understanding and using "Creative Commons" images and works than is popularly imagined.
If an author trusts a webmistress (or webmaster) to decorate the website, it probably would be prudent for the author to ask to see proof that
all necessary permissions have been obtained for all images, and also that if there was a time limit on the license, it is still in effect, and if there was a limit to the number of impressions covered by the license that that has not been exceeded.
Legal Bloggers Aarathi Amerjit and Samantha Lawrence for Gateway Law in the jurisdiction of Malaysia offer advice in .pdf form on scraping --or not scraping-- images from Pinterest, or uploading other people's images to that popular site.
It's not just other people's faces that can get you in trouble, a recognizable outline or silhouette can trigger a lawsuit. For instance, what rocker wants to be associated with a hygiene product? Seriously, some might, but they would want to be properly compensated for the product endorsement, wouldn't they?
Legal blogger Jeffrey H. Brown for Michael Best and Friedrich LLP discusses an old spicy case.
Lexology link (without a still of the rocker).
And now for an important reminder. If a small business owner, such as an author, has paid more than $600 to any worker or contractor who is not an INC or any sum at all to a lawyer, 1099s have to be sent out. The rules have changed. Now, we need to send out a 1099-NEC instead of using line 7 of 1099-MISC.
Paper forms can be ordered online and free from the IRS. They normally take about 10 business days in the mail, but this is not a normal time of year.
All the best,