What happens when you don’t watermark your photos?
In the past, my specific neighborhood has generally not been serviced by a Real Property Management franchise. So a couple of times a year I will use Google to see if anything pops up for rent. I noticed a home that came up on the online classified section of the local newspaper for a very reasonable rental rate. I was a little skeptical but there were 2 others listed at similar below market rates. I clicked on the photos which took me to an ad on www.rentler.com. I then contacted the landlord and began the initial pre-screening process. He explained that he originally lived in the home but recently moved to another state, his phone number area code matched up, and that he would have to make arrangements for a showing. Every question that was asked was typical of a pre-screening process, and he asked me to fill out an application form very similar to ours. He was very knowledgeable about the neighbors who I know.
I took my husband to look at the outside while I waited for a response from ‘Dr. Michael’. As we pulled up I noticed a ‘For Rent’ sign in the front yard – it was one of ours. I did some investigation and found that the information posted in the ad was correct and everything looked identical except the person I had been speaking with was not the owner listed in our system! I notified the franchise owner that someone had copied their photos and descriptions, and was falsifying ads for identify theft purposes.
Meanwhile, the ‘landlord’ responded with an approval of my application and he asked for a security deposit BEFORE showing me the home, which confirmed it was a scam. I Googled the phone number in an off chance to identify the person, and it showed several ads from all over the country posting to the corresponding local classified sections of online newspapers.
Reporting to the police sent me to the county sheriff who referred me to my local police. Local police stated that this is covered at the Federal level and I was guided to a website to file a complaint for internet fraud. The response from the Federal government: ‘There are tens of thousands of complaints filed each week; therefore we simply forward it on to the proper local jurisdiction. Do not expect a direct response’.
I share my personal experience to encourage you to protect yourself and your owners by watermarking all of your photos to prevent scams and identity theft. When the time comes time to rent a new place, I’ll only deal with a Real Property Management Franchise!
Director of Accounting, Franchise Support Center
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