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The ad had my text and pictures stolen from HomeAway. The only reason I found it was an inquiry on the property through HomeAway asked why the ad on Craigslist was asking so much less of a nightly rate. I searched the e-mail address listed in the Craigslist ad and found the person had done the same thing to 10 or so people here in my community; advertising their properties for half of the normal cost and asking for money orders and other methods of payment. I contacted all the property owners after finding them on HomeAway.
So, today... I find it listed again on Craigslist. This time with no pictures but ALL my text. I thought maybe someone is just copying and pasting because they're lazy and don't want to write their own text. But It can't be any other place because of some of the unusual amentities and features of the place are all listed as well. There is no way anyone else could be using this description to describe their own property.
This time the contact email address is traceable to a woman with an account on MySpace with dozens of face pics of her and her family. I have her home address and phone number as well. Based on what I'm seeing in the pictures I can't believe this family could afford a million dollar townhouse here in a prime neighborhood. Oh... and I see other listing she's placed online looking for sex partners and saying she lives with her dad although I'm seeing a husband in the pictures.
I have not contacted anyone concerning the removal of her ad advertising my property. Instead I've emailed her for pictures of the townhouse since she didn't post any in the ad. I'd like to see if she will send me pictures of my own place. I've asked availability and an address so I can google street view it... it will be interesting if she has my address. If she does, I'm in trouble. I can just picture people arriving from Europe with luggage looking for the keys and me having to tell them they've been scammed. My lawyer brother says that I am not entirely immune from a lawsuit in that type of situation!
I'm waiting for the womans response. I could just send her an email using her name, address and include a picture of her family and threaten her with legal action and shut this down right now. Any advice on how to handle this?
Scammers on CL were posting my property on a regular basis. I actually followed through on one pretending I was a renter. They wanted me to send the money via western union. With the informtion I recieved from the scammer and the email addresses, I reported them to Western Union, CL and there is a website you can file a complaint on about online scammer (just do a google search, I can't remember the name).
You need to be viligant in checking CL on a regular basis and imediately report the post so it will be taken down.
how do you search Craigslist for fraudulent copies of your listings? Our condos are on Maui and there is an incredible number of listings that come on every day. I just don't have the energy to look at them all. wondering if there's a quick way. thanks!
A lot of the times they will use your title also. Say, you have "bungalow" in the title, go to the CL page for your area under vacation rentals and then do a word search from your internet browser. You can then search all Maui listings that might have your title in the name. It doesn't always work, but it's a start without having to go through each and every one.
There is a little button on the Craigslist search line to "search title" or "search entire post". I just search entire post for phases that appear in my listing.
You could search for "townhouse daytona kid friendly" or "daytona townhouse elegant view" if those words appear in your listing here on HA then it would come up on CL even if they are not using your title headline. This woman made up a headline but used my text so she's trying to blend in. My search usually brings up 4 or 5 to look at and there she was!
you need to report such fraud to the local police
Unfortunately the local police won't do anything. As owners we have to be vigilant against protecting ouselves.
Yes, that is true. The police didn't want to hear about it. These scam artists know this and are unafraid of being caught. I plan on pursuing this woman with the help of my lawyer brother if I can show she is using my pictures and has the address.
Once or twice a year I get a call from a traveler stranded, or their vacation is ruined, because of this kind of fraud.
ME: I am so sorry this happened I can give you a good rate of $800.
Traveler: Yeah, but Craigslist was only $400
- stupid is as stupid does. Some people are asking for it. The problem is it give us all bad name
I had a woman want me to draw up a floor plan for her! I just ignored her.
sigh. thanks guys!
Ok, so she just reposted the ad on craigslist. This time she is using the anonymous e-mail address that craigslist lets you put when you post. I'm thinking she didn't mean to reveal her email address in the last posting. She didn't respond to my inquiry... probably too many questions. I really need her to respond to do anything.
Remember she is just using my text with no pictures on there and she didn't respond to my inquiry. The text is just so specific to my property that she couldn't possibly have the same set up down to the very specific amenities.
So shocking! I hope you manage to bring her down...!
Couple of things I'd like to add to this discussion:
First, HomeAway just launched an excellent new Security Center, with tips and tools on how both travelers and owners can maximize the vacation rental experience. Please check it out, and share the link with others.
Also, HomeAway is considering the use of photo watermarks similar to VRBO. That said, it's important to note that even though watermarks act as a deterrent, they are still easily circumvented by determined scammers.
Stay safe, everyone!
Why would you even hesitate watermarking pictures if a number of us are being scammed like this with pictures stolen here? I use photoshop for a living and circumventing a watermark is NOT easy to the casual scammer... they would look elsewhere for targets. HomeAway at this point in time is a smorgesbord for property scam artists.
Also, this recommendation of yours to travelers to ask owners for more pictures is pretty detached from the reality of online fraud. Not to mention your advice that we narrow down the location of the rental property with an arrow pointing to the exact location with no mention of the potential for fraud.
The biggest offense is the fact that although Home Away allows home owners to be vague and not pinpoint exact location of the rental properties.....THE HOMEAWAY IPHONE APP WILL STILL DIVULGE THE HIDDEN ADDRESS INFORMATION ON A MAP AND WILL ALLOW SOMEONE TO DRIVE RIGHT UP TO THE FRONT OF YOUR RENTAL regardless of how well you think you have it hidden.
I'm personally getting VERY tired of the careless disregard for property owners safety and wellbeing displayed by Home Away. I am getting scammed often with information and pictures stolen from HomeAway! Why are you making it so easy for them?? I'm the one paying you thousands of dollars, remember??
This sounds like a nightmare. It's difficult to imagine that the police (or FBI) don't have a legal responsibility to follow-up on this kind of fraud.
The police don't have the capacity to even verify online fraud let alone act on it and normally the perpetrator is far from their juristiction. The FBI adds these small potato fraud attempts to the bottom of the pile and instead focuses on big fish. At least that is the subtext to everything either of these agencies have written or said to me.
I found my homes advertised on Craigslist with a rental rate of $1.00.
I was able to track down the ad and found it was a new upstart vacation rental site trying to get inquiries. The inquiries were directed to me. None of the peole inquiring believed the price.
There was a discussion during the Executive Q&A at the HomeAway Summit pertaining to scammers illegally advertising properties on Craigslist. If you have been impacted by this, please send your story directly to email@example.com. Based on your collective feedback, we will reach out directly to Craigslist to try to greatly improve the situation.
Community Manager & Summit Coordinator
Its not only a Craigslist problem dear... its YOUR problem as well. Reading this thread I see that Homeaway is trying to make things easy on themselves by not watermarking photos in order to spread the photos across VRBO and HomeAway more easily. At the same time encouraging us to pinpoint our properties on maps! Its a recipe for disaster for us making it easy for anyone thats wants to defraud us. You are failing at your duty to protect us and our safety.
Here's an interesting example how HomeAway's buck passing is helping the scammers... lets see what you do with this information. The woman who owns this property listed below is aware that scammers are using pictures stolen off of HomeAway. I informed her personally that her property was a big draw on Craigslist and she has not taken consistant action that I'm aware of to stop it... evidenced by its being constantly on there... multiple times a week. Always advertised for less than half price (pets allowed now, how nice of the scammers)! Perhaps she thought it was a one shot deal and has not come back to check but she's certainly not keeping on top of the problem. These ads are there day in and day out for months now.
WHO exactly is going to be the one that saves these poor tourists that are being bilked? Isn't that YOUR job since you allowed the theft of the pictures in the first place? I've done what I can with alerting Craigslist, the owner and now HomeAway. Only thing I'm hearing from HomeAway is you'll collect stories and send them to Craigslist! Well, if thats all we can get out of you... send this one! Thanks for nothing!
I was just contacted by someone who recently rented my condo to confirm that the dates he had asked for on Craigslist were available since he had not heard back from me yet. I told him I didn't have my condo on Craigslist and we put two and two together.
We have notified Craigslist, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.
But VRBO, HomeAway and Vacationrentals.com need to step up and protect owners by at least providing WATERMARKS on photos uploaded onto their websites we PAY to use. The watermark is a very simple tool used by millions to protect the images and some even have language on the watermark prohibiting use.
With all the money we all pay for membership on these vacation rental sites, you would think we could get something so simple as a watermark added with each uploaded photo.
If this sort of fraud is not stopped, renters will stop using the internet and this business will end.
I have actually put my property on Craigslist......I figure that way, since it is already there that it would make it more difficult for someone else to duplicate the same thing. However, I have one picture, the same as my thumbnail on VRBO and I specifically state that they need to click on my VRBO website to book or contact me.
I dont know if that theory actually works, but I thought that it would look a little "fishy" to those looking if there were two homes with identical pictures with different instructions as to how to rent. Since I direct mine to go to VRBO.com...I feel it gives a little more validity....(hope I don't eat my words)
Uggh, that stinks.
I'd highly recommend you check out the blog posts we've done on this topic, We ran some successful tests on how to find out when someone's posting your property:
I haven't tested the services in the last few months, but hopefully they're still working well. Give it a try and start with the services I recommended at the end of the post linked to above.
Thank you for raising the lack of watermarking problem. In mid-2012 HomeAway removed the VRBO watermarks so that they could merge VRBO & HomeAway to a common platform. It was positoned as an enhancement to allow people to see more of our photos without the distraction of photo treatments. See that discussion here. It didn't take long after this for CraigList scammers to figure out that unwatermarked photos are a gold mine of scammer content. HomeAway told us "From a security perspective, watermarks are merely a deterrent for less sophisticated scammers." We pointed out that some deterrent is better than no deterrent. Removing watermarks makes it incredibly easy for scammers to steal photos & put up fake CraigsList posting. After watermarks were removed we noticed a big increase in stolen VRBO photos on CraigsList. HomeAway's decision to not watermark has been a huge boon to scammers and has had a very unfortunate impact on travelers and owners. We also advertise on FlipKey which allows owners to protect their photos with watermarks. Scammers are not stealing our watermarked FlipKey listings.
On October 4, 2012 Beth from HA posted on this forum "We are working on a universal watermark but this can take some time to design and test. Please continue to check back."
In April 2013 we contacted Matt O'Connell, HA's Director of Global Fraud Prevention and received this encouraging reply:
"Thank you for your email and sorry for my delayed response. I wanted to get back to you on this and let you know that I am trying to narrow down the implementation date for Watermarks. I'm happy to say that we are in process of getting watermarks activated once again. The last update I received was an 'early May' target date, but I am waiting to confirm the exact date. As soon as I have some clarity around when this will be implemented in the short term I will get back to you. Rest assured, this is something that we are in the process of doing and your feedback and concerns around this were instrumental in driving this forward."
In July we followed up with Matt to ask about the status. No reply.
Jon.Murray's recommendations are good to help identify stolen content, but we often find our photos are stolen from VRBO but put on CraigsList with different content so these virtual nets are not sufficient.
Every single day we check Craigs List. Each week we find several bogus Craigs List postings, stolen from our VRBO listings. Each time we contact Craigs List to have the listing removed which can take up to 48 hours. In the meantime, people get scammed. Watermarks are not foolproof, but they help deter scammers and protect consumers.
We find our ads scammed onto Craigs List 2 or 3 times/week and send an email to CL and to HA each time. CL removes them. We tried posting our own ad on CL "Most of the VR ads are Scams" but CL took them down real fast. Thanks, CL. If HA is going to talk to CL, tell them to leave up our ads calling attention to the scams. But, I do see that CL has very clear instructions to not send money by wire or western union.
But, also, my outrage at the scammers has shifted to indifference. If people want to ignore the warnings on CL and rent a property for $1/night, then they get what they paid for!
WATERMARKS are a deterrant. C'mon HA. Just do it.
I am a renter who actually was contacted by someone who had posted a property they don't own here on VRBO. I realized later that the property was listed twice - once by the owner, once by this faker with a "deal." Fortunately, we figured out it seemed a little too good to be true, since we've rented in the BVI and USVI area before, but I'd urge anyone who rents their luxury space on VRBO or any site to see if their page is rental is listed more than once, and if so, pursue it by sending test emails. I wound up calling the owner of the actual villa, but really, there was nothing he or I could do other than just be thankful that our money didn't go to the wrong person. The companies, by the way, are called yzrentals, awesomesmartrentals, and smartrentalsonline. (If I'd been contacted by the middle, I assure you I would have been skeptical a lot earlier!). If anyone has any suggestions on how to shut down a company once you know they are committing fraud, I'd love to hear it. They are based in Road Town, Tortola, best as I can tell.