62 Replies Latest reply: Sep 4, 2018 7:12 AM by homeaway_community_manager RSS

    photos stolen and put on craigslist

    thedrams5 Contributor

      I received an e-mail yesterday from a lady telling us that our VRBO photos/listing info was on Craigslist and she had been negotiating with the gentleman for a longer term rental. She saw our listing on VRBO and realized it was a scam. We are quite happy she did enough research to not get scammed. I did file a report with Craigslist and the ad has now been deleted for now. I checked and most of the conversations regarding stolen photos and Craigslist are mostly from 2014. I did some checking on other options to protect your photos such as shrink wrapping, etc but apparently that's something VRBO would have to do.

       

      Has anyone found a way to protect your photos so they cannot be copied? Does VRBO have any plans to helping us protect people from these sorts of scams?

       

      Although not involved, we feel really bad and have no idea how long this scammer has been using our photos.

        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
          u0999 Premier Contributor

          post CL link here an ask everyone to flag

          • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
            margaret CommunityAmbassador

            This is a common problem. HA/VRBO doesn't allow watermarking our photos anymore so scammers steal them easily. There have been quite a lot of post about Craigslist scammers posting ads using photos and text stolen from HA/VRBO listings on many other forums lately. You can check Craigslist often, report the scam ad and ask people to flag the ad until it is taken down. Do frequent google searches for your photos to find any scam ads.

            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
              homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

              Hi thedrams5,

               

              Unfortunately, it's common for scammers to copy property information they find online. Fraudsters will find listings for rentals to copy and use on other websites such as Craigslist and post it on other sites in an attempt to divert rental income from actual homeowners. 

               

              This can't be prevented in an online environment. If this ad was not posted by you, we highly recommend that you notify Craig's List immediately (as I see you have done) to try and prevent any travelers from sending funds.

               

              We have a copyright notice on our site to protect the intellectual property of our owners and property managers and a team in place to respond to violators.

               

              The best thing to do to thwart these scammers is to periodically conduct an Internet search (for instance, on Google) of the first sentence or so of your property description. This will bring up listings with the same or similar wording. You can report any false listings to the website hosting the unauthorized content.  If you find others using your photos or content on OUR site, please let us know.

               

              Erinn

              HomeAway Community Manager

                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                  timthek Active Contributor

                  homeaway_community_manager wrote:

                   

                  Hi thedrams5,

                   

                  Unfortunately, it's common for scammers to copy property information they find online. Fraudsters will find listings for rentals to copy and use on other websites such as Craigslist and post it on other sites in an attempt to divert rental income from actual homeowners.

                   

                  This can't be prevented in an online environment. If this ad was not posted by you, we highly recommend that you notify Craig's List immediately (as I see you have done) to try and prevent any travelers from sending funds.

                   

                  We have a copyright notice on our site to protect the intellectual property of our owners and property managers and a team in place to respond to violators.

                   

                  The best thing to do to thwart these scammers is to periodically conduct an Internet search (for instance, on Google) of the first sentence or so of your property description. This will bring up listings with the same or similar wording. You can report any false listings to the website hosting the unauthorized content.  If you find others using your photos or content on OUR site, please let us know.

                   

                  Erinn

                  HomeAway Community Manager

                  Erinn,

                  This is a significant problem that HomeAway is either ignoring or is unaware of. Rarely does a day go by that I don't read about another owner having photos and info copied and used in a Craigslist scam. Stating "This can't be prevented in an online environment" is simply false. HomeAway can, and should do something about this. There are two things off the top of my head that HA should be doing, and should have been doing. 1) You can code images on a site so that they cannot be simply right clicked and copied. And an even easier solution which has been pointed out NUMEROUS times is 2) Watermark all photos. This could be done by HA or it could be allowed by owners (of course HA won't even allow owners to protect themselves with watermarking, so this is on HA).


                  Instead of playing with the display on MarketMaker....this is the kind of thing your teams SHOULD be working on.


                  -Tim

                    • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                      psphoto Active Contributor

                      Unfortunately, the solutions you mention often don't work.

                      Images can be copied despite not being right clicked just with simple screen capture.

                      Watermarks can be retouched away.....in fact modern cloning software is almost automated in its ability to eliminate watermarks.

                      See: Remove watermark from a photo online - the easiest way, completely non-technical!

                      This ability is now available to anyone who can search for it.

                      Presently, if you can see an image on a computer or device screen, it can generally be copied and repurposed, despite any precautions you or VRBO/HA may take.

                        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                          timthek Active Contributor

                          It can be defeated. That's not the point. 99% of scammers won't bother. It's like locking your car door. A real thief can open it in seconds but the dirtbag looking for an easy score won't bother. Most internet scammers aren't going to bother to edit out watermarks from 20 pictures or take 20 screenshots of individual photos and then crop out the picture. VRBO makes it so easy that it takes little effort. How long does it take to right click copy 20 pics and a description? 30 seconds? I have no doubt those two steps would reduce fraudulent copies of vrbo listings significantly. Fraudsters will move on to an easier site to copy.

                            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                              psphoto Active Contributor

                              I disagree.

                              If you can make hundreds or even thousands of $$$ scamming people with a few easy steps on a laptop using simple screen capture, along with automated watermark deletion, what makes you think they WOULDN'T do it?

                              They don't need 20 pictures....they only need a handful.

                              I've had people trying to scam me on Craigslist with multiple emails sent....they go to quite the effort for even a couple of hundred bucks.

                              Teenagers figured out early on how to download movies for free using bit torrent software when they were only saving a couple of bucks!

                              They definitely ARE going to bother!

                              They do it every day.

                                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                  timthek Active Contributor

                                  Well, we won't know who is right anyway because it is not like HomeAway/VRBO is going to do anything. I'm pretty sure that those two simple steps would HELP, it may not solve the problem, but I don't think that it would have NO impact....and certainly the amount of effort it would take HomeAway/VRBO would be minimal. Doing NOTHING makes it too easy for scammers. They should at least try....

                          • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                            linky17 Active Contributor

                            Just this past week, NBC Nightly News aired a story re: fraudulent vacation rentals.  ("G" it.)  Unfortunately, the screenshot -- clearly branded as a "VRBO" listing -- was used as the phase-in for that Owner legitimately lamenting the ease of such scams ... only to be followed by the anchor's 'caution' to the national viewing audience = vacationing public to use only "reputable booking sites."

                             

                            VRBO/HA > step-up your protections!  Your game!  You're making money hand over fist, and at the expense of Owners (subscription) -- and -- Guests (so-called service fee and, in IB scenarios: booking fee): show us why you're worth it?

                              • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                psphoto Active Contributor

                                What VRBO/HA can do currently won't help.

                                It's too easy to bypass any meaningful security options currently available to minimize image theft.

                                The solution has to come from Craigslist or any other venue that needs to put some sort of verification system in place.

                                  • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                    timthek Active Contributor

                                    We obviously disagree, but I think anything that slows these scammers down is worthwhile. If it adds 10 minutes to their scam it is worth it.

                                    I'm not sure how it could be accomplished but if there was a way to prevent the simple copying of the listing descriptions that would help too.

                                     

                                    Craigslist definitely needs to "improve" their scam prevention and reporting. I don't think that improve is the right word since they don't do anything. Right now there is NOTHING they do to prevent fake postings, nothing they do to track fake postings, and nothing they do to make it easy to report fake postings. The only option currently is to get a bunch of people to report a fake listing and wait. And the next day the same posting will be back. How about some tracking of fake listings that are constantly being reposted????

                              • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                thedrams5 Contributor

                                I had my photos stolen and an ad placed on Craigslist. Yesterday it was deleted but today it is back on. If anyone has time to click the link and mark it as "prohibited" it may help get it deleted earlier and maybe prevent someone from being scammed.

                                 

                                Oceanfront Penthouse 2ba/2 br Condo with Balcony - vacation rentals

                                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                  johnz Contributor

                                  I wish VRBO would put a watermark on each photo, like the listing number or even just VRBO. in my market, I need to keep putting ads on Craigslist to prevent a scammer from listing my property. The scammer flags my ads sometimes. I am willing to bet over half of the ads on Craigslist are scammers in my market. Craigslist doesn’t do anything about this except for their algorithm taking down an ad after it was flagged x amount of times. I need to check craigslist daily for my property reappearing on their. I know the pictures were from vrbo because I have slightly different pictures on each listing site.

                                    • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                      psphoto Active Contributor

                                      See my comments above on the idea that watermarking would help.

                                      Unfortunately...it won't!

                                      I think pressure on Craigslist is the answer.....they need to set up a verification system for rental properties.

                                      It can't be that hard.

                                        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                          greggt Senior Contributor

                                          No offense but that is like saying, don't worry about locking your doors, let's put pressure on the crooks not to steal!

                                            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                              psphoto Active Contributor

                                              No....what I'm saying is what some think are locks ( watermarking and right click download protection ) are no more than flimsy tape!

                                              And if you think thieves will just move on to lower hanging fruit, my point is that image theft and watermark removal are now a 30 second operation.

                                              The effort/reward equation is completely one sided for thieves....they could even write a script to do it.

                                              And as far as Craigslist is concerned, since posting in almost all cases is FREE....they have little incentive to improve security beyond general "buyer beware" statements.

                                                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                  timthek Active Contributor

                                                  I don't think anyone here has claimed they are LOCKS. More like speed bumps. And the idea that Craigslist scammers are going to be writing scripts or stripping watermarks is silly. I don't buy that one bit. There are so many pictures of VRs online they aren't going to strip watermarks or crop screenshots to get photos. Just like a common criminal they will just find an easier target. If VRBO makes them spend time to copy photos, they can just go to one of a hundred other VR sites with photos. Or even a real estate site. There's thousands of them with plenty of high quality unwatermarked pictures.

                                                    • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                      greggt Senior Contributor

                                                      I have no idea why HA/VRBO doesn't allow watermarks, very strange to me??

                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                        psphoto Active Contributor

                                                        You used the analogy of locks.....I was extending that analogy.

                                                        My point is this....watermarks will not prevent image theft, and if you believe it will...you are mistaken.

                                                        Watermarked images are stolen and misappropriated daily.

                                                        My images that were previously watermarked for security ( I'm a photographer by profession ) have been stripped of their watermarks

                                                        and reused without my permission in the past, to the extent that I don't bother watermarking them anymore.

                                                        And that was by people who weren't even trying to place fake ads!

                                                        That war has been lost.

                                                        A TinEye or Google image search is the best way to try and find misused or stolen images

                                                        These aren't stupid "common criminals"....but people who know exactly what they are doing and do it often.

                                                        Did you check out the easy to use software to strip a watermark from an image I referenced earlier?

                                                        It takes them more time to POST a fraudulent ad than capture and process images for one!

                                                        I can screen capture the 3-6 images one might use in about 30 secs.

                                                        Do you really think that slows anyone down?

                                                        It's just too easy.

                                                          • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                            timthek Active Contributor

                                                            Obviously we aren't going to agree. The argument isn't whether watermarks are easily overcome....but about the scammers. I don't think the scammers are particularly advanced. I think they are taking advantage of an easy scam. You seem to believe they are more capable. I don't think either of us knows for sure.

                                                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                  floridarob Contributor

                                                  Happily done!

                                                  • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                    johnhurd New Member

                                                    Well, for cryin' out loud, it just happened to me. My renter called, saying there was a man on the porch that paid to rent it.

                                                    I called him for the details, and feel badly for him.

                                                    I found the ad, and checked the "prohibited" box, and sent a scam alert to CL, but I guess it will reappear.

                                                    Good advice from everyone to check constantly. It would never have occurred to me.

                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                        floridarob Contributor

                                                        HOW do you check Craig's List? The site is so big, with so many local sites, how do you run an effective search on Craig's List for a scam advertisement showing your property?

                                                         

                                                        (One thing I do know to do is to run image searches through google to see what comes up, but that isn't specific to CL.)

                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                        sage Senior Contributor

                                                        I have found https://tineye.com/ to be a useful tool to search for duplicate images online.

                                                        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                          thedrams5 Contributor

                                                          The fraudulent Craigslist listing was finally removed. I did not hear anything from the Craigslist Customer Service. Yesterday, I found our condo listed again on Craigslist Daytona. I again filled out the reporting form for Craigslist but, of course, it's still up as of today. So frustrating.

                                                            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                              margaret CommunityAmbassador

                                                              Post a link so we can flag it

                                                              • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                psphoto Active Contributor

                                                                Craigslist has 80 MILLION ads posted every month.

                                                                They have about 40 employees.

                                                                Don't get your hopes up!

                                                                  • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                    timthek Active Contributor

                                                                    I don't think CL needs any employees to manually track fake ads. But they could certainly set up a system that records fraudulent ads they take down and scans for the same content on new posts. Don't tell me that would be hard. But they do nothing. Kinda like HomeAway.

                                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                        psphoto Active Contributor

                                                                        Re: Craigslist.

                                                                        Not that simple....just because something appears elsewhere doesn't mean it's fraudulent.

                                                                        What you're describing definitely requires significant staff involvement for any kind of review process.

                                                                        Who's going to respond to complaints and disputes from the parties involved?

                                                                        Remember....they're offering a FREE service.

                                                                          • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                            timthek Active Contributor

                                                                            I suppose it could need staff involvement. Or not. Facebook blocks ads all the time (often wrongly) and has no mechanism to report or address it. They don't care. You are just banned. CL could certainly implement a system that sees fraudulent ads that are reposted and automatically block them.....offering no recourse.  Like you said, it is a free service. Not perfect but better than saying, hey it's free too bad there are a lot of scams. I'm not saying it's a perfect solution, or even a solution at all. But it could cut down on scam ads.

                                                                              • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                psphoto Active Contributor

                                                                                Craigslist would never do it unless they could automate it since it would require a much heavier staff involvement than they have now.

                                                                                And who's to determine what's a fraud and what isn't?

                                                                                You try to get an ad marked as fraudulent, but the poster says it isn't.

                                                                                Who has the staff to chase that around the block?

                                                                                As I mentioned before...they have 1 staff member per 2 million ads per MONTH.

                                                                                It will never happen unless they completely change their business model, which they haven't indicated they will.

                                                                                Facebook makes billions on ads ( 40.7 BILLION last year! ). In comparison, Craigslist makes virtually nothing in comparison ( $81 million last year ).

                                                                                Unless they are forced to do it...I just don't think they will.....

                                                                            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                              ambidextrous Active Contributor

                                                                              timthek wrote:

                                                                               

                                                                              I don't think CL needs any employees to manually track fake ads. But they could certainly set up a system that records fraudulent ads they take down and scans for the same content on new posts. Don't tell me that would be hard. But they do nothing. Kinda like HomeAway.

                                                                              It's simple to point fingers, but here's the problem -- no single entity owns this problem. Craigslist doesn't want to police it, it does not cost them anything when a fake ad appears, and they have no revenue stream from these ads to justify the cost of monitoring. They give away free ads. I suppose they could start charging for rental ads ad put some money toward policing them. They certainly could put up a warning to do due diligence when renting a home.

                                                                               

                                                                              HomeAway loses nothing when someone is scammed on CL. In fact, it is to HA's advantage to have Craigslist be a snakepit (you did figure this out on your own, right Tim?) We, in fact are the ones with the most to lose in the distress of having someone show up at our door thinking they've paid. But that too is rather temporary pain, and doesn't cost us money. Still, we can do something -- and everyone who is complaining that others should be doing something should realize that we are the ones putting our photos on advertising sites and we are able to do simply periodic checks to see if our images have been stolen.

                                                                        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                          u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                                          watermark them. While watermarks can be removed, scammers usually just move on to easier (non watermarked) targets.

                                                                          • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                            homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

                                                                            Hello Everyone,

                                                                             

                                                                            We wanted to follow up on this topic as it has surfaced here repeatedly and also with our Customer Advisory Board.

                                                                             

                                                                            Many times in the past we have reached out to Craig's List to try to partner with them to help prevent this fraud from happening on their site. They have always declined to work with us. We will be reaching out again.

                                                                             

                                                                            In the past we did change the programming to prevent photos from being downloaded from the site. The result of that was many upset partners and calls to customer support complaining that they couldn't download their photos from the site.  So many, that we reverted back to making them downloadable again.  That being said, we are considering changing this again to take away the option to download photos.

                                                                             

                                                                            As for watermarks. We have opted not to do this after much testing and after many conversations with partners and with travelers. Watermarking is not on the table at this time.

                                                                             

                                                                            We know this is a huge concern for you as property owners, it's a huge concern for us too and not something we take lightly.

                                                                             

                                                                            Thank you.

                                                                             

                                                                            Erinn

                                                                            HomeAway Community Manager

                                                                            • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                              thedrams5 Contributor

                                                                              We have completed the form for Craigslist twice with negative results. Not a reply. Just checked today and the Craigslist Daytona has renewed the fraudulent listing 3 days ago. Reading thru some of the forums out there, I did read a tip that might be helpful and I am going to try. Although many of our guests don't read the entire writeup on the property, she suggests putting a sentence in the listing stating something to the effect of "If you are reading this on Craigslist, the listing is a fraud. We do not advertise our property on Craigslist."

                                                                               

                                                                              If the scammers are not really reading the narrative, if might have some effect -- or not...

                                                                                • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                  johnhurd New Member

                                                                                  Twice, I have done this- Check The "prohibited" box, and fill out the form. Although I didn't hear back from CL, it was removed, and the link I had saved became inactive. That's good- I don't need a message from CL- we're not dating. If you find "your" ad, save the link, write it up, and look for it the next day, using that link. Gone? Great! It let me know they were at least paying attention.  I'm also glad that our current guests were very sympathetic to the family on the porch.

                                                                                  • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                    johnz Contributor

                                                                                    I found that it takes about 5 people to flag a craigslist add for it to be removed if the ad was only up a day or two. If the ad has been up longer, lets say a week, it seems to take around 10 people to flag it before it is removed. I went through 10-15 rounds getting scammer ads removed on craigslist in the last 6 months.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    I have sent messages to craigslist. You never get a response and they don't seem to take any action. I sent them a long detailed message stating the same person keeps putting up fake ads, that they should cancel his/her account, how to contact me for more info.... I think it is 100% automated, there isn't a person that actually works there or its one guy working out of his basement.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    For the last 4 months, I have been putting my own ads on craigslist. Its been about 2 months now since I have seen a fake ad for my properties. The interesting thing is that for the last 2 months, the scammer was listing other properties in my building every couple of days. I haven't seen those ads for a couple of weeks now, so I am not sure if the scammer gave up or craigslist actually shut them down.

                                                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                        psphoto Active Contributor

                                                                                        As I mentioned...Craigslist gets about 38 ads per SECOND to list........the idea that they could do a manual review at that rate is crazy.

                                                                                        That's why they post a general warning on the site, and have largely automated the process of flagging bad ads.

                                                                                        WE are the ones who need to stay vigilant about fake ads, unfortunately.

                                                                                    • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                      timthek Active Contributor

                                                                                      I believe the fastest way to get a response is to actually crowdsource the reporting. I see it all the time on Facebook groups. An owner posts that his listing has been posted on CL, he shares the link and asks others to report it by clicking on the "prohibited" link at the top of the listing. After a dozen or so clicks the listing usually comes down.

                                                                                      • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                        hmmmm Senior Contributor

                                                                                        This has been an occurrence with CL for too many years to remember.


                                                                                        Check the site daily,

                                                                                        Flag

                                                                                        And send an email to CL, they used to respond quickly.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        Anyone who rents a VR off Craigslist is asking to be scammed.

                                                                                        • Re: photos stolen and put on craigslist
                                                                                          thedrams5 Contributor

                                                                                          UPDATE: After months of the listing being taken down and then flagged, the last time the listing was marked flagged for removal and left on craigslist for several days. So far, so good.  But, now I see several of my photos are being used by someone else listing on VRBO that has a rental in our building. Oh, well. At least it's not a scam. Thanks everyone for the help!

                                                                                          Diane