There’s a scam that comes around every few years. You put an ad up for one of your units. Someone copies it, drops the price and ends up suckering someone out of a damage deposit or a month’s rent and running away. It’s the oldest trick in the book – sell something you don’t own. Here’s six tested and proven tips to help prevent people getting screwed and your name potentially being smeared by angry people.
- Watermark your photos. Include your website and/or phone number. There’s a number of free options to do this, including the Picasa desktop app.
- Pick a unique sentence that’s just in your ads and set up a Google Alert for it (in quotes). Then every time it shows up on the web you’ll get an email about it, which should only be when you put up a new ad. **You should also do this with your personal name and the name of your business.
- Include several references to your name, phone number or website. This means in the body of your ad, not just in the fields where they say to put your name/phone number/email.
- Inform your caretakers or existing tenants when you’re advertising and if there’s a property that’s been hit by fraud like this. Also let them know when there’s people who are coming to view the suites.
- Take your ads down when you’re done with them. This should be a no-brainer, but lots of people go for a shotgun strategy with their ads, meaning they’ll take forever to get them down. (You should be smarter and use a more focused approach to online advertising, but that’s another post.)
- Include a link to your website and keep an eye on your Web Analytics. You should see each site under ‘referring sites’, or if you want to get sophisticated create URLs that label each site and then shorten them using a service like bit.ly so even if people share the link or copy and paste it you’ll get the referring information.