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BeachBrokerBill's Blog

By BeachBrokerBill | Broker in Encinitas, CA

REALTOR EXTORTION SCAM reported here first - www.realtor-complaints.com

So I got this email today....from a Sara Williams - with a subject line, "Listing my home for sale"

It read:

My daughter's friend hired your agency a couple months ago (and I believe you as the realtor). Her home sold very quickly and I'm interested in hiring you to list our home as well.

Would you mind sending me a couple references from past clients of yours? The only concern I have is this bad review I found on realtor complaints..

http://www.realtor-complaints.com/real-estate-agents/William-H-Hays-Carlsbad-CA

I look forward to hearing back from you,

Sara Williams

The return email address for Sara was: Sara Williams <info@esystemsint.biz>

At first, you read the email thinking you might have a lead, but then it starts to become clear that the email is a scam.  Click on the link and it goes to what appears to be a complaint about me - but my name is clearly taken from an old data base as I don't use my formal name like that nor have I been affiliated with the brokerage listed for many years. Anyways, if you click on the choices to either respond or erase, you are taken to a paypal page to PAY $49 or $99 dollars to respond or get the complaint removed. NO CHANCE that is happening. So I contacted the California Association of Realtors to make them aware and hopefully something can be done to shut it down. WIth responses on this blog coming from across the nation, I will also go to NAR.

I just wanted post this here to help spread the awareness that review extortion is here!

See the latest post on this scam
http://www.trulia.com/blog/BeachBrokerBill/2013/01/www_realtor_complaints_com_is_out_of_control_calling_on_nar_and_re_max_to_shut_them_down


UPDATED NOTE: as of 1/14/2013 at approximately 10 am PST, the above link appears to have been taken down. YAY!! But here is the webpage itself-  http://www.realtor-complaints.com . The remove complaint tab on the webpage has been disabled as well. Such a shame as they were having a half-off special through January 15th!

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: KUDOS TO RE/MAX for jumping on this and taking steps to protect fellow agents across the nation from this extortion scheme. If you read below, you will see not only did the scheme victimize individual agents, but it perpetrated an entire company (RE/MAX). No one is immune to internet scams and they keep getting more complicated and appearing more and more legit. The ads referred to in this blog that were on this bogus site were linked to actual RE/MAX sites - how can someone be able to tell what is real anymore?

ADDTIONAL ADDITIONAL UPDATE - well maybe I was wrong....as of 1/14/2013 1230 PST, my complaint is back up and the site seems to be operational again....however, numerous others have reported on the site as can be seen with this link - http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&rlz=&q=realtor-complaint.com

LATEST UPDATE - as of 1/17/2013 at 9 am, site is still up with operational ads...have to wonder why it hasn't been shut down. AND have to be concerned that someone with access to servers outside the country can set up shop like this with total impunity.

LATEST UPDATE - as of 1/24/13, the site is "dormant" as described by NAR in their brief follow-up http://speakingofrealestate.blogs.realtor.org/



Comments

By Sadie Ream,  Sat Jan 12 2013, 17:09
Good to know! Thanks for the post!
By Brenda Mullen,  Sat Jan 12 2013, 20:38
I just got the same e-mail and decided to investigate. Same thing. Wow. I think I will blog about this as well. Thanks for the info!
By brigitte-jones,  Sat Jan 12 2013, 21:16
I too received the same email.
By Jolene Cortright,  Sat Jan 12 2013, 21:24
Got it also! -Jolene Cortright Century 21
By Heath Coker,  Sun Jan 13 2013, 09:11
Me too.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Sun Jan 13 2013, 10:41
Sara Williams is apparently busy looking at houses!

As it is we get a lot of spam and a lot of phishing schemes with riches promised from far away bank accounts....but when they create a page that portrays to slander someone and attempts to extort money like this, that is way over the line. This is an attack on a cornerstone in the realtor's business arsenal - their reputation. I am hoping CAR will do something to deal with it.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Sun Jan 13 2013, 17:51
So then i go to the site, http://www.realtor-complaints.com/, and there is a Re/Max ad on the right side of the screen and along the bottom. Why would RE/MAX advertise on something like this?
By Teri Henkelman,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 07:49
@beachbrokerbill-- If you are familiar with how internet ads work you would know that RE/MAX probably has no idea that the ad is on this particular page. Don't shame RE/MAX until you have the facts. Now go sell some real estate :)
By Barbara Grandolfo,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 07:54
Thanks for the heads up, Bill! I appreciate you taking the time to warn us.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 08:05
@Teri - They know now because I contacted them as well. We'll see what they do about it Teri. If you looked at the their ad, it seems pretty strategic to put an ad that reads, "Looking for a Good Realtor?" on a site where people are going to complain about their realtor. Think about it and don't give them a free pass without facts yourself. In an industry such as ours, I have difficulty believing they have no idea...

I would hope you and Brenda would bring it to your management's attention, and and let us know what they do about it.
By Teri Henkelman,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 08:25
@BeachBrokerBill- I definitely did notify the "higher ups". I will let you know what happens. I do appreciate the heads up. Have a great Monday!
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 09:06
Please don't assume that RE/MAX is in anyway associated with this without knowing the facts. As an owner of a RE/MAX agency I am confident they have no idea that their name has been associated with this site and have sent it on to them as well.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 09:33
@Judi - I appreciate what you are saying and why you are saying it, but your ads are on the website - RE/MAX is soliciting business through this company and therefore has associated with this.

I look at this as an opportunity for RE/MAX. Understand that I and other fellow agents who are getting these type of extortion emails aren't very happy considering how hard we work to maintain our reputations. I look forward to RE/MAX taking the lead in doing the right thing to shut this activity down and to get the manufactured reviews about me and other agents removed permanently from this site. Ironically, they are even sending the emails to RE/MAX agents.

I appreciate you sending the information on to your management and hearing what they have to say.

Extortion EMAILS aside - I still find that a site that allows unsubstantiated comments to be posted and then charges money for person whom is being attacked to defend themselves is reprehensible. The fact Judy, is that I or anyone can post something negative on that site about you today for free and they will charge you $49 to respond or $99 to erase it. Is that a site that is truly looking out for the public interest or just looking to make a buck?

I look at RE/MAX pretty highly - read the book and find the agents to be of high caliber. So let's do the right thing here and make the wrongs this site is creating right.
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 09:48
Hi Bill--First and foremost they are NOT my ads--they are RE/MAX ads, and I do not appreciate you calling them mine. I have sent an email to my VP -- you are jumping to the conclusion that RE/MAX knows about these ads which I find no better than the solicitation emails you received. Give them a chance to respond before you accuse them of not only knowing about it but using it to solicit business. I can assure you that you are way off base and only compounding a wrong without at least giving them a chance to respond in their own defense.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 10:10
Those of you who got emails - my link in the above blog has just been disconnected and the address goes no where. So bravo to whomever took steps to straighten this out. I would like to think it was RE/MAX who shut it down, but am being counseled not to assume at this point so I will wait until I hear further...
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 10:22
For everyone who has followed this post--this is the email response I just received from RE/MAX and may I say it came within 30 minutes of alerting them--Bill please do the right thing and remove this post.

Hi Judi,
After reviewing the Bill’s blog – yes our agents are affected by SPAM since spammers have the ability to do a search for all of our agents on remax.com. Looks the spammer also hit C21 agents.

This has already been reported to eCare and the sender as been blocked. In addition, they’re investigating the RE/MAX ad next to the agent complaint page. For those that our website savvy it’s very easy to take or frame images and use them on other websites. RE/MAX would not be place an ad on such site. In addition, if you click on the image it takes you directly to the find an agent page where the spammer use it to send spam email.

Thank you for sending!
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 10:49
Just as another tidbit, the domain http://www.realtor-complaints.com was created on January 1, 2013, yet the site says over 3 million visitors each month....
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 10:57
Thank you Bill. I appreciate you removing RE/MAX name from the offensive title and acknowledging they were as victimized as you by this ploy.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 11:04
Hey - the headline worked! Thanks for your part Judi. I prefer to leave the post up simply so others can see and learn....but have RE/MAX contact me if they have a problem with that. Time to get back to work!!

I think with the whole movement in our industry toward reviews, we will be seeing more and more of this kind of scam. While I wasn't to the point of pulling my credit card out of my wallet, when I saw the email and clicked on the link, the first thought is, "How do I fix this?" None of us want to have bad reviews - we work way too hard for that. Spam and scams are all over, but this one went a step further....

Thanks again for your help. I am glad to see you are so passionate about your work and the company you represent.
By Torang | Save $10,000's,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 11:13
Great post ! Thanks for sharing.

Torang
By Judi Monday, CRS,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 11:29
I agree it is a great post and an important one to make agents more aware of what is happening out there. I have no problem with it now that RE/MAX's good name has been restored. :-) Bill, many thanks to you for taking RE/MAX out of the title and acknowledging their part in getting the offensive site removed. I've found RE/MAX to be very agent-centric and pleased they proved that is the case again today. Wishing you every success!
By BeachBrokerBill,  Mon Jan 14 2013, 12:46
We're not done yet!! The site is back up. Here is the scambook link - http://www.scambook.com/report/view/199775/Realtor-Complaintscom-Complaint-199775-for-$100,000.00 that details more about it.
By Bonnie O'neill,  Wed Jan 16 2013, 14:55
Me too! Bonnie O'Neill North Falmouth realtor. Came thru on January 12th.
By Jonathan Webb,  Thu Jan 17 2013, 09:02
Thanks for the heads up
By Sharon S,  Thu Jan 17 2013, 10:34
Unfortunately there are a lot of scams out there like this. I have done a lot of web site consulting and site development for both small web presence and managed multi mega sites with teams of developers. It is much too easy to crank out a fake site quickly and find a databank somewhere or, even easier, go after people that have all of their information openly available on the Internet and go after them. Guess what? That's us - an easy target of professionals that rely on our reputations to get business.

OK, with that said, REMAX had nothing purposeful to do with this. I went to the site and looked at the code. They used a Wordpress backend application and have their own folder with REMAX images in it - which they simply stole from the site (I can see the folder in the code). It takes a minute to right click and copy pictures or take a snapshot. They used REAL links - that is easy. Anybody can cut and paste and give instructions to a link to make it seem real. They are ALSO referencing the MOBILE apps. I did not have enough time to analyze all of the details and I cannot decipher all the code completely but I get a lot of it and can figure out the general idea of what they are trying to do.

I went to the whois database to see what I could find on domain name owners. No surprise - they are paying for privacy so you cannot get the actual name of the owner. What I did get is that the domain name , as mentioned prior, was purchased on Jan. 1, 2013. It is registered in Panama. They have to list a telephone number - this should be the privacy company which is Tel: +507.65995877. Private Registrar: Internet.bs Corp. Email: 50ef6cd107ka7c9i@t02cduv4f7f99a255f64.privatewhois.net . That is a REAL email that works like Craigslist. It should anon the email but it has to route it through. You can call or file complaints directly because whoever is behind this is committing fraud. You can also call the privacy company locally - I checked ti out they have offices in LA. Phone: 310 301 5800.

I suggest we all call and email the privacy company. They seem reputable. The purpose for using a privacy company is really to protect your identification and to keep spammers or people from getting your information. It is all public unless you privatize.

Also PAYPAL is indirectly involved and should be contacted.

Anyway, I have an appointment right now so I must sign off.
By BeachBrokerBill,  Thu Jan 17 2013, 18:04
Nice Recon Sharon!! But a question - couldn't RE/MAX change their code so that the ads on the site don't go to an actual RE/MAX site? Or does that create a chain reaction for RE/MAX that messes up links all over for them?
By propertymash,  Thu Jan 17 2013, 23:53
There are so multiple comments here that are really entertaining and conducive to me thanksfor sharing a link especially for sharing this blog. Real Estate
By BeachBrokerBill,  Thu Jan 24 2013, 09:36
This whois info NAR just provided me seems like a good thing....

Domain ID:
Domain Name: realtor-complaints.com
Created On: 01-Jan-2013 00:00:00
Expiration Date: 01-Jan-2014 00:00:00
Sponsoring Registrar: INTERNET.BS CORP. (INTERNET.BS CORP.)
Status: client_transfer_prohibited
Name Server: ns1.parkingcrew.net
Name Server: ns2.parkingcrew.net

Their site is parked!! YAY!
By BeachBrokerBill,  Fri Jan 25 2013, 21:33
So I have to wonder now that the site is "dormant" if propertymash is still entertained and feeling "conducive"....ahem...

I mean how many people created a user name and have only commented on this particular thread once? They say the arsonist sticks around to watch the fire they set burn.... It was clear that someone involved was definitely monitoring the online commenting on this and other sites.
By Brian Walsh Buyer's Agent,  Sat Jan 26 2013, 09:31
Wow thanks for the warning!

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