The following is a guest post from Vacation.Rentals - a premiere website designed for homeowners and property managers to list their homes for nightly rent.
Scammers are having a field day – with your home!
One of the most successful, replicated, and continuing scams going around right now is vacation rental fraud. The process is simple enough – scammers locate a home on a listing website like Zillow, open an account on Craigslist, copy the images, write some text, and upload a bogus contact.
To unsuspecting travelers looking to cash in on a too good to be true deal, they unwittingly send cashiers checks, wire transfers, perform a PayPal transaction and in some cases even personal checks.
Once the scammer has the funds, they disappear like a Nigerian bank account of a long lost relative.
Craigslist is a great tool – for products
If you go to Google and type in “Vacation Rental Scams” you will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million plus results. The scammers are relentless and will stalk every single nook and cranny available to them to list “their” vacation property. Craigslist is the perfect venue for such a thing. No cost, no identification, no problem. Used by literally millions upon millions of people each day – Craigslist provides the perfect venue for scammers.
To be fair, Craigslist does have legitimate listings as well and it is because of this that Craigslist is reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Taking reasonable steps by watermarking your property photos is one method that can thwart and frustrate scammers out of targeting your vacation home.
What is a watermark?
Watermarks are digital imprints overlaid on existing images. Generally, a watermark is unobtrusive and normally transparent (to not obstruct from the overall image)
Here is an example of a plain image with no watermark.
Here is the same image with a watermark and no transparency.
And this is a watermark with 20% transparency.
As you can see from the 3 images above, the last 2 have an indelible mark on them that is easily identified and virtually impossible to correct. In other words, you have now made it very clear to anyone who sees this image that you are the owner and can easily identify and flag content that is yours.
When we set out to create our website, the absolute first thing that we implemented was automatic watermarks. We handled this through coding on the site and would guarantee that the photos that were uploaded to our server were digitally stamped with our branded logo and provide some authenticity to the images displayed on our site.
Craigslist doesn’t have this feature and the scammers know and love this. If they can get their listings past the flagged bots, they are half way through their mission. Now all that is left is to convince an unsuspecting Joe Traveler that this is the deal they cannot miss out on.
When you watermark your vacation home for rent images you provide a sense of “ownership” to them and give credibility to yourself and to your clients.
Work smarter – not harder
There are numerous methods to watermarking an image. If you are handy with Photoshop, you can even go so far as to write a script to automate the process a bit. For us, the easiest method by far that we found was Watermarquee.com.
Rather than go through all of the headache of setting up watermark scripts, placement, sizing etc. Water Marquee made the process fluid and professional all in one session. The best part of the process is their batch execution handles everything regardless of the image size you upload. Simply point the logo (Ours is in PNG format) to the section of the photo you want, resize, set the transparency you want and press save. 15 photos take roughly 2 minutes to do. Upon completion, Water Marquee will even combine everything into a zip file for you for easy transport on your hard drive.
Ruin a scammers day
Scammers look for easy pickings. For what amounts to 10 minutes of time effort on your part, you can thwart and prevent a scammer from an easy target. Because Watermarquee is so affordable and easy to use, you owe it to yourself to try them out and take preventative steps to protect your vacation rental photos.