Set up a Google Alert to protect your property
Unfortunately these days it seems scams and rip off artists are around every corner. As REALTORS®, we often run across a rental scam where the scammer has stolen online pictures of a property for rent or sale, sets up their own fake rental on Craigslist using the photos and tries to lure an unsuspecting prospective tenant to rent the property sight unseen. This happens in both the city and suburbs like Shawnee.
So what can you do as a property owner to protect yourself?
My best advice is to set up a Google Alert on your home or rental property. Google Alerts are simple and free tools to receive regular updates about something that interests you, such as your property and if applicable, your tenants. Google Alerts will send you an email any time a new web page appears in the top 20 web results or top 10 news results for the terms you specify.
As a landlord, you should set up a Google Alert on your property’s address so you can see whenever someone posts something on the internet about your property so you can make sure it’s a legitimate post. You may also want to set up a Google Alert using the name of your tenant so you can be on top of what your tenant is doing in case s/he is arrested or in trouble for any illegal activities. I also recommend setting up a Google Alert with your tenant’s telephone number. This could possibly tip you off if your tenant plans to move without providing notice. If they place a “MOVING SALE” advertisement on Craigslist with their telephone number, it should turn up in a Google Alert notification.
As a homeowner, I also recommend setting up a Google Alert so you can make sure someone doesn’t try run a rental scam using photos of your property.
It even makes sense for renters to set up a Google Alert on the address where they are living.
Setting up a Google Alerts is simple. Go to google.com/alerts (note that you’ll need to have a Google login or create a free account to use the service). For each alert, you need to decide the following:
- Search Terms. This can be as simple as entering the property address in quotations. For example: “3537 N. Broadway Avenue”. You may also want to set up another alert if there are alternate ways your address may appear, for example including the abbreviation for “Avenue” (making the alert active for: “3537 N. Broadway Ave”) or including the town (such as: “3537 N. Broadway Ave, Shawnee”). Using quotations around the search terms will help filter the results.
- Type of information to search. This tells Google which information to include in its search (Everything, News, Blogs, Web, Video, Groups) Setting this to “everything” will include all types of search results.
- How often the alert should be sent (as-it-happens, once a day, once a week). Google will send notifications only when it actually finds new material in the top 20 (web)/10 (news) results, so you won’t be getting messages unless there’s something to report.
- Volume. This setting determines how many results you see in each alert.
Caveat: Google Alerts are not guaranteed to be 100% foolproof or reliable. And since it only sends alerts when new pages enter into the top searches means they may not be an exhaustive result for every term. However, they’re a great place to start to help create awareness!
I hope this information is useful. Let me know if you run across something interesting about your property!