A website of suspicious origin is misusing the REALTOR® trademark in what seems to be an attempt to get money from real estate practitioners.
The site, Realtor-complaints.com, supposedly publishes consumer complaints about real estate agents. However, an investigation by the New Jersey Association of REALTORS® showed a string of complaints against its members, all using similar phrasing, which leads to suspicion that the complaints are not legitimate.
Not only that, when agents who have been the subject of a complaint attempt to make contact, the site offers them the “opportunity” to pay to have the complaint and have their name removed from the site. NAR legal staff checked the WHOIS record for the site and discovered it’s hosted on servers located in the Seychelles. NAR found that the site was recorded as having been initially registered on Jan. 1, 2013, making the site’s claim of having been around since 2002 very suspect.
NAR has received a number of calls from members who’ve been informed, via e-mail, that their name is listed at the site. NAR attorneys are investigating and, if necessary, will take steps to have the site shut down. But it’s important to approach with caution any service that claims to either track or burnish one’s reputation.
Online reputation management—and reputation trashing—is a growing enterprise, and there are simple steps one can take to manage one’s reputation online:
- Make sure all profiles (on social media sites, at REALTOR.com, and so on) are complete, up to date, and consistent.
- Be proactive in asking customers for reviews in legitimate forums, such as Yelp and LinkedIn.
- Search Google and Yahoo for one’s name and company name. Save each search as a browser favorite and check them daily.
- Sign up for Google to be notified when one’s name appears in a search. Also set up alerts for variations of the name, company name, and other keywords.
- Ask customers where they’ve gone to search for information about real estate and other professionals.
- Correct errors quickly. Immediately contact the website and be willing to prove the case with information from the MLS or other sources. But don’t be tempted to pay to have information removed.