Original feedback from user:
Just FYI. We are U.S. expats living in Mexico, trying to sell a home in Leander, Texas. I suppose you have made it impossible for people with IP addresses outside the U.S. to use your service because you are fearful of swindlers, but I just want you to know that you are also losing legitimate business (ours, for example). I can imagine some circumstances in which I might limit access in the same way, but I can’t imagine how a swindler could use a website for listing real estate to defraud people. So I suspect that the configuration of your website is not based on mature reflexion. You are preventing every military family stationed overseas from using your service, as well as an expat community that is probably larger than you realize. If I were you, I would not trust the knee-jerk reflex of a programmer who has never done an objective study of the risks of allowing users outside the U.S. Sometimes people’s emotional reflexes are not reliable and in this case shrink the range of potential customers unnecessarily
Since the user who wrote the feedback didn’t leave an email address, I’d like to address this issue here because I’m sure there are other users who have had the similar questions and frustrated by it.
First of all, I agree with the user that blocking everybody outside US is not a perfect solution. Legit homeowners are shunned away from the service. That being said, we chose to implement this not because it’s an easy duct tape solution, but it helps to reduce spam and protect homeowners tremendoualy. Let me explain.
Real estate scam is a serious problem. Living in a digital age, we enjoy the benefit of readily available information online, but we also sacrifice our privacy to some degrees, sometimes without even realizing. I’ll give you one example. One of my good friend living in another state bought a new home. With only his address, I was able to find out a lot of pictures from a real estate search engine site. He was absolutely shocked when I discuss his home as if I have been to the place. You might ask what harm can some pictures do? Bear in mind there is a lot more information about a property are available to public now than it has ever been. One can easily find a legit property with address, number of bedrooms, pictures, so on and so forth.
Now imagine with the information, a scammer chose a random home, create a fake for rent ad, and post it online. The familiar scheme goes like this: they’ll offer a low rent in the fake ad, as a matter of fact, much lower than the fair market price, and phish the innocent renters. Once someone shows some interest, they will make up a story about them being overseas and won’t be able to meet you in person. All of a sudden you are talking to some doctor who is curing the underprivileged kids on a religious mission somewhere far away from their property. After getting the trust from the renter, they’ll ask for a deposit before sending the keys. Now the story may be different, but they can always be summarized to the same old sh!t:
I can’t meet you, send me the money.
You wonder who would fall for this kind of scam? Well, scam is a serious business. And people behind it work VERY hard to cheat people. Persistence is one thing that they preserve. When you see the 10th African prince scam in your email inbox you probably wonder why they are still doing this. The fact is that they do this because someone still falls for it. And when this happens, the scammer almost always got away.
Besides the people who got scammed, how about those legit home owners? How will they feel about having a stream of people walking up and down their property and asking questions like “do you allow pets”?
Blocking access from outside US is a hard decision for us. But we believe it’s worth it. We may lose some business from the legit property owners, but a large amount of scams are also blocked. In this way, not only FindMyRoof becomes a safer web site, but also it helps to protect the privacy of the property owners.
Beside access blocking, we also have a lot of other measurement in place to detect, catch and block scam posts. This will be a whole new post on that subject. One thing I always mention is that you can also help by flagging ads that you think is scam. “Quality, not quantity” has always been out motto, and together, we can make it happen.