GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
Do these two Linkedin photos look like mug shots to you?
A real BONNIE AND CLYDE don’t you think?
Okay folks you will get a kick out of this one. Two weeks ago I got a call from an irate homeowner stating that we did a winterization on their property. That we did not have permission to go into their home and things were stolen and they were going to prosecute us to the fullest extent of the law. Now of course we take these threats seriously, but I asked what is the address. Once the address was given I checked my inventory and I stated we have never been to that property and do not have any other information for them. The man hung up on me and I thought that was going to be that right?
Wrong! I get another call from this man’s father two days later and he started going off again about the same thing. I again stated we do not have that property, I am sorry this has happened to you but we know nothing about their situation and cannot help. I advised them to call the name on the front of home if it was a foreclosure and the name on the winterization sticker. The man stated the name on the winterization sticker was MSI. Also stated a sticker on front of door was Safeguard. He went on how the companies stated we did the work. I then laughed due to the craziness of this and stated Sir, we do not work for MSI and have never done Winterizations for Safeguard. He apologized then and stated he was sorry but they were upset and when they were told our names they wanted to have us arrested. I asked him to tell me the names of the people at the companies who fingered us and he said he will have to call me back or have his son call me back. He again apologized and hung up. I was dumbfounded by the nerve of a company to say my companies name worked for them when we never did.
Of course no one called me back that day to tell me who told them we did the work. However I did get a visit at my home in the evening from a police officer who asked if they could come in and ask some questions about the property in question(which is a county we don’t normally do work in ).
I being t he nice polite southern girl I am said, of course officer come in have a seat, would you like some sweet tea? He stated politely that he would not like any and then he stated he wanted me to call the detective on the case on the phone and speak to him on this issue and that he had to stay while we talked.
I again said that’s make yourself at home and then I called. By now my Daughter has come down the stairs and sees the police office and asks me if everything is okay and I assured her it was. I told her to relax and go finish her homework. I then called the Detective and he answered. I told him who I was and asked him how I could be of service. He first said, “would you like to come downtown so I can ask you questions or would you rather do it over the phone?” I stated “over the phone is fine.” So he preceded to ask me about the same property the two previous gentleman called me on. He stated that he has positive identification of My husband and I being on that property on the date in question. (Which was a Saturday).
I asked him how they had positive identification. He said they pointed me out in a mug shot. I said WHAT?
Up until now I was being pretty hospitable and cooperative, when I heard this I basically got super serious in my tone and stated, “Who told you we worked for those companies and who stated they saw us?” He responded that he was the one that found our MUGSHOT(????) on Linkedin. He Googled Property Preservation and found us in KY in this area. He said that he found our photos on Linked IN and showed the owner and they positively identified us as the culprits that stole their stuff out of the home.
I continued with my questioning: “Who saw us and what is their names? What date did they see us? and What time? He stated the people who identified us saw us on the previous Saturday at 11am. I again couldn’t believe the ignorance and the gall of someone to Google a company that does property preservation and go to their PROFESSIONAL website to print out their “MUG SHOT” to show someone to identify them as the culprits who robbed them.
I then informed the nice detective that we were in OHIO at a soccer tournament with our son and daughter and we were gone from 7am til 1230pm. I also knew the judge as a friend in his town and stated that I will be giving her a call to speak with her about the habit of officers Googling and pulling photos off line and showing them to distressed homeowners who want someone to pay for their loss.
He immediately told me that he appreciated my time and stated that we were cleared of any wrong doing and that he apologized for bothering me. I gave him another ear full about how unprofessional and how something like this could hurt my business or someone else’s business due to the legal system trying to go with the first person they find that this could be pinned on.
I told him that if I find out that this has hurt me in any way by reputation or by my social networking I will be back in touch.
He assured me it wouldn’t and again apologized. We then hung up and the nice officer that felt bad standing and waiting in my home apologized as well and left my home. I thanked him for his patience and hope this will teach them to not speculate about professional mug shots on LinkedIn.
This was horrible. This can happen to any of us. I had friends who wanted to delete all their social networking because of this but I informed them that the information is out there online forever. As long as you have done nothing wrong and can prove it you will be fine. However, I never in a million years thought I would get a visit from an officer based on my picture in LinkedIn and based on the industry I work in.
This has opened my eyes more to the lack of knowledge the everyday homeowner, legal Professionals and regular citizens have about our profession. I am still livid about this as it happened two weeks ago and I waited to write about it so I could cool down and not turn into the Southern South Carolina Redneck that I could have turned into.
I am very proud of myself. I kept my wits and I made some statements that made the officer question his whole way of looking people up online, but there are many more out there. It could be your company next. The other thing that made me mad is my daughter had to see an officer in our home and I missed half of my sons baseball game….that’s what bothered me the most. I will never get that time back.
So I pose these questions to you: How can you be guilty until proven innocent? How can an officer Google an area and find a Professional and reputable company and get their photos, call them mug shots and show them to distressed homeowners? How can this lead to you being identified as the perpetrator? How can we protect ourselves from this kind of issue as professionals? eliminating all social networking? removing all traces of photos online? Should we hide from people intended to do us harm?
Please if there are any more stories like this out there I would love to know we are not alone. There is a first time for everything and this was our first mistaken identity. However, due to the corruptness, distrust and incompetence in our industry I am afraid it won’t be our last.
In closing I plan to continue as we always have done. Perform our work with integrity, honesty and use only those vendors that have the same moral compass we do. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. It’s now bringing Social Media as an identifying source to legal professionals. Is this good or bad? In our case it was bad but overall…..the jury’s still out.
Workman Home Repairs, Inc
“Capital Repairs, Inspections, and Property Preservation”