If you have not heard of them, mugshots.com (and a number of related sites) have been running a scam for about the last year. These sites go to local police, sheriff and local court sites and download the mugshots and personal information of anyone arrested. They then post these mugshots and the individuals’ information on their web site which search engines pick up and rate very highly. Consequently, if someone does an Internet search, these mugshots and arrest info comes up on the first page. This can affect and damage anyone applying for a job, or trying to rent, etc.
Mugshots.com will remove your record for a fee of $499. I had a client do just that a few weeks ago (before he spoke with me) and the next day he found his mugshot on two more sites. When he called to complain to the new site he said he could hear the person he paid off the day before talking in the background. It seems like many of these sites are connected to each other.
While the victims of this scam have been crying out for relief, until recently there was little they could do. Their arrest record and mugshot are a matter of public record. Therefore, anyone is free to access the information. Further, posting the information on the Internet was not defamation because it was truthful.
The legal community is not happy with this company. While they are just inside the letter of the law, their actions smack of a classic blackmail scheme – “Pay us off or we will embarrass you.” I have named this strategy e-Blackmail and I am on a personal crusade to stop these sites.
Recently, some states have passed legislation to force the sites to remove the mugshots of those individuals who have had their charges dropped, etc., and these states provide severe punishment to the web site for ignoring the procedure. I know that both Florida and Georgia have passed statutes – as I am sure other states have or are in the process of creating new laws. Further, there is currently a class action lawsuit filed in Ohio to try and stop this business strategy entirely.
If you are a victim of this scam, contact a knowledgeable lawyer to help you get your mugshot removed.
As the title of this blog suggests, there is a similar scam being perpetrated by ex-lovers. They post naked pictures of their Ex and ask for money to have them removed. Fortunately, in this scenario there is much the victim can do. These pictures are an invasion of privacy, and maybe a copyright violation. Web sites will usually take these pictures down without question if contacted through their customer service email.
If the site does not respond, contact a knowledgeable lawyer to help you get your pictures removed.