Thursday, October 17, 2013

Removing Your Mugshot From Websites

By Mike Munter
It's bad enough being arrested, but it's even worse to find your mugshot plastered on public websites like  Worse still is when your mugshot appears when you search for your name in Google. For job seekers, business people, and anyone concerned about their online image, having a mugshot appear in a Google search can be costly.

You can get your mugshot image removed from these sites by paying a fee - I've seen quotes between $30 to $2,000 PER SITE! I called and asked what the fee is to remove a mugshot. After a long statement that sounded like it was being read from a company memo (or maybe from memory), I was quoted $399 for permanent removal of a mugshot from the site.

Sounds like extortion doesn't it?

Unfortunately, as long as state laws allow for public distribution of arrest records, sites like this one can continue to freely upload information and charge a fee to remove it. Here in Oregon, House Bill 3467 now requires mugshot website owners to remove photographs for free, when requested in writing. Hopefully, other states will follow suit.

Google Takes Action Against Mugshot Websites, Too

But hope might be on the horizon. In an October 3-4, 2013 algorithmic update, Google has taken action against these websites. Although I couldn't find specific mention of an official "mugshot algorithm update" from Google, I recommend you read this in-depth New York Times article which talks about how the update is already affecting what mughots we see in Google search results.

The article has spurred wholesale change as it reports that MasterCard, VISA, Paypal, Discover, and American Express are urging their merchant banks to stop accepting payments from these types of sites. This could leave these money-hungry extortionist website owners in a position to find other ways to collect revenue.

My Take

You can probably tell how I feel about people who prey on the mistakes of others in order to make money. I think it's disgusting. I don't know how they sleep at night, but I guess if you're unconscious, you're always asleep.

No matter how these scammers want to spin what they are doing, the bottom line is they use fear as their weapon and extort money from people - guilty or innocent - in order to make a profit.

As legislation, Google updates, and financial constraints could put sites like out of business, reputation management firms like mine will lose a little business, too. And I think that's great. I love when the greater good is served and cheap money-making schemes are eliminated.

There is plenty of business out there to be had from people who have legitimate online reputation issues that need to be corrected. If you're one of them, we offer a private consultation at 503-890-6663. I hope you've found this article helpful and wish you the best in keeping your online image sparkling!

SIDE NOTE: Not too far from extortionist mugshot websites are sites like that provide a forum for anyone (real or fake) to say anything (true or false) about you or your business. Maybe we'll one day see some legislation or a Google update that strips them of their income potential, as well. In the mean time, you might enjoy reading and listening to this Ripoff Report Case Study.

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