In today’s digital age, it is easier than ever before to access information about another person. Such access can be helpful when deciding whether a particular individual should be hired or just trusted, in general. The downside, however, is that the information that is often available may be misleading, incomplete, or damaging. In some cases, this is entirely intentional, and, authorities say, little more than an extortion scheme designed to profit from other people’s misfortune.
This week, four men were arrested for their connection to a website that publishes mugshots and then attempts to extract payment in exchange for the mugshots’ removal. The men were arrested on warrants issued in California, but the scheme has allegedly victimized people across the country.
The charges are connected to a website called Mugshots.com—a site that purportedly exists to notify the public of arrests. According to police officials, however, the site is actually an extortion scheme. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that the site owners publish mugshots obtained from public records and post them on the site, along with fairly basic information about each arrestee, some of whom were never formally charged.
The photos remain on the website, often with outdated information—such as showing a person to be on parole when his parole actually ended months or years prior—until the individual contacts a sister site, Unpublisharrest.com to have the information removed. But, there is a catch. A person looking to have his or her photo removed from the site is asked to pay a large fee for the service. Many people have actually paid the site in an attempt to prevent the postings from hampering job-search efforts and other reputation concerns.
One man who was named in the court filings said he was asked to pay $399. When he spoke to a representative to inform the site that he had been cleared of all charges and that the practice of charging for pulling the photos down was illegal, he was allegedly berated and told that he had “been permanently published.”
Another individual said the site tried to charge him $2,000 to have his photo taken down and another $15,000 to have his arrest profile scrubbed from the site. “This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This is exploitation, plain and simple.” Becerra’s office estimates that the site collected more than $2 million in removal fees from some 5,700 people nationwide.
Clearing Your Record the Right Way
If you have been arrested in the past and you are concerned about how your record could affect your ability to find a job or affordable housing, contact an experienced Joliet expungement and record sealing attorney. We will help you explore your options and work with you in building the future you deserve. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.