WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOUR NEIGHBOR TRIES TO EXTORT YOU?
by Andrew Chalk
Imagine you are working at your computer on a Sunday afternoon and suddenly you receive an email with an invoice attachment trying to extort money from you?
That is what happened to me when Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s realtor and resident in the same condo building Terri Brak Thomas saw this listing on Apartments.com and decided to invoice me for the use of some photos to which she claimed ownership.
I did not request, pay, authorize, or approve this listing. I don’t have any property for sale or lease. Obviously, this was the first I had heard of this page. I wrote back a short, clear statement of these facts and expected a quick apology for the error. After a long wait, nothing.
As a writer, I see misappropriated or unattributed work all the time. Usually it is an oversight, so the poster of the pictures, video, etc. will take them down, or correct the lack of attribution (if that is the requirement, as is the case on many photo gallery sites), when told of the issue. As the owners of YouTube will attest, even the law gives the poster of copyrighted material one chance to take such errors down before a crime has been committed.
I have never come across a demand for payment being the first resort of an aggrieved person. The reason for that is that if you get your facts wrong, such as threatening the wrong person, you are trying to extort money, and that is a crime.
So why would Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s Ms. Brak Thomas resort to that? There is some history. When I put my condo unit on the market some two years ago I did not contract with her or Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s as the listing agent. For some reason, known only to her, she feels entitled to that listing and so holds a grudge (still). I explained at the time that it was nothing personal. As I told other brokers, I did not think it was worth 6% (over $25,000) in payments just as a commission when other agents did it for half or less.
Of course, she represents Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s. I have made an inquiry to them to find out if this is consistent with corporate policy on how their name should be used. If not, I encourage them to persuade her to do the decent thing: apologize for her false claim and formally withdraw it.