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MindMyHouse News 14 Feb 2007

by Susan Holtham, 14th February 2007

Check out this second anniversary edition (number sixteen) of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: take a look at us now that we are two years old!; ‘look mum, I’m on the radio!’ where to find us in the media; stupid fraudsters attempt to fool our members with spam scams; we are forced to take action as the AOL saga deepens; and finally, how to reduce the amount of mail you receive from us.

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2007

Dear MindMyHousies,
What a time we have had of it lately! This e-newsletter finds us in sunny Queensland, Australia enjoying a sandy, hot holiday at the beach with extended family. After five years in the UK it is wonderful to be back DownUnder! Happy Australia Day for the 26 January everybody! (OK that’s enough of a patriotic splurge for us – I must adjust the tone of this e-newsletter back to fit our international membership.)

Our daughter at the beach

Yes we survived the 26-hour flight from London to Brisbane, Australia via Singapore. The girls (three and three months) did remarkably well, although we are starting to fear the worst for Teddy who hasn’t shown up amongst our stuff yet. Hopefully we don’t sound too vague as we are feeling rather drowsy in this relentless heat under the whirr of ceiling fans. But enough about the weather!

After some choice media exposure recently the site has suddenly become very busy (with over 300 new members joining on 20 January alone!) What was a hobby has now become a job demanding serious hours of work every day so we are simultaneously excited and exhausted by the direction the MindMyHouse project is taking.

Check out this second anniversary edition (number sixteen) of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: take a look at us now that we are two years old!; ‘look mum, I’m on the radio!’ where to find us in the media; stupid fraudsters attempt to fool our members with spam scams; we are forced to take action as the AOL saga deepens; and finally, how to reduce the amount of mail you receive from us.

Take a look at us now we that we are two years old!

It’s great being two! It took us a full eleven months for 1000 members to join MindMyHouse (and that was largely due to my…erm…direct marketing campaign) but now a year later we have over 4000 members! Wowsa! Due to some choice media exposure in the past month we now have a new record for member registrations that exceeds the previous one by 600%. Over three hundred new good folks joined us on 20 January alone! We are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the new stepped-up demand for customer support but really our dams are not bursting here at MindMyHouse. Our database is big enough to accommodate all of the world’s aspiring house sitters. Come one, come all! Home owner registrations were also up by 600% last month. We hope you have individually felt the heat from all of these needy new home owner members.

If you will forgive the rather boorish human tendency to blow one’s own trumpet; here goes: we are now routinely found in the top ten when searching for our keywords (house sitter, house sitting, house sit) through a search engine. And a sweet victory was felt when we recently read a new sitter available advert published at our competitor’s site, www.housecarers.com, that said ‘see our profile at mindmyhouse2.localhost:8888’. To all of our members that also pay a membership fee to advertise at www.housecarers.com (and there are plenty of you) – we love you all but have been a tad disappointed in the past to read the equivalent message in your sitter available adverts on our site.

‘Look mum, I’m on the radio!’ Where to find us in the media

It seems that you can’t turn the radio on these days without hearing about MindMyHouse…OK so it’s not like that but the good folks listening to American National Public Radio (NPR) on 19 January did hear my squeaky voice for all of nine seconds in a short piece about house sitting worldwide. Apparently the story went out at ‘drivetime’ or some such and caught listeners stuck in the Friday night jam trying to get home. A great time to hear a story about the possibilities for escaping the mundane! It must have worked as we now have at least 600 new members due to that single mention of our site’s name alone. Welcome to our NPR-listening new members!

Hear the NPR story

Before the NPR story broke we had a significant mention in a full-page illustrated spread in the Financial Times (London) that was published 16 December. Three of the four people who were quoted in the story were MindMyHouse members. Gosh…I’m so proud of our articulate and generous members who got in touch with the journalist themselves and volunteered their time to get into print. Well done! As I said in a thank you email to them, the more MindMyHouse is known around the world the better the service will work for all of our members!

Read the Financial Times article

We have subsequently had requests from two more journalists who would like to hear from our members (both house sitters and home owners) about their experiences of the weird and wonderful world of house sitting worldwide.

If you have been inspired to help spread the good word about MindMyHouse and live or have had a house sitting assignment in either Wales, UK or the state of Wisconsin, USA then please email or phone the following journalists to register your interest:

Angela Powell
BBC Radio Wales
Email: (email us at support@mindmyhouse.com for this address)
Phone: 02920 322944
Web: www.bbc.co.uk

Chris Martell
Wisconsin State Journal
Email: (email us at support@mindmyhouse.com for this address)
Phone: 608-252-6179
Web: www.madison.com

Stupid fraudsters attempt to fool our members with spam

You may have read a recent email we posted out to our entire membership warning that a few ne’er-do-wells were sending out fraudulent emails to our house sitter members in an attempt to gain money by deception. This situation has us completely riled!

At best it’s annoying for our members to have to delete emails that may seem to be just laughable attempts at deception. At worst, those who fall for these scams can be left financially poorer for their experience and have to deal with the emotional consequences of having been deceived and robbed.

We are able to get some satisfaction from pursuing those people who would use our site to try to deceive our members. Not only can we ban these losers from using our service again, when we inform their internet providers and their email service providers of their criminal activity they are usually excluded from both services. Good riddance!

We are hoping that we have been able to raise awareness about these common scams among our entire membership. Here’s to a well-informed MindMyHouse membership deleting those pesky emails with a chuckle. Goodbye fraudster!

If you do receive a suspicious email from someone pretending to be a home owner member please forward it to me (with the option to ‘show all headers’ turned on in your email program if you can). We love to deal harshly with these people!

If you feel like having a bit of fun with the following four losers who have taken out fake home owner registrations with us, feel free to indulge in the popular activity of ‘scam-baiting’ and write to them with a scam of your own. Note that it’s not a good idea to use your usual email address to write to them with as they will only add it to their list for future bulk email posts.

Number one loser:
scottssstores@yahoo.com
fmostores@yahoo.com
fmosssstores@yahoo.com
frankmsstores@yahoo.com
david_hood002@yahoo.com

Number two loser:
mrjohnabraham01@yahoo.com
cariesanow_07@yahoo.com

Number three loser:
mikkythom@allracing.com
mikkythom@netzero.net
jenniferbetis02@yahoo.com

Latest and greatest number four loser:
williamslawfirmtg1@yahoo.com

We are forced to take action as the AOL saga deepens

Our dramas with AOL seem to be becoming more intractable. Since I started writing on this topic in the fourteenth edition of MindMyHouse News we have found out more about why our mail starting bouncing from a suspiciously large number of AOL account users a few months back. It seems that because five MindMyHouse members chose to report bulk mail from us as spam to their service provider, AOL, the American behemoth decided to take drastic action against us. With the bluntest anti-spam tool available, AOL had blacklisted all of the legitimate websites (around 100+ sites) who use our particular internet service provider as spammers and are sporadically blocking mail from all of these sites, including ours. Oh dear.

We are sorry to say that due to this situation we have had to cancel our AOL-users’ (180 house sitter members) ‘all countries’ email alert and unsubscribe them from our e-newsletter. To prevent our web hosting provider from being penalised further by this web giant we have also had to prevent new member registrations by those people who want to use an AOL address.

We would love nothing more than to be able to send email alerts to our members who use an AOL email address (as we do unproblematically to the 94% of our members who use other email account providers). Should the situation change we will automatically re-create our AOL-users’ ‘all countries’ alert and resume sending their alerts out to them as normal. We hope we can one day!

In the meantime, it’s easy to create a Yahoo, Gmail or similar email account specifically to use where an AOL account is not practical. For advice on how to change the email address you use with your MindMyHouse account please see the following FAQ:

1. I’ve got a new email address. Can I use this new address to login?

2. A survey of the range of email service providers in the following archived edition of MindMyHouse News:

Our members who currently use an AOL email account are welcome to create their own customised alerts. For advice on how to do this please see the following FAQ:

3. What is an email alert? How I create/delete/edit my email alert?

Please be assured that our AOL-users are still able to login to their MindMyHouse account areas and use most of our site features (including searching for house sitting assignments and contacting home owners) with their existing AOL email address. The only thing they won’t be able to do is receive email from us, and that may include receiving messages from home owners who use our contact form system to contact house sitter members.

We apologise for any confusion this situation may cause. A large number of websites who also send their members bulk mail have had this same problem with AOL and have had to take these same steps. Please blame AOL, not us!

How to reduce the amount of mail you receive from us

MindMyHouse is getting so busy now – it seems that we have a new sitter wanted listing published to our site every day! We realise that you may not enjoy receiving an email alert from us in your inbox most days. While some of our members seem to to love at least reading about all the house sitting opportunities coming through MindMyHouse (as a pleasurable form of armchair tourism), others view these alerts as a nuisance.

Never fear! It’s easy to reduce the numbers of email alerts (and other mail) you receive from us. For advice on how to cancel your ‘all countries’ alert and create your own email alert please see this FAQ.

It’s also a walk in the park to unsubscribe from our monthly e-newsletter, MindMyHouse News, by following the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of your next email from us.

If you would like to have your account suspended (rather than deleted) just get in touch and I can put your account on hold for you by stopping all mail from us and hiding your sitter available listing for you. Of course, you can do all this for yourself if you would prefer.

Finally, can we ask that you never report mail from us as spam to your email service provider. As a MindMyHouse member you have complete control over how much mail and the type of mail you receive from us. We promise!

Happy house sitting (or best of luck with your sitters!)

Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!