Being a Check-In Sheriff on Foursquare
Tuesday, 08 February 2011 01:15

Foursquare Check-In FighterBeing a "traveller", I have really started to take to the Foursquare platform and app.  It has it's pro's and con's, but mostly I really like it for a few reasons.  First, I use it to find new "unique" places in close proximity.  When I "Check-In" to the venue, I peruse the tips and pictures to see what regulars like.  If I enjoy my time there, I usually look at some of the "mayorships" of the good tipsters, and when in the same area, I will patronize some of the places they go.  Overall, it turns your travels into a video game.  There are "points" for checking in, discovering new places, and hidden badges for frequent check-in style awards.

Living in a remote area, ie. the Village of Erin, I have been diligently adding venues, and checking into them. There is minimal foursquare activity in my area at the moment, and part of that has to be that some of the frequent venues aren't listed. 
One day, I was randomly ousted as the "Mayor" from a venue (Grocery Store) I added a couple days previous, that I had just become mayor of.  Perplexed, I looked at the person's profile and saw that they were a "power user", ie. lots of check-ins, few days out, and very few friends.

A few weeks go by, and then they add me as a friend.  I become one of their 3 friends, though they have 600 check ins in 45 days.

A day later, I begin to get alerts of check ins at times I know the venue is closed (local deli) and even during a snowstorm, at a ridiculously early hour, at a fairgrounds that is locked tight with padlocks and chains (Drive-by's).
I look at her profile and see duplicate venues for her house, and multiple checkins and mayorships...for her house, house in a fake location and her mailbox.

Because she "ousted me" at times that the venues are closed, I slowly became perturbed.

I looked all over foursquare and the internet for a method to report someone for Fake Check-Ins.  Unfortunately, as according to support,  "We're working on improving controls against fake check-ins to prevent false mayorships and badge jumpers and a way for users to identify and self-police inappropriate use."

Tip off of a Fake Check-In on Foursquare

I soon surmised that there's no reporting method, so I took matters into my own hands.  I posted a tip on both of her houses, talking about how i was going to fake check-in and become the mayor of her houses, and then left a tip asking what was going on at the closed venue during a snowstorm.

She removed all her houses, kept the mailbox, then ENGAGED me with a tip posting, asking me what business it was of mine about what was going on at the closed venue at 7:30am during a snowstorm.

Tip Exchange with a Fake Check-in Person on Foursquare

I then took things waaay far and posted tips on all of her local mayorships (about 6 of the 29) about "Beware this user", posting pics of her profile showing the profile web address, engaging dialog in the tips, pointing out that she was chronically in violation of the Foursquare "House Rules" and Terms of Service.  It was my hope that if a venue was handling the account on foursquare, that they could oust her from the venue manually.

She retaliated with claims of legitimacy, I returned with summarized documented accusations.  I finally posted a tip stating, "Delete your profile, start over with legitimate check-ins and I will delete the tip postings".
Detailed list of Fake Check-ins Posted as a Tip

At this point, this had escalated to extremes.  She emailed me off my site stating that I was harassing her, and she was going to handle it with legal action, especially as I had posted her address (eeek!).  My feeling was that she had made her address public, I was acting as a Foursquare "Legit Check-in Crusader", and as she was in major violation of "House Rules" and Terms of Service, I was in the right.

However, after noticing that some of the tips during our exchanges she had removed (calling me names), and the deletion of duplicate venues (a big no-no to have), I began to see how crazy the situation had become, and wondered why things had changed so quickly.

I deleted my related tips and pictures, she followed suit, and we began an exchange of nice-it-ies.  
It turns out, a vast majority of the problems stemmed from her Blackberry.  It wouldn't let her check in in places she was in (known problem), and kept adding venues miles from where they were, and overall acting wonky...which took me back to the time when I was a Blackberry Guy (7-years).  The GPS usually tri-angulates off of cell towers, which is a major problem for GPS API, stuff, so....ooops!
Now, we both were at fault, but at least I have learned a few great lessons for Foursquare as it begins to take off.  For future people that are ousted over perceived "Fake Check-ins", I've created an "unofficial" way to handle it:

The "Un-Official Way" to Handle "Fake Check-Ins" on Foursquare

a) If you suspect someone of fake check-ins, and that matters to you because of mayorship or ethics, "Friend" Them, and Foursquare will email you of their check-ins instantly, and you'll have record of their times and dates

b) Comment their tips with a question to see if they are posing as legitimate or not

c) Contact them through Foursquare if at all possible before proceeding (maybe it was legitimate error or grave misunderstanding)

d) If you can find a random place like their "My House" or "My work" where they are the sole check-in and mayor, that's the best place to leave tips to contact them to see if they are sincere or not

e) Report chronic Fake Check-in Users using the OFFICIAL FOURSQUARE REPORT FORM (which I couldn't find until it was waaay too late)

f) Begin commenting tips with pics on venues they are Mayors of in effort to alert the venue manager to oust them...but beware it doesn't violate "House Rules" and Terms of Service, ie. negative tips

g) Keep sane.  Don't be a stalker. But attempting to police Foursquare to keep your venues safe is currently in your hands, but you must remain within the law, online and otherwise!
How did it all end for me?  I deleted all my tips and pics, she deleted her double venues and negative tips, we shared a laugh over one of the names she gave me.  We didn't "re-friend", but I wouldn't object in reality because our case was more of a misunderstanding, and aside and even including the above, she leaves entertaining tips.  



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