Email Spam How to Avoid It

One of the worst aspects about the Internet is all that spam email. In Real Estate it seems we are targets for spam emails, especially those containing viruses. Major viruses usually hit major banks for some reason. Since real estate agents deal with banks on a day to day basis, that may be one of the reasons. Let’s talk about Internet and email security.

I use Thunderbird as an email server program. They are very good at identifying spam email and viruses attached to emails. Thunderbird has an option I use. I take the spam email address and have everything from that address dumped into the junk folder. I must have 300 addresses in that system.

I found out a few years ago how I was loosing customers. I used gmail as an email account for some time. But as soon as I buyers were getting close to writing an offer, some other agent would jump in, knowing how much the buyer was qualified to borrow and a few details about what they were looking for. Put 2 and 2 together and what do you come up with? Internet thieves.

Some Real Estate Agents advertise on websites with search engines for people to search for homes. I’ve paid for advertising on those sites. They send agents leads, information on buyers looking for homes. Sounds good on the surface, but where do those websites get their information from?

Every lead I ever received from those websites was a customer I was already working with. How did those companies get the buyer’s information? From the emails we exchanged. I sent them out using gmail at the time, which is like sending out emails for anyone to read. Gmail sells your emails off to anyone with a nickle.

Once I noticed the patterns, looked at some information on the Internet, and asked the company exactly where they got their leads from, the answer was shocking. Leads are collected from unidentified overseas sources. What is that? I envisioned a guy in Russia sitting around in his underwear with a program that intercepts, and scrubs emails looking for information to sell. Then I thought, what about ISIS? They use the Internet to recruit people. They are so advanced in computer software, no government can trace their location, and neither can anyone else. The government went to Google, the experts on tracing computers. The best minds in the world can’t find where ISIS is operating from.

Whose to say ISIS is not selling information to real estate advertising companies. That threat was enough for me to drop all the Internet advertising and lead generation services.

Back to emails. I can communicate with most businesses in the real estate industry with no problems. Some title companies are very advanced in security as are most banks. I only use my secured server email address, which is very difficult to intercept. Everything is safe until we get close to the closing. Most customers use gmail, yahoo, and other free email services. The moment I sent them closing statements for review, my email is flooded with all kinds of spam emails containing some of the worst viruses in the world. I get emails from all over the world. You have to know how to identify where the email was sent from. I know the local offices I work with do not have information sent from overseas. I have to know what is legitimate and what is spam, and what is a virus. These days I have to explain to people, bring the check to the closing. Do not send any money to anyone without first checking with me. Free email services may sound great, but they are public information and have to be treated as such. You have to be extra careful these days. Explaining Internet security has become a part of the services Real Estate Agents should be discussing with their clients.

Another security flaw I’ve seen is texting. Read the agreement in you texting app on your phone. They can collect and sell all the information in your texts and on your phone, That’s why I do not use my phone for email. Some agents want me to text them the lock box number for a house I am listing. NEVER! I will never take that risk. I talked to some people about making a law forbidding agents from sending lock box information using text messages. All I get back is, everyone does it. Well not me. I take my clients security and confidentiality seriously.

In Real Estate, I use my computer everyday. I look for the best free products that work, are easy to use, and are stable. Not to mention, do not add unwanted features to my computer. The following products I have used, tested, customized, and found they work.

Best Computer Products for Free

I have to start this list with Linux, the Ubuntu system. I’ve been on Windows since the old DOS system, but changes and the agreement on Windows 10 forced me to change. I don’t know about you, but I like to get my computer working the way it should, and leave it that way. We are in the day and age of forced updates. Unfortunately, most of those updates introduce things we don’t want on our computers, better, more efficient spy-ware, passed off as a feature that will enhance your Internet experience. Linux has the only answer I know of for that. No one can add anything to your system without the proper key. You are in control of updates, and you make the decisions. That is not to say Linux is perfectly safe. Watch out for what you add to your computer. Browsers add features that share your browsing experience. Other programs can add other spy-ware features. I hear Apple computers are also rather safe, but I never tried an Apple computer.

Linux is great if you know a few basics about programming. If you can work with simple codes, you are good to go. There is one minor hang up with Linux. Many programmers assume everyone knows programming and the step by step procedure. Some programmers assume you can fill in the blanks, and that can confuse a beginner. Or should I say, a beginner can get lost, confused, and frustrated. It happened to me a few times. On the other side of the coin, with a little searching, you can find an article with the proper code on the screen you can copy and paste, and the step by step procedure to get the code installed.

Linux offers some of the best products over a wide range of programs. To edit pictures, Linux offers a number of choices. Gimp was made to work wit Linux, and is easy to install. And it is one of the most powerful photo editing programs for free.

The Linux installation includes a word processor that is one of the best in the business. Libre Office is powerful, easy to set up, customize, and best all free, and well supported by Internet articles. I love to write, and as you can see, I have a number of books published. Libre Office is very similar to Open Office and a lot better than any Word program from Windows. Libre comes with the Linux, Ubuntu installation and is easy to customize.

Linux has a CAD program I want to work with, but didn’t have the chance to look at it. Other features include Chromium, a web browser much like Chrome that imports your book marks, history, and everything from Chrome and Firefox. Once you are up and running, you won’t notice the difference Firefox also installs with Linux.

One note about Linux. Windows 10 will fight a Linux installation to its last dying breath. But it can be installed along side of Windows 10. At least for the moment. And any Windows 10 update my hide the hard drive partition that has Linux on it. Search the Internet for articles about Installing Linux on the same computer using Windows. There are some good step by step articles about how to partition your hard drive, set up your computer to choose the Linux operating system when it is started, and how to install it for the first time using either a CD or thumb drive. The sad part is, Windows 10 knows the steps and some of the latest updates I have seen try pretty hard to identify the Linux install and block it. Windows claims that is for your safety, but the truth of the matter is, Windows wants a bigger piece of the pie. What pie? The one I refer to as the dark market. The Internet market centered on stealing, and selling every scrap of information they can get from your computer. There ought to be a law against that, but governments are their biggest customers. When you check the tax return box to support election funds, you are supporting the latest technology in spyware. Political parties buy every shred of information on people so they can send them customized ads that are supposed to match the mood you are in at the time. It doesn’t matter what side of an issue a politician in on these days. Remember the old movies showing how a politician takes one side of an issue at one meeting place, and the opposite side of the issue across town on the same day? If you pay attention to the news, you see the same thing. Well now politicians can change sides on an issue at Internet speed. As soon as they find out your view on any issue, a computer customizes a choice selection of ads designed to pop up on every site you visit. If I find some good programs to block them, I’ll let you know. Firefox used to have some good apps to block your on line experience from prying eyes. Check them out and you may be surprised to see how well they work. Just search some like, “block tracking on… the name of the browser you use.”

E-sword, a free Bible program that will work fine after you install Wine, a program that links your Windows hard drive with Linux. Wine will run between your C drive on Windows, and your drive for Linux. The Windows operating system will not be running. Wine will allow Linux to access Windows programs and run them on a Linux system. E-sword, my favorite Bible computer program is free. It is a little quirky running through Wine, but works fine. E-sword is powerful, and has a list of free Bibles and reference material to download. You can download E-Sword here.http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html

Linux also has accounting programs, games, anti-virus programs, games, and other useful programs. Setting up a printer is not difficult. Most printers will support Linux. Wi-Fi printers require a little tweaking, and Wi-Fi scanning can be a chore. But there are plenty of articles on line. I tried a few accounting programs and I prefer GnuCash. It is easy to figure out and use. Much easier to print reports tham Microsoft Money was.

Gimp is the best photo editing program I have used, and works great on Linux. You can do anything with a picture with Gimp. I use Gimp to create my own book covers. There is a lot more you can do with Gimp. Gimp has great on line support with a long list of You-tube videos showing you exactly what to do. You can download Gimp from their website. https://www.gimp.org/downloads/

My favorite Anti-Spy-ware program is Spy-bot. They are the only anti-virus program I know of that has not gone commercial. In other words, gone over to the dark side of the spy-ware and data collection and sales side of the Internet. Spy-bot is free, easy to use, and you can purchase the full featured option at a much lower price than we see these days for other anti-virus programs. Here is a link to Spybot. https://www.safer-networking.org/dl/

Thunderbird is my favorite E-mail program that is easy to install, set up, and use. Again, there are easy to follow instructions on line. Ad ons include a calendar program that can link to your cell phone using Android and Google calendar. I wish I could go Google free, but it looks like we are stuck with them.

Of course you can listen to music on Linux. You can look at a few of the music programs and choose one that suits your taste.

If you really like Windows 7, there is a program you can install that lets you set up our computer to look just like Windows. It is amazing, and has more set up features than Windows offers. There are a number pf programs you can find by searching the Internet and doing a little research.

Master PDF Editor is a great program offering more features than anything I have seen in any Windows system. You can open PDF files, edit, and save them all for free. Not tricks or gimmicks. Just open the file, do what you want to do, and save it. Programs like this can be added to Linux through their own version of an online app and program store. Most are free and a lot of powerful, stable, user friendly than many of the Windows and Microsoft programs on the market. 

Free websites are another subject and I plan on adding a page to get into greater detail. I’ve been using Word-press for years. You can set up a professional looking website in a few hours. It has some powerful features, and lets you do just about anything. If you are thinking about going to a paid website, master WordPress for free before you spend the money. A paid Word-press site offers more advanced features, and may be a little intimidating. WordPress.com offers free websites. WordPress.org is for paid sites. 

Look for another post on the best Android apps for Real Estate.

I think I have to add, Linux, Libre Office, Gimp, Spybot. Microsoft, Windows, E-sword, Master PDF Editor and all the other names I mentioned are registered trade names. There are copy right laws, and I hope they don’t mind me using their logos. If you have an issue, check out my DCMA notice.