Internet Referral Programs
I received a call the other day from one of those Internet referral agencies. It was not at all what I expected. As usual, I listened to the sales pitch to see if I can pick up a detail or two I am not already doing myself for free. She kept mentioning gathering information from the Internet. As I asked questions I began to see, she was selling me a service that would make me an accessory to Internet theft. Once I mentioned that to her, she insisted, either I become a subscriber, or loose my business. Has Internet theft crossed the bridge to extortion?
I looked into those marketing companies. They use terms like using the latest technology to gather information, establish patterns, create reports, identify leads, and some of them call it Internet mining. What is amounts to is using spyware to gather and sell information. A light went off. Suddenly I could see how I work with buyers for weeks and just as they are ready to buy, another agent calls out of the blue and using high pressure sales techniques, talks buyers into dumping me and instantly signing a contract to buy a house they later regret.
HAS THAT HAPPENED TO YOU?
I also see this happening on listings. I get a request from my website to show a listing, and the new buyer either doesn’t show up, or like the last one, I show up and another agent is showing my new lead the property. I called the last buyer and asked what happened. She told me an agent called her and scheduled an earlier appointment.
As I thought about Internet theft, I could see how serious this really is. Those people hold lives and businesses in their hands. They see everything on hard drives and nothing is stopping them from stealing customer lists from your hard drive and selling it off to the highest bidder. Internet theft has accounted for the loss of more jobs, closed more businesses, and caused more foreclosures than any other factor. Internet theft is ruining the economy, this country, and is against the Real Estate Ethics Code.
BUT WHO IS DOING ANYTHING TO STOP IT?
Here is Wisconsin, it is against the law to pay for real estate referrals. But that’s not the way lawmakers look at Internet theft. But what is the thief doing? Selling referrals by selling off your customer base.
ARE YOU NEXT?
The next move looks like it involves threats. Pay for their services or they will drive you out of businesses. Is there really honor among that type of thief? The US government says they will never negotiate with terrorist. We have a new brand of Internet terrorism in the market. It is Internet thieves extorting fees from honest Real Estate Agents, Brokers, and anyone operating an honest business. You know those people will sell of your customer list to the highest bidder in a heartbeat if you pay or not. Where do we go from here? Every person running for every office across this country relies on Internet thieves to get elected. Who can we turn to?