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.