The Internet is a hotbed of criminal behavior

It’s not safe to be on the internet, but that’s where business is coming from these days. Broker Teresa Boardman offers warning signs to watch out for and ideas to protect yourself from online predators.

Working with people we meet on the internet has never been safe. It’s also not safe to be on the internet, but that’s where business is coming from these days.

For years, my social media accounts and my blog have attracted all kinds. Some of them have been wonderful and incredible people, and others have been totally crazy and maybe even dangerous.

There are occasional harassing phone calls and text messages and a few threats here and there. Sometimes people have bad experiences buying or selling homes and are looking for someone to swear to. There is a constant stream of people sending unwanted private messages.

People who seem normal can become seriously unstable when something goes wrong. It’s easy for someone to impersonate a home buyer or seller.

Most of the security systems in place for real estate agents work after the fact. They can be used to let someone know that we have been murdered or abducted.

The internet is also full of frauds and scams. I guess you get used to it. I get text messages with inquiries about homes we have on the market. They have connections in them and are oddly worded.

People called me and asked me about clients. Once a reporter called for information about the owners of a house we had listed. He said he couldn’t find any contact information for the owners, but he found mine easily.

Most phone calls that come into the business line are spam or scams. I’ve blocked so many numbers that it’s hard to imagine anyone getting through. Most calls to my direct line come from “probable scam” and “suspected spam”.

There are invoices to my business from companies I’ve never heard of asking for payment for items I never ordered or received. Attached “bills” spread malware.

For a while I was getting fake notifications from Amazon about the orders I placed. Most have a phone number to call if there is a problem with the order. I think they want me to call and give them a credit card number. Big luck. The first time I received such an email, I logged into my Amazon account and there was no order.

Sometimes I just copy and paste the subject line of the scam email into Google, and I can find out all about the scam. Sometimes I get a legitimate email that I delete because it looks fake.

I stopped receiving these blackmail type emails with threats and delays in sending payment in bitcoin to avoid scandal. During tax season, offers of help were supposedly working with the IRS. Calls from bogus government agencies are common.

I also received a few fake closure notices every week. They are sent to the general email account. They even have warnings on them regarding wire fraud. Email addresses do not match those of any title company.

Data breaches are common these days. Email passwords should be passphrases and should be changed often. A company that has had a data breach also makes money by offering identity theft protection.

Blogs also generate a lot of spam. Every day I receive email proposals from people who want me to post content. They go back and ask for a response and wait for a response before I block them.

Spam blockers on my blog catch spam comments with links to properties for sale in foreign countries and advertisements for drugs, gambling and pornography.

Spam messages come through Facebook and, of course, friend requests from people impersonating other people.

There are frequent text messages from people or companies with leads. I don’t think any of them are legit, but I’ll never know because I usually block the number and delete the message.

The internet works 24 hours a day, which means we can be harassed 24 hours a day. I disconnect in “do not disturb” mode in the evening.

I interview legitimate callers. I ask question after question before giving anyone information on anything. I’m not helpful at all. I wouldn’t call myself.

Meeting people who found us on the Internet is not always safe. People don’t just buy houses on the internet, they look for opportunities to financially exploit people and commit crimes.

There is very little security in working with the general public online or offline. The FTC Consumer website lists common email, phone, and text scams.

It can be difficult to keep track of scams. I’ve found it’s easier if I don’t answer the phone, texts or emails. I miss junk mail.

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