I was browsing through my emails last night before going to bed when a new message popped into my inbox. It was from someone named "Kenneth" and the subject line read "Kristina Fruneaux."
"Hmmmmm," I thought. "It's probably another spam." My curiosity was not even remotely piqued, but I opened it anyway. "Dear Kristina," the email began. " I found your name on the Internet and browsed through your profile and you seemed to me like a nice, loving and lovable person. Though this may not be the right platform, however, I would like you to know that I am in love with you. I would really like to know you more, and perhaps we can get serious with each other." He continued on describing himself, adding that he is 65 years old and a California Resident.
Well, HELLO, ewwww! NOW I was certainly piqued, but not positively. I mean, WHO does this? It's creepy, and weird. Besides my initial reaction of distaste, however, I didn't really take the email seriously. I forwarded it to a couple of my friends just to share the story (the subject line this time was OMG ewww) and then I went to bed. This morning, though, one of my very astute friends offered some insight. Aside from the fact that it's abnormal, the message apparently came from a corporate email address: email@example.com. She suggested I look the company up, and if need be, contact their Human Resources Department to enlist their help if the guy persisted in the future. I decided to Google the company to see what I could find out about this guy. What I found was another surprise. Yes, the company in question is a real and REPUTABLE company, and they have a Facebook Page. "Perfect!" I thought. "I'll just browse around and see what pops up." As soon as I clicked to the Facebook page, I noticed a fairly lengthy chain of conversation (from only a day ago) between numerous women who said they are California REALTORS and that they had received a creepy email from a guy named "Kenneth." The IT Manager for Precision C.E. explained that their system had been hacked in October and that they had already filed complaints regarding this issue. The company had even notified the FBI AND the local ADA. He also noted that the REAL company email is .net and NOT .com.
While I was relieved to see that I hadn't been singled out by a weirdo focused only on me, I was disconcerted to know that there is a guy on the loose in California who has women REALTORS in his sights for harrassment. Despite the complaints, and the report to the FBI, and despite the fact (according to the comments on the Facebook page) that this guy doesn't seem too hard to find, he is still able to actively send targeted emails. I think it is unsettling (at best) that as of now, his intentions are unknown. Is he just a bored creep stirring the pot, or is he sinister, and just getting started? Is he phishing for victims? Do we need to be concerned for our safety in regards to this guy, specifically?
Calling the Police and filing a report with the FBI is apparently not enough to shut this down. Unfortunately, guys like this get the "run of the internet" because they can bank on anonymity and also perhaps on an unwillingness on the part of the law to spend time chasing "petty" crimes like "Romantic Scam Emails" to women REALTORS.
It goes without saying that (unfortunately) ALL REALTORS should be on heightened alert at all times. After all, we meet with unknown members of the general public daily as part of our regular work functions. Of COURSE we need to take precautions to protect our personal safety at all times. I do think, however, that instituting a ZERO tolerance policy in situations like this would go a long way towards making our profession a safer one.
In the mean time, my California REALTOR Colleagues, watch out for Kenneth. He signed off by saying, " It took me quite a lot of nerve to write you through this unusual platform, letting you know that I mean every word I've just written to you. I would like us to give each other a chance to see how it plays out."
I QUITE agree with Ken: the nerve is mind-boggling, and I, too would like to see this play out. Here's MY version of a happy ending: I bet the FBI could shut Ken down tomorrow if they wanted to. Wouldn't that be lovely?