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The Best Defense

The Computer Corner

All you want to know about computers by Charles Miller

The professionals I know in the real estate and property rental business are the most vulnerable people I know because, much more so than the rest of us, they are squarely in the crosshairs of uncounted numbers of cyber crooks. Permit me to explain in more detail. Because their names, email addresses, and phone numbers need to be advertised to the public and because they handle large sums of money, they are considered prime targets by online criminals.

As a professional I try to stay abreast of online security in order to better serve my clients, so I am aware that cyber crooks consider real estate professionals to be a “target-rich” environment. If the crooks can hack into the right person’s email, they can impersonate that rental agent or broker and if their timing is right, they sometimes trick some unsuspecting customer into sending money to the crooks rather than to the correct party.

The best defense against this is to use a cryptographically strong password on your email account. That is defined as 20 or 30 random characters, 50 to 60 would be even better. This is inconvenient but necessary.

I explain to my friends that the nightmare scenario they want to avoid would be to have strangers show up at their office one day saying: “Where are the keys to our rental?” “What do you mean you don’t know me?” “I wired you ten thousand dollars and I have the receipt with your name on it from the Bank of Nigeria!” While some might scoff and say that could never happen, it has happened many times. And it has happened right here in San Miguel de Allende. That loss involves only money, but I know that sometimes computer hacking can be hazardous to your health.

Once, a friend asked me if I could help their favorite taxi driver with his computer. It took only a minute to see he did not have a computer problem but that his email had been hacked. Another taxi driver, I will call him taxi driver #2, had managed to hack into the email account of taxi driver #1 and was reading #1’s mail so that #2 could steal #1’s lucrative fare.

I verified this by calling a friend in the States to arrange a sting operation. I said, “Rodney, please send an email to taxi driver #1 saying you need to be picked up at the airport, and let me know if he answers.” Sure enough, #1 never got the message but taxi driver #2 responded to the email intended for #1 and confirmed the airport pickup, flight number, and date and time.

I explained all this to taxi driver #1 telling him if he went to the airport at the appointed time and saw another driver holding a sign with the name “Rodney Blackwell” that this person should be taxi driver #2 and the person who was stealing his fares. Having ascertained the probable identity of the crook, he should notify the authorities.

Taxi driver #1 replied to me: “No! No police! When I go to the airport, I’ll take my four brothers with me.”Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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