I’ve got a virus.

No, not that kind of virus that sends you to a doctor, but rather a high-tech virus that has infected my computer.

The 1,000-plus “contact list” of potential clients that I’ve worked so hard to create in my first year in the real estate sales business has been destroyed by a high-tech hacker. Ditto for most of the marketing materials that I’ve put together

The first inkling of my tech trouble occurred last week, when I tried to open an attachment to an e-mail that was sent by our local school’s PTA.

The anti-virus program that’s installed on my computer warned that the attachment was infected but could not be repaired, so I put it in the quarantine file and kept plowing through my messages.

The next day, I couldn’t even sign on to the Internet. I won’t disclose which company I use, but suffice it to say that this American was unable to get On Line.

I called the customer-service desk. After several minutes of pressing buttons on my telephone to hear useless pre-recorded messages, I finally located a live person who explained why my account had been shut down.

“There were 3,800 e-mails that were sent from your account yesterday,” the rep explained. “We automatically closed you off because it seemed like excessive usage.”

My computer had, as the rep then explained, been “back-doored” by a virus that was created by a computer hacker and passed along through e-mail.

I chuckled for a moment, thinking back to the time when a neighbor once explained that the damage to his car’s back bumper was because he “got rear-ended by a Probe.”

The computer virus, however, turned out to be no laughing matter. Some scumbag out there in cyberspace had not only “stolen” my e-mail address: The virus he (or she) created also corrupted about half of the information stored on my laptop computer’s hard drive.

Making matters worse, my brokerage firm’s in-house “tech guy” said he cannot help me.

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I pay more than $2,000 a year to my big-name brokerage (not to mention about half of all my sales commissions), in part because it claims to be a leader when it comes to technological innovations.

But apparently, when it comes to computer viruses, I’m strictly on my own.

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When I told our brokerage’s tech person that my laptop had a virus and that I’d like him to cure it, he said that company policy prohibits me from even carrying the computer into the office.

Running a simple diagnostic test would require that my infected laptop first be hooked up to our in-house computer system, he explained, but we’re not allowed to hook up if our computer has a virus.

It’s a classic Catch-22: Our tech can’t fix my computer’s problem without first turning it on, but he can’t turn it on without fixing it first.

It’s akin to your doctor saying that you cannot visit his office if you’re sick because your virus might infect other people, but you’re free to come back when you’re well.

And so, my laptop now sits in the local computer-repair store. I’m told it will cost between $150 and $200 to fix, but there’s no guarantee that the lost data can be recovered.

This whole episode has left me angry about the nutheads out there who seem to think it’s funny to create a virus that can destroy someone else’s computer, and thus all their hard work.

I admit that hackers must be extremely intelligent to create a computer virus. But I can’t understand why they don’t use their sizeable “brain-power” to instead work to find a cure for cancer, or pursue some other noble cause.

Come to think of it, I bet hackers would also make good computer-repair technicians–and I know at least one brokerage that could use one.


Got tips, ideas or advice for the Rookie Realtor? Send them to Rookie@inman.com.

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