Presentation on theme: "Realtor Personal and Internet Safety. July 26, 2006 The brutal murder of Sarah Ann Walker in McKinney, Texas has again spotlighted a perennial topic -"— Presentation transcript:
July 26, 2006 The brutal murder of Sarah Ann Walker in McKinney, Texas has again spotlighted a perennial topic - violence against real estate agents and real estate safety tips. Ms. Walker was presiding over an open house at a new housing development when she was stabbed 27 times. A house hunting couple found her body on the kitchen floor.
Realtor Safety Stats There don't appear to be any real solid statistics on the number of agents who fall victim to murder, rape, assault, or robbery. One source states that 206 agents were murdered on the job between 1982 and 2000. This does not even touch on the number of agents who were the victims of sexual assault, non-fatal shootings, beatings, and stabbings; robbery, and car jacking. About 74 incidents including murders, police alerts to agents, sexual assaults, and robberies since February, 1997, ten since the first of this year. Many of the accounts concerned multiple victims.
Common Practices Conducting a real estate practice almost by definition puts agents in potentially hazardous situations. An agent conducting an open house is often alone and knows nothing about the person walking in the door. Agents often meet customers for the first time in front of a vacant house, or drive or ride with them to an appointment. It is not uncommon for an agent to be alone in the office late at night, finalizing an offer or catching up on paperwork, and some agents still go door to door looking for listings.
Entering vacant or foreclosed homes THE RISK: Foreclosures may attract unexpected house guests — such as squatters — or former home owners refusing to leave. The homes also may be damaged and poorly lit or attract wildlife since it’s abandoned, leading to more potential safety hazards. SAFETY TIPS Inspect the exterior. Walk around the perimeter before you enter the house and make sure the door hasn’t been kicked in and no windows are shattered. Call police if you suspect someone is in the property. Don’t confront a squatter. If a squatter is in the home, leave immediately. Call law enforcement once you've left and allow police to deal with any trespassers. Use the buddy system. Ask a coworker, spouse, friend, or family member to come with you when you show the home. Let others know where you are. Before you leave, tell your coworkers, family, or friends where you are, whom you are with, and when you expect to return. Visit during the day. Visiting homes at night makes it more dangerous. Try to make appointments during daylight hours only.
Meeting with Client for first time THE RISK: Meeting with people you don't know can put your safety at risk. You don’t know whether this person could potentially be a criminal, stalker, thief, or worse. SAFETY TIPS Meet at the office first. Get them on your territory before you visit any property with them so you can learn more about them and collect personal information about them for your files. Ask for identification. The public is used to having their identification checked, so don’t be reluctant to ask because you’re scared you’ll offend someone. Tell clients it’s company policy that all clients' driver’s licenses are photocopied. This will significantly reduce your risk because the bad guys don’t want to give you their I.D. or get their picture taken. Have all clients fill out a customer identification form. You can find an example of this at REALTOR.org. Click on “Prospect Identification Form” under the Office Safety Forms heading. The form asks for car make and license number, contact information, and employer information, and also requests a photocopy of the driver’s license.REALTOR.org Introduce them to a coworker. When you meet them at the office, introduce them to at least one other person in your office. Criminals won’t like that others have seen them for identification purposes. Have access to public criminal records site, Texas DPS (records.txdps.state.tx.us), publicdata.com, etc, check clients BEFORE showing property.
Showing Property Alone THE RISK: You’re touring vacant properties with strangers. SAFETY TIPS Use the buddy system. There’s always strength in numbers. Whether you bring a coworker, spouse, or even your German shepherd, avoid going alone. Don’t go into confined places. Avoid basements and attics — it’s too easy to become trapped. Instead, know the selling points of these rooms and remain in the foyer on the first floor with the front door open as the buyer tours these areas. If you must join them in each room, always stay by the door, leaving doors open so you can flee more easily if necessary. Walk behind. Let potential buyers take the lead when exploring a home, with you always following behind. Let others know where you are. Tell them where you are going, when you will be back, and who you’re with. Better yet: Share this information while the client is with you so they know someone else knows where you are. Have an excuse. If you feel uncomfortable, tell the person your “cell phone or beeper went off and I have to call the office” or “another agent with buyers is on his way,”
Open Houses THE RISK: You’re inviting the public to a property, which is an invitation to anyone, from thieves to those who might want to harm you. SAFETY TIPS Promote security in your advertisements. When you advertise the open house, note that identification will be required at the front door and video surveillance will be in use. The bad guys will be less likely to show up. Partner up. When would-be assailants see two people at the front door, they’ll be less likely to go in. Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’ll be showing the house so others know that you are there. Watch for patterns. At an open house, note any patterns in arrivals, particularly near the end of the open house. One common scam: Thieves come near the end of the open house, working as a team. They have “buyers” distract the agent as others steal valuables in the home. Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop, or wallet unattended on the counter in plain view. Keep them in the trunk of your car. However, always keep your cell phone on you so you can call for help if you need to. Also, before the open house, tell your clients to put away all of their valuables, prescription drugs, and mail. Have emergency phone numbers programmed into your speed dial
Agent Marketing THE RISK: Marketing materials that contain photos of yourself may attract the attention of criminals. SAFETY TIPS Avoid provocative photos in your marketing. Low-cut blouses, full-body photos, and looking over your shoulder in a sexy pose can send the wrong message to criminals. You make a living meeting complete strangers in empty houses. They see your photo and if you’re exactly what they’re looking for — whether that be an older or younger agent, blonde hair, blue eyes, whatever — they know all it takes is one phone call to meet you in a house. A picture can be dangerous. Watch what you wear. Only wear shoes that you can run in. Avoid short skirts, low-cut tops, and expensive jewelry. Predators don’t have the same boundaries as you do. Careful who you choose to have in your business photos, family members, personal residence, children’s school, etc. Protect your personal information. Use your cell phone number and office address in your marketing so it can’t be tracked back to your home address. Never use your home address or home phone number. Also, don’t reveal to your client personal information about your children, where you live, and who you live with — you can still build a relationship with clients without revealing all of your personal information.
Transporting Strangers in your car THE RISK: You’re showing houses to potential buyers and chauffeuring them in your car from house to house. Most people don’t pick up hitchhikers, yet real estate professionals put strangers in their car all of the time and don’t think anything of it. There’s a risk of being robbed, your car being stolen, and you victimized and thrown to the side of the road. SAFETY TIPS Drive separately. Have the client follow you from listing to listing. If you absolutely have to take one car, then you should drive. Watch where you park. Make sure your car won’t be blocked in and that you park in a place where you’ll be able to get out quickly. Park on the street or the curb, if possible. You’ll attract more attention if you run and scream when fleeing, and it’ll be easier to escape than having to back out of a driveway.
Security is all about layers of protection. Open house signage, notation in ads, using the buddy system — everything that you do is an extra layer of security. The more you do, the more secure you’ll be. Do nothing and the more vulnerable you’ll be. Go with your gut. If something doesn't feel right, if anything raises the hair on the back of your neck escape the situation immediately.
Things to consider… If someone tries to snatch your belongings, let them go. Most injuries from robberies occur when people resist. If you are attacked, whether you resist and how you resist will depend on your personal resources and your personal values. Give some thought right now to what you would do in various situations that could arise. The more you have thought ahead, the more likely you will be to act in the way you have planned. In considering your reactions to different situations, keep these three basic rules in mind: – Trust your instincts. – Don't be afraid to be impolite or make a scene; this is especially important if someone you know threatens or attacks you. – Try to remain calm and use your imagination and good judgment; give yourself time to think. Always be aware of your environment. Know where the exits and windows are in every room, building or home.
Use what is available Consider your clothing and footwear for defense and escape capabilities. Have your keys ready and accessible while working or approaching your car in case you have to get in quickly. In the event of an assault, keys can be used as weapons. Scream, hit, kick and pull. In a self-defense situation, there is no “fair fight” To get immediate attention from other people, yell “Fire”
Weapons Please remember, any weapon you carry may be used against you as well. If you carry a weapon, you need to be fully trained in its use, when the law allows for its use and any limitation of the weapon.
When calling 911 State your location and name first in case you are interrupted State your reason for calling If possible, provide police with a description(gender, race, height/weight, clothing) and present whereabouts of a suspect (i.e. trying to get in, running away etc.) Stay on the phone with 911 until officers arrive
Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages. As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.
Links Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in email messages.
Personal Posts Know what you've posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the "Forgot your password?" link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, home town, high school class, or mother's middle name. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don't draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.
Watch what you say about yourself Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third-party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information. To download and use third-party applications safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the web.
Limit the amount of personal information you post - Do not post information that would make you vulnerable, such as your address or information about your schedule or routine. If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing. Also be considerate when posting information, including photos, about your connections.
Passwords Protect your account with passwords that cannot easily be guessed. If your password is compromised, someone else may be able to access your account and pretend to be you.
Received Messages Don't trust that a message is really from who it says it's from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they're from your friends, but aren't. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks.
Providing e-mail of friends To avoid giving away email addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your email address book. When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your email address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send email messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you've ever sent an email message to with that email address. Social networking sites should explain that they're going to do this, but some do not.
Type site address directly Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through email or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.
Who wants to be my friend?? Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves or stalkers might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.
There are no “do-overs” on the internet Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.
Remember that the internet is a public resource - Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information and photos in your profile and in blogs and other forums. Also, once you post information online, you can't retract it. Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people's machines
Anti-Virus Use and maintain anti-virus software - Anti- virus software helps protect your computer against known viruses, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage. Because attackers are continually writing new viruses, it is important to keep your definitions up to date.
TMI?? What is too much information. There is no such thing for criminals. Avoid posting pending vacations, trips, meetings and address