When Real Estate Gets Real - Real Estate Agent Safety Information

You have no doubt heard about the recent kidnappings and attacks of real estate agents across America. They can be quite scary, but if you take time to prepare yourself you may increase your odds of coming home safe at night.

Now, this article is broken up into three sections: safeguarding your personal information, securing your computer, and prioritizing safety when with clients. Each section is important, and the topics may be thoroughly studied beyond just reading this article.

WARNING: Following these guidelines do not guarantee protection from harm, though it may increase your odds of safety. 

Beware of Giving Out Your Personal Information:

As in all things, you should be careful what information you let out into the open, especially on the internet. With even the slightest amount of information, someone could steal your identity, stalk you, or something worse. However, you may need to release some information for clients to reach you. So, it is best to never distribute anything more than your name, modest headshots, work phone number, email address, and your office address (if applicable). Now, some of you might be thinking that you can’t afford a work phone or an office, etc. and this may be, though there are several low-cost (and sometimes free) ways to keep your personal information safe while doing business.

1. Consider Going by a Different Name

Now, it isn't suggested that you need to get a stage name or anything, but, if you are really concerned about your information getting out then maybe go by a nickname or your middle name when doing business. This way you may keep your real identity a secret.

2. Get a Separate Email for Business

Emails are easy to come by. You may consider setting up a new one in only a few minutes. So, if you are still using your personal email for your business, you may consider getting a separate one. You could even make it something simple like “buyhomesfrom[name]@[your email service provider].com”. Now, there are a number of free email services, but the one that is said to be the best for real estate agents is Gmail (the email program provided by Google). We will go over why Google is the preference a little later, but if you have a preference for Yahoo or Hotmail or anything like that, then those will work too.

3. Sign Up for Google Voice

If you are worried about trying to afford a second phone number this is definitely the option for you. Google Voice is a free service that Google provides where they give you a phone number for free and reroute all calls that come to that number for free. It takes only minutes to set up and, again, it is free. This will allow you to have a work number attached to your cell phone for no extra cost. And just like that you have a separate number that you can give out to the public.

Some of the great features of the Google Voice program include: text/ voice mail transcription, number blocking, time specific forwarding (meaning that you can tell it not to ring if someone calls you in the middle of the night), and the ability to listen to someone as they leave a message. These are only a few of the great features that you get with Google Voice. Just log on to their website for more information.

4. Get a PO Box

If you can’t afford an office, or can’t have mail sent to your brokerage, then signing up for a PO Box will be a great way to keep your real address confidential. You will need to talk to the post office about specific prices, sizes, and so forth. However, it should be noted that it shouldn’t be a substantial fee for one of these boxes.

5. Only use modest headshots

Now, this might have thrown some of you for a loop, but, think about it, if you circulate pictures of yourself in either digital or print form, you might attract unwanted attention. Someone predator might see your picture and think that you are what they are looking for.

You need to have your picture on some of your materials because it will help potential clients know who they are dealing with and even help them relate to you, but, you should only use one picture, and it should be professional. Have a professional photographer take your picture while you are wearing neutral and professional clothes in front of a neutral background. Nothing flashy in any way shape or form.

Protect Yourself in the Digital Theater

Computers are great tools, but they can be very vulnerable to even amateur hackers if not protected properly.

1. Protect your computer

Your computer may not seem like something you need to protect, but think about it, it holds a lot of information on it that an identity thief would love to get their hands on. Contracts, social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, etc. The modern world of real estate is simply a field of low hanging fruit just ripe for the taking.

The best thing to do is to completely protect your computer in every way you can.

· Get some quality virus/ malware protection on your computer

Anti-virus and anti-malware programs come in many varieties and there are lots of opinions on which one is best. Consider doing some research on which one will be best for your needs. If you don’t have much to spend on it, we would suggest AVG. AVG is a good service that has a free option you can utilize. It won’t be the best, but it will do a good job.

· Use Secure Passwords on EVERYTHING

A good password is the first line of defense between a hacker and your information. Have a complex, and unique, password for your email, WIFI, and your computer itself.

· Consider getting a VPN

A VPN essentially makes your information harder to read when you use the internet; when you go to a website, the owner of that website can actually find out where you are just because you logged on to their website— unless you have a VPN

2. Protect your email

You send emails back and forth all day and they are can be loaded with a lot of important information— especially if you use services like DocuSign— and a good hacker can catch your emails in transit. So, be sure the email service that you choose to use has some sort of encryption software (this means it is written in a secret code when it is sent so that if it is intercepted it can’t be read).

There are many services that offer encryption, but when you use Gmail from Google, you will be able to get some great encryption tools for free with your email address.

NOTE: It may be worth the money to pay a professional to set up your computer and email protection. Don’t just take our word for it and try to do it yourself. Things in the digital world change rapidly and will need to be kept up-to-date!

Post a Comment