Play it Safe — Security Tips for Real Estate Professionals

It might not be something you think about often, but keeping yourself safe, both in person and online, should be a priority for every real estate professional. It’s important to consider not only your physical safety, but also the security of the sensitive information you work with every day. Here are several safety precautions you can take to protect yourself in the real and virtual worlds.

Physical Safety

Chances are, you will go your whole career without encountering someone who wishes to do you harm. But working in a business where you’re consistently meeting new people, it just makes good sense to watch out for your personal safety. These tips will help:

Stay Alert & Aware — We all have a tendency to stay glued to our screens, but doing so in public can compromise your safety. When you enter any new surroundings, take a break from scrolling to do a quick mental inventory of who you see, what they’re doing, the general layout of the room and where the exits are. Taking a few moments to familiarize yourself with your surroundings can you help decisions more quickly if needed.

Share Your Whereabouts — When you leave the office, make sure at least one colleague knows where you’re going, who you’re meeting and what time you expect to be back. Send a quick text to let them know when you arrive safely, and again when your meeting is over. Also keep your electronic calendar up-to-date and easy to view so colleagues know where and when to expect you

Ask for I.D. — Ideally, meet with new clients for the first time in the office. While they’re there, make a copy of their driver’s license or another photo I.D. to have on file. If they’re hesitant to share it with you, that could be a red flag.

Avoid Oversharing — All good relationships evolve over time. The first meeting with a new prospect isn’t the time to divulge highly personal details or logistical specifics, such as your home address. There’s will be plenty of time to learn more about each other as the rapport develops.

Lead from Behind — When showing homes, let your clients go ahead of you while you guide and direct them from behind. It helps you keep track of where they are in the home at all times and minimizes the possibility of being caught off guard by someone coming up behind you.

Be Prepared — Take a self-defense or martial arts class. Carry a personal alarm and pepper spray. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you feel safe and confident when going about your job. And if you ever feel like your personal safety if threatened, get out of the situation immediately. If it’s a false alarm, a little embarrassment is the smallest price to pay.       

Cyber Security

If it seems you hear about a new cyber scam, hack or security breach every day, it’s because there’s no end to the ways criminals have learned to exploit our reliance on technology. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to ensure the absolute safety and security of online information. These tips, however, will help you be more aware and spot potential issues before they become a problem.

Be Picky with Passwords — They days of using ‘password 123’ for all accounts on every platform is long gone. Experts agree that the more complex the password is, the better. Many platforms now require more intricate passwords, but even if it’s not required, choose passwords that include a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols, preferably in random, meaningless order.

Get Wise to Phishing Scams — Phishing scams go all the way back to the days of the Nigerian prince promising to fork over his inheritance in exchange for a small fee. And now that they’ve gotten much more clever, even the savviest online users have fallen for them. Just remember to never respond to an unsolicited email asking for personal details such as SSN, bank account information or credit card numbers. Even if an email appears legitimate, it’s worth the extra time it takes to pick up the phone and verify who is requesting the information and why they need it.

Don’t Fall for Adware — Adware and malware scams trick you into doing the dirty work for the bad guys. An ominous-looking pop-up ad claiming your computer’s security has been compromised will appear, instructing you to download software that will fix the problem. If you proceed with the download, you will be installing malware on your computer that could do anything from tracking your keystrokes to wiping out your hard drive. In some cases, these ads will lock up your computer and literally hold it for ransom until you call a number and provide bank account information for thieves to drain your account. If one of these ads appears, close out of it immediately (without clicking on anything) and restart your computer. If you have reason to believe your computer has been compromised in any way, seek the assistance of an IT professional.

Rather than thinking about personal and online safety as separate and distinct issues, incorporate these practical tips into your daily routine and they will soon become second nature. Your clients, colleagues and everyone who cares about will be happy you did.