Personal Safety When Selling a Home

Two real estate agents were killed in separate incidents in Ohio in the past two weeks.

“Police have confirmed the suspects in this week’s murder of a Youngstown OH realtor are not connected with the murder of a realtor in Ravenna OH the day after.”

“Meeting new clients, showing properties, holding open houses, letting strangers get into your car, and even your marketing may be jeopardizing your personal safety.

The root of the issue is that you have real estate agents with no formal security training who are then meeting with complete strangers at odd times of the day and in vacant homes. Real estate professionals put themselves at risk at so many points. The industry opens itself up to predators.”

Here are a few tips to protect you when selling a property.

Be suspect of everyone. There isn’t any benefit in being paranoid; however, being a little guarded can keep you from getting into a vulnerable situation. Don’t just be wary of a man showing up unaccompanied. Expect them to show up in a nice car, well dressed, maybe with a wife and kids tagging along. They might have a business card saying they are a doctor or a lawyer. Don’t let your guard down.

Appointment Only. When placing ads, all advertisements should state “Appointment only” “Drivers license required” and “Pre Approval Documentation Required.” These are all hoops the bad guy may not want to jump through and you vetting out those who are “just looking” at the same time.

Use the Buddy System. When you set appointments always schedule around a spouse or friends availability so they can join you. There is always strength in numbers. If you have to go it solo, when someone walks in, say, “I’d be happy to show you the benefits of this home! In a few minutes my friend Rocco will be along to assist me,” creating the illusion of the buddy system.

ID and pre-qualify at your first meeting. When you are meeting at your property, get some form of identification. Also, it is to your benefit that a potential client buying a home is pre-qualified. Someone who is pre-qualified by a lender is less likely to be a predator.

Safe open houses. Spend a few minutes considering all the vulnerable points within the home and how you would escape if necessary.

Dress for safety and success. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. A $3-5 thousand-dollar diamond buys a lot of drugs. Dress professionally instead of provocatively.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Real estate Agent safety on Inside Edition . Disclosures.

Are You Your Family’s Chief Security Officer?

Everyone’s job spills into their personal life is some way. I’m sure if your job is to clean offices all day, your home is probably clean. If you are a computer technician, your family bothers you every day to fix stuff. My guess is if you are a nurse, your kids are probably well taken care of.

My job is to scream about home security and other security issues all day. I’m pretty sure people are listening because they often thank me for the heads up and lately have been pointing to specific posts that saved them lots of headaches and heartache. In my home environment, I’m the CSO, Chief Security Officer, and security is an ongoing process that everyone is involved in. They have no choice. I bark it all day.

My belief is everyone has a job to do in personal safety. No matter what, you must protect yourself and family from the bad-guy. The hard part about this part time job is it requires a bit of thought. Because you’re not immersed in it all day like I am, the “second nature” part requires putting out a tiny bit of extra effort in order to complete whatever security task there may be at hand. To some people who are already burdened with life, a simple task like locking your doors or activating an alarm might be too much to think about.

I remember about 20 years ago I knew I wanted a safe. So I bought one. And that safe sat in my closet in the box for another 8 months until I actually bolted it to the floor and began to use it.  It took extra effort. Everything of significant monetary value that I don’t want stolen is easily locked up and fireproofed. Today it’s no effort.

Occasionally after a long day I go to bed and forget to set the alarm. But I always remember if I didn’t set it as my head hits the pillow, which means I get out of bed and set it. It’s a tiny bit of extra effort. Then I sleep better.  Security might not be your job, but it is really everyone’s job. Be the power of example and provide the leadership your family needs and be their Chief Security Officer.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures.



Make Personal Safety a Priority

We often hear people (including myself) drone on at how the system is broken and how good guys end up in jail and bad guys are released on good behavior. The criminal justice system is far from fair. Too often bad people are let out only to re-offend and sometimes do worse the second or third time around.  Securing your home is crucial way of protecting your home and family.

The Seattle PI reports “a man who police say beat an elderly woman and burglarized her home has schizoid-affective disorder, was released from jail three days before the attack and had to be placed in seclusion multiple times at Western State hospital.

The 81-year-old victim told police she thought he would have killed her if other elderly neighbors who police say he also assaulted didn’t come to her aid.”

That is likely someone’s mom and grandmother. Imagine this happening to a loved one.

“The man, who is on Department of Corrections supervision, has a lengthy criminal history including a conviction for custodial assault, second-degree robbery, theft, assault, negligent driving, domestic violence harassment and domestic violence assault.”

This is obviously a bad, bad man. He’s been diagnosed with mental illness and he has extreme tendencies towards violence. The frustrating part of this story is that it is evident in his current state of mind and in his history that he will do this again and again until he commits a heinous enough crime that gets him a life or death sentence.

The courts can only work within the confines of the law. Citizens can only hope the law is sufficient enough to guarantee their safety. What this ultimately means is a citizen’s right to safety is only guaranteed by what he or she does to protect themselves. The ultimate responsibility to protect yourself is on you. The justice system doesn’t necessarily provide justice. It is simply a guide.

By coming to terms with this and realizing the responsibility you have, you develop a higher sense of awareness and begin to put systems in place to prevent such atrocities from happening in your life or to someone you love.

Fundamentals include locking your doors, having a home security plan, investing in home security alarms and home security cameras. The worst thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is be proactive.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing home invasions on the Gordon Elliot Show. Disclosures

Law enforcement officers keep tough watch on sex offenders

In Colorado law enforcement officers are scouring the state to make sure sex offenders aren’t hiding from the law.

“Operation Sheperd launched into action this month. Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Grand Junction Police Department Officers are crisscrossing Grand Junction to make sure registered sex offenders are living where they reported they are. These officials randomly visit homes of offenders, some of them convicted of molesting children. It’s all to keep strict tabs on these offenders, so that they don’t escape the watchful eye of police. “We do take the verification of addresses seriously, and we do continually check,” says the Grand Junction Police Department.”

Verifying addresses and keeping tabs on a sex offenders whereabouts always keeps sex offenders in check. It is important that local law enforcement always has tabs on them due to the nature of their crimes. We hear too often that sex offenders are released then repeat their behavior. It is unfortunately a part of their nature.

Even though law enforcement is doing their job, you need to continually scan the internet and seek out sex offenders in your neighborhoods.

“Operation Sheperd has captured 180 sex offenders who were not complying with their registry so far. Officers across Colorado have completed nearly 4,000 checks on offenders.”

Wow. Sex offenders often don’t register because they don’t want to be found or because they are living in an area where they aren’t allowed to be, such as near a school or park. Based on these numbers you should never simply trust that your new next door neighbor is “good”. Bad comes in many different faces.

Robert Siciliano is a Personal Security Expert and Adviser to Intelius.com. For more information see Intelius at Sex Offender Check to reduce your chances of encountering a bad guy. See him discussing personal security on NBC Boston. (Disclosures)

Highway Killer” Gets Life

Evil takes many forms. One of its forms is as Adam Leroy Lane. Lane was a truck driver from North Carolina whose route traveled up and down the east coast and attacked or murdered women in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Apparently when the urge struck, he’d veer off the highway and stalk neighborhoods and jiggle door knobs until he found one unlocked with a woman inside. In all the cases, the killer picked his victims at random and attacked them at their homes near interstate highways that he traveled.

In July of 2007 Lane was arrested after he broke into a 15-year-old girl’s room in Chelmsford Massachusetts in the middle of the night and tried to rape her. The girl’s father heard her scream and held the masked and gloved Lane in a headlock until police arrived, authorities said.

Nice job Dad. Who knows how many more he would have killed.

Lane was carrying knives, a belt with Chinese throwing stars and choke wire during the attack. Police also allegedly found in the cab of his truck a copy of the movie, “Hunting Humans,” which is about a serial killer. “I study them until I’ve got their pattern and it’s easy to do the rest,” says a line from the movie Hunting Humans.

He was recently sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the attacks in Pennsylvania under a deal that spared him from Pennsylvania’s death penalty. Too bad.

This is exactly the breed of predator I’ve been screaming about my entire life. The always has been, there is, and there always will be Adam Leroy Lane’s jiggling another door knob.

Live your life and don’t worry about it.

BUT:

  • Lock your doors and windows day and night because you are smart.
  • Beef up the lighting outside your home because you are aware.
  • Install home security cameras because you want a layer of protection.
  • Install a home security alarm because you want your 15 year old to sleep through the night without some freak coming into her room and attacking her.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Home Security on NBC Boston. Disclosures.

Brazen Burglars Broke into the Same House Three Times in a Week

In the first hit they made off with a television and four-figure sum of cash, plus a key to the garden shed.

They came back, let themselves into the shed, and took garden tools but were spotted by the returning home owners.

The GazzetteNews reported the homeowner investigated after noticing the shed door was open, and saw four people in the park behind the house, two of them were holding the tools stolen from the shed and the group ran off.

The burglars then made a third attempt on the house and caused damage to the property.

Local law enforcement well aware of the ongoing break-ins assembled a team of detectives to thwart the property crimes and to try and break the pattern.

Their strategy is to visit well-known suspects, keeping tabs on their whereabouts and doing what they can to “divert these individuals from crime.

“They also work closely with victims, providing them with support and giving them advice on home and personal safety. “Anyone who has had to deal with a burglary will know that it’s not just the financial loss that is difficult; more often than not, items of huge sentimental value are taken, so it also has a huge emotional impact too.

“This is completely unacceptable and the teams will be doing all they can to prevent this from happening to residents in our communities.”

Bravo to all involved in the effort to preserve the sanctity of citizen’s rights to safety and security.

But what’s missing in this story is the homeowner being proactive and doing something to keep the burglars out in the first place. Often a home alarm monitored at a dollar a day will do the trick. In my case, first my cameras see them coming day and night and that notifies me with an audible alert. Second, once they get close enough the German Shepherd lets me and them know she is ready. Third, the doors and windows are all locked. Fourth they need to get through the home alarm system and if they trip it, the local police are called.

If they do make their way in, the Shepherd knows what to do next. Me? If I’m home I’m taking the family out of there as quickly as possible and heading to safety, then pizza.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing Home Security on NBC Boston. Disclosures.

Phishing Scam: Using the U.S. General Commander in Iraq as Phish Food

Fishing of course is the sport of tossing a tasty wormy baited hook connected to a fishing line and patiently waiting for a fish to take the bait.

Phishing is the sport of tossing a wormy baited tasty lie connected to a wormy human and the degenerate patiently waits for a naïve victim to take the bait.

A phisher can send thousands of phish emails a day and eventually someone will get hooked.

Phishing is a $9 billion business. Unlike the ongoing depleting of the oceans fisheries, there are PLENTY of people out there to phish. Many of them today are from developing nations like India and China who are just getting a broadband connection to the internet and are considered fresh meat to the bad guy.

The New York Times reports “if you get an Internet appeal from Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, asking you to pay lots of money to get your son or daughter out of combat duty, don’t believe it. And certainly don’t send the $200,000. General Odierno acknowledged that he is but one more victim of a social networking scheme offering a big — but fake — benefit, if you send big amounts of real money.

“I’ve had several scam artists on Facebook use my Facebook page and then go out asking people for all kinds of money: ‘If you pay $200,000, your son can get sent home early,’” General Odierno said at a Pentagon news conference.

Criminals may seek out military families and target them one by one or send a blast to thousands at a time and use a ruse that pulls at the heart strings of unsuspecting families who simply want their loved-one back home.

The General posted a large warning on his social networking site. “I have this big thing on my Facebook that says, If anybody asks you for money in my name, don’t believe it,” he said. “But it’s a problem.”

Frankly, I don’t like the idea of an American General having a Facebook page. It weird’s me out. Hopefully the high commander isn’t uploading pictures of himself doing shots of tequila while driving a tank.

My guess is there is someone out there who has the money and is probably acutely unaware of this type of scam, then is probably capable of getting hooked.  But more than likely nobody will cough up $200,000. But the scammers know to start high and they will go low. They will take a $1000.00 when it comes down to it. But they also know that people won’t argue with a General and nobody will “discount” the value of their loved-ones life. So overall it’s a pretty good scam. Just don’t take the bait.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing Facebook scams on CNN. Disclosures.

Facebook + Hackers – Privacy = You Lose

I’m as sick of writing about it as you are sick of reading about it. But because Facebook has become a societal juggernaut: a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way, we need to discuss it because it’s messing with lots of functions of society.

We should all now know that whatever you post on Facebook is not private. You may think it is, but it isn’t. Even though you may have gone through all kinds of privacy settings and locked down your profile, Facebook has changed them up internally so many times that they may have defaulted to something far less private then what you previously set.

Furthermore, no matter how private you have set them to, if you friend someone who you don’t know (like that human resource officer), they see what’s “private” and anyone on the “inside” can easily replicate anything you post to the world.

The activist groups waging what amounts to an undeclared war against the social-networking site for the last year, complete with no fewer than three letters to federal regulators claiming Facebook’s actions are illegal said that they’re hardly ready to declare a truce.

Attacks targeting Facebook users will continue, and they could easily become even more dangerous. Computerworld reports “There are limitations to what Facebook can do to stop this,” said Patrik Runald, a U.K.-based researcher for Websense Security Labs. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see another attack this weekend. Clearly, they work.”

Websense has identified more than 100 variations of the same Facebook attack app used in the two attacks, all identical except for the API keys that Facebook requires.

What does this mean to you?

For crying out loud stop telling the world you hate your boss, neighbor, students’ teachers, or spouse and you’d like to boil a bunny on the stove to teach them a lesson. I guarantee even if you are kidding, someone won’t like it. What you say/do/post, lasts forever.

Stop playing the stupid 3rd party games. When you answer “25 questions about whatever” that data goes straight into the hands of some entity that you would never have volunteered it to.

Make sure you PC is secured. Keep your operating system up to date with security patches and anti-virus and don’t download anything from any email you receive or click links in the body of any email. Once you start messing with these files you become a Petri dish spreading a virus.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing Facebook scams on CNN.