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10 Tips to Not Ending Up A Dead Real Estate Agent

Yes that title is awful and yes you should be offended. Real estate agents often find themselves in dangerous situations. And for 20 years, I’ve been screaming this, doing something about it, and it keeps happening. And the real estate agents and industries response?

Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers. Thots and prayers.

How’s that workin’ for ya?

Sometimes you have to visit unsafe neighborhoods, you might have to come face to face with a vicious dog, or even have an unsavory character walk right into an open house.

In 2016, approximately 3% of all real estate agents reported that they were physically attacked when on the clock. Though this might seem like a small number, you have to consider that only about 2% of the entire population of the country are physically attacked each year. This means, of course, that if you are a real estate agent, your odds of assault are higher than the average person.

Remember, no one is immune to this. Here’s a brief first person account posted to Facebook about a real estate agents experience…and it could even be you:

Another reason why I like running my real estate business by referral: Went to meet a female seller today who contacted me on-line. She told me she would meet me at her property as it is an occupied rental. She was there and so were about four guys. Small, cramped house. She told me the tenant would take me around as he knew the house better than her…. immediately I knew something was off.

He takes me around the first floor then he’s showing me upstairs and another guy who wasn’t one of the four downstairs appears out of nowhere and stands behind me. I’m now seriously freaking out as instinct told me something was about to happen. I made my excuses quick and went back downstairs. I put aside my manners and took out my phone and while chatting briefly with the seller, I text my location to my team. Then I left.

My 5ft 100lb self would have been no match for them.

I realized mid-way through that 10 minute tour that no-one knew where I was, I had no idea who these people were and if this woman actually was who she said she was.

Point of the story: realtors please be extra vigilant when being in homes of strangers. I know it sounds obvious yet it’s not as we are simply doing ‘our job’ and we can’t do that if we don’t visit other people’s homes. This ended well yet it could have been a very different story for me today. Stay safe and trust your instinct.”

The seller was a female, and the seller said that she would meet the agent at the property, as it was a rental and currently occupied. When the agent arrived, she saw the seller along with four men in a small, cramped house. The seller, herself, would not give the agent a tour of this home; instead, she said one of the tenants would take her.

REG FLAG.

Almost instantly, the agent knew something was weird about this. One of the men took the agent to the second floor, and before she knew it, there was another man directly behind her…and this man was NOT one of the men she had seen downstairs.

This was a very scary situation, and though this story did not end in disaster, plenty of these situations, do. Be smart, stay vigilant, and trust your instincts when something seems off.

Here are 10 tips that you can use to keep yourself from ending up a dead real estate agent:

  1. Research – Before you meet with a potential buyer, make sure to do a little research. This might be as simple as doing a Google search on them, or you can create a questionnaire to get information from them.
  2. Get an ID – Ask for the ID of any potential buyer/seller before showing the home. You should be able to get a photo of their ID and keep it on your phone and text it to a colleague just in case. If they refuse, this is a red flag.
  3. Show During Daylight Hours – Only show a home during daylight hours.
  4. Bring a Buddy – Do you have an assistant, friend, or family member who wants to keep you safe? Bring them along. When showing a home, try to bring a buddy. Make sure the buyer/seller knows that this other person is coming.
  5. Know What You are Going Into – Do your best to get a lay of the land when going into a home for the first time. Ask if there is anyone else in the home, too.
  6. Stay Near Exits – Make sure when you are showing a home, or being shown and home, that you always have an eye on the exit. Also, don’t go into any area, such as a basement, where someone couldn’t hear you if you had to yell for help. Unless you bring a buddy, and allow the buyer to take a look on their own, if necessary.
  7. Don’t Let Your Guard Down – Any person who walks into a home is a potential “bad guy/gal.” Don’t let your guard down, even if they seem like they are an upstanding citizen.
  8. Advertise Smartly – When advertising, make sure to do so smartly. Make sure that people know that viewing the home is by appointment only and that you will be checking their ID before showing the home.
  9. Dress Appropriately – Don’t wear any expensive jewelry when showing a home, and make sure to dress in a professional manner. Wearing clothing that is revealing, for instance, can send the wrong message.
  10. Trust Your Gut – Finally, trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it probably is.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

The Top Cyber Security Threats to Real Estate Companies

Gone are the days when hackers would only target retailers. These days, the bad guys an target businesses in any industry, especially those that aren’t quite up on cyber security.

The real estate industry is one such group, and according to a recent survey, about half of businesses in the real estate industry are not prepared to handle a cyberattack. Federal law requires some industries, like hospitals and banks, to have some type of security in place for things like that, but the real estate industry is quite vulnerable. Here are some of the threats you should look out for if you’re in the real estate industry:

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

A BEC, or business email compromise, is a type of cyberattack that tricks a business into wiring money to a criminal’s bank account. The hackers do this by spoofing email addresses and sending fake messages that seem like they are from a trusted business professional, such as the CEO or a company attorney. The FBI has found that multi-billions in business losses can be attributed to BEC.

That’s scary enough, but the FBI also says that real estate companies are specially targeted in these attacks and every participant in the real estate transaction is a possible victim.

Mortgage Closing Wire Scam
Prior to closing on the sale of a home, the buyer receives an email from their real estate agent, title attorney or other trusted service professional with specific details of the time, date and location of the closing. In this same email, there are detailed and urgent instructions on how to wire money for the down payment but to a criminal’s bank account. Within moments of the wire transfer, the money is withdrawn, and the cash disappears.

A report by the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center totals the number of victims of the mortgage closing wire scam ballooned to 10,000 victims, an 1,110 percent increase in the years 2015 to 2017 with financial losses totaling over $56 million, which is a 2,200 percent increase.

Ransomware

Another threat to real estate companies is ransomware. This is the type of malware that makes the data on your device or network unavailable until you pay a ransom. This is very profitable for hackers, of course, and it is becoming more and more popular. All it takes is one member of your team clicking on a link in an email, and all of your data could be locked.

Ransomware doesn’t just target computers though. It can target any device that is connected to the internet including smart locks, smart thermostats and even smart lights, which are gaining a lot of popularity in American homes. When digital devices get infected with ransomware, they will fail to work.

Generic Malware

Though most people hear about ransomware these days, there are other types of malware out there that hackers use, too. For instance, you have probably heard of Trojans a.k.a. Spyware or Malware, which is very much still around. These can be used by cybercriminals to spy on their victims and get a person’s banking information or even wipe out their accounts. Malware can also be used to steal personal information and even employee information, such as client data, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Again, real estate companies are not exempt from this type of attack and are now even bigger targets.

Cloud Computing Providers

If you are part of the real estate industry, your business is also at risk of becoming a victim thanks to cloud computing, which is more economical these days. A cyber thief doesn’t have to hack into a company to get its data; all they need to do instead is target the company’s cloud provider.

It might seem that by using a cloud company you are lowering the risk of your business becoming a target, but the truth is, the risk still lies with your company, how secure your own devices are and how effective passwords are managed. In most contracts with cloud computing companies, the customer, which would be your business, is not well-protected in the case of a cyberattack.

Protecting Your Real Estate Company from Becoming a Victim of a Cyberattack

Now that you know your real estate company is a potential target of cybercriminals, you might be wondering what you can do to mitigate this risk. Here are some tips:

  • Create New Policies – One of the things you can do is to develop new policies
    in your agency. For example, in the case of BEC scams, if you have a policy that
    you never wire money to someone based only on information given via email,
    you won’t have to worry about becoming victimized in this type of scam. Instead,
    you should talk to the person sending the email in person or via a phone call just
    to confirm. Make sure, however, that you don’t call a number from the suspicious
    email, as this could put you right in touch with the scammer.
  • Train Your Staff – Another thing that you should consider is better staff training.
    Most hacking attempts come via email, so by training your staff not to blindly
    open attachments or click on any links in emails, you could certainly save your
    staff from these scams. Check out our S.A.F.E. Secure Agent for Everyone
    Certification Designation course, which is a marketing differentiator that offers
    ideas and methods to promote proactive strategies to ensure incident-free
    results. Learn how to develop client-centered procedures customized for safety
    and security.
  • Train Your Clients – Mortgage closing wire fraud scams can be manageable if
    not preventable. Inform your clients that in the process of buying or selling a
    home, there will be many emails to and from your real estate agent and other
    service professionals including your attorney, mortgage broker, insurance
    companies and home inspector. Tell them: Call Your Agent: Under no
    circumstances and at no time in this process should the client or service
    professional engage in a money wire transfer unless the client specifically speaks
    to the real estate agent in person or over the phone to confirm the legitimacy of
    the money wire transaction. Email Disclosure: Clients should always look for
    language in the real estate agent’s email communications stating the above or a
    similar facsimile.
  • Back Up Your Systems – It is also very important that you always back up
    everything. This way, if your system does get hacked, you won’t have to pay a
    ransom, and you will be able to quickly restore everything that you need.
  • Better Your Cloud Computing Contracts – Since you know that cloud
    providers don’t really like to take on the responsibility in the case of a
    cyberattack, you might want to start negotiating with the company in question
    about what you can do about that. This might include getting better security or
    adding some type of notification requirements.
  • Consider Cyber-Liability Insurance – You also have the ability to get cyber-
    liability insurance. This could really help you to cut the risk to your real estate
    business. There are all types of policies out there so make sure to do your
    research, or better yet, speak to a pro about what you might need.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Your Real Estate Agent May Have a Gun

If you are thinking of buying a house, and you start going to open houses, you might be surprised to learn an interesting fact: the real estate agent might be carrying a gun. Some of you reading this might have jumped to this article looking for a fight, because in M’erka guns are a controversial subject and why shouldn’t your real estate agent have a gun?

Real estate agents find themselves in precarious situations all of the time. They also might have to travel into neighborhoods that aren’t as safe as your typical bedroom communities. There are wayward dogs to contend with, random robberies, and the chance that a visitor to an open house has malicious thoughts. A real estate agent was killed in Maryland not too long ago and his killer stole his laptop and phone. He was killed for $2,000.00 in hardware by this shithead with the money on his face.

When you think about it this way, it’s no wonder that a real estate agents might feel the need to protect themselves.

The Statistics

Let’s look at some statistics: The National Association of Realtors released a report that states 25% of real estate agents who are male carry guns when on the job. Other real estate agents report that they carry other weapons, too, even if they don’t carry guns. Whether you are a fan of guns or not, you can certainly see why some Realtors feel the need to protect themselves.

The fact that 25% of male Realtors carry a gun is only the tip of the iceberg. The NAR report also says that more than half of all Realtors, both male and female, carry a weapon of some type to every showing. Here’s a brief synopsis:

  • Pepper Spray – 27% of female Realtors and 5% of male Realtors
  • Guns – 12% of female Realtors and 25% of male Realtors
  • Pocket Knife – 5% of female Realtors and 11% of male Realtors
  • Taser – 7% of female Realtors and 2% of male Realtors
  • Baton or Club – 3% of female Realtors and 3% of male Realtors
  • Noisemaker – 3% of female Realtors and 0% of male Realtors

Why are Realtors Afraid?

So, why are so many Realtors afraid enough to carry a weapon? First, there is the fact that approximately 3% of Realtors report being physically attacked when on the job in 2016. Though may that seem like a low number to some (too high for me), you have to understand that the overall rate in the country is about 2%, which means Realtors have a higher chance of being physically assaulted when compared with the average US citizen.

The reasons real estate agents feel the need to protect themselves is even more clear. In fact, many Realtors report that they are fearful of going to work each day. An astounding 44% of female Realtors told the NAR that they were worried about going to open houses in model homes and vacant lots.

Here’s some more stats:

  • 44% of female Realtors were afraid at some point in 2017 when on the job
  • 25% of male Realtors were afraid at some point in 2017 when on the job
  • 38% of all Realtors were afraid when in a small town
  • 35% of all Realtors were afraid when in a rural area
  • 39% of all Realtors were afraid when in an urban area
  • 40% of all Realtors were afraid when in a suburb

Knowing this, it’s certainly not surprising that a Realtor would carry a gun. HOWEVER, the problem with all this gun slinging is most people, regardless of their profession aren’t properly trained to “fight” with a gun. That means being trained to use a firearm under duress. I’m not talking about gun safety or target shooting, I’m talking about if you are being attacked, do you know how to respond with a gun if someone is coming after you? So to my Real Estate Agent friends and all others, seek out “Stress Response Training” and Firearm and get properly trained.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Murder is a Reminder for Real Estate Agent Safety

911 calls are always chilling, but the one that came from a model home in Maryland recently was extremely distressing.

Instead of the caller speaking into the phone, all the 911 operator heard was heavy breathing. The operator asked what was wrong but got no response…then, a far-off voice said, “Where is the money? Who are you talking to?” This call, which was just made public, lead police to a man who was shot to death and, eventually, to the man accused of his murder.

The body of Steven B. Wilson, a real estate professional, was found in the home, and the suspect, 18-year-old Dillon Augustyniak, was charged with several crimes including murder, theft, armed robbery and the use of a firearm in a violent crime.

Steven B. Wilson Safr.me Maryland Agent Death

Steven Wilson, washingtonpost.com

At this time, Timothy J. Altomare, the Anne Arundel Police Chief, says that he believes robbery was the motive and that the suspect had taken the victim’s laptop and cell phone. Though it is not known how Augustyniak entered the model home, police also said that he only lived about a half mile from the scene.

Local authorities believe that Wilson was placed the 911 call after being shot by teenager Dillon Nicholas Augustyniak. When the operator heard the voice from the background, presumably Augustyniak’s, police and an ambulance were dispatched. There was security footage from the scene that shows the suspect holding a long gun. It was also revealed that Augustyniak had not only stolen Wilson’s cellphone but had given it to another person.

Witnesses also say that Augustyniak was trying to sell his gun, which they believe is the same one that he used to shoot Wilson.

Dillon Nicholas Augustyniak, safr.me

Dillon Augustyniak, wmar2news.com

Police later found an identical firearm in Augustyniak’s home. They also found Wilson’s laptop and cellphone. Augustyniak was taken into custody and is now off the streets, but this does open the opportunity for discussion about real estate agent safety.

It is imperative that agents remain vigilant at all times although there are no specific threats towards them. Though this crime might have been a crime of opportunity, it is certainly not uncommon for criminals to target open houses and other real estate events.

For agents out there, you might want to start thinking seriously about your surroundings when showing houses, and come up with a plan to protect yourself if necessary. This type of crime isn’t extremely common, but it does happen; since most real estate agents work alone, it is important to know what you are up against.

More information here on protection as a real estate agent.