Watch Your Back: Don’t Sleep On These New Agent Safety Hacks

Key Takeaways:

– February is New Agent Month at Inman, focusing on tools, tech, and tips for success
– Tracey Hawkins offers strategies for improving safety and security in real estate
– Client screening, cybersecurity, and showing savvy are important elements for safety
– Utilize tools like Forewarn and Lifebrand for screening clients and enhancing security
– Be aware of AI cybersecurity risks and invest in cyber insurance coverage
– Implement safety practices, like letting clients lead during showings and utilizing technology for location sharing
– Stay vigilant with financial safety, avoid scams, and utilize electronic payment options
– Be prepared with an emergency kit and hands-free technology while driving
– Trust your gut instincts, invest in training, and stay connected with colleagues for safety
– Lead with safety and security in your real estate career to build trust with clients.

inman:

From client screening to cybersecurity and more, it’s essential for you to take care of yourself and stay safe in today’s world. Security expert Tracey Hawkins offers a range of strategies to improve your odds.

February is New Agent Month at Inman. Follow along as we go deeper on the tools, tech and tips you’ll need to survive and thrive in 2024. For curated content crafted just for first-year agents, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Basics.

In the excitement of showings and client meetings, your safety should never take a back seat. Drawing from my years as an agent and teaching real estate safety and security, I’ve put together a guide that’s easy to follow and full of actionable tips.

Do not rely on just one step; safety should be practiced in layers. Whether online or face-to-face, I’ve got you covered with the best practices to keep you safe and confident. Let’s make your real estate career not just successful but safe and secure too.

Screening clients

  • Verify: Before investing time, confirm the potential new client’s identity and financial viability through the client’s mortgage company or your lender partner with a pre-approval letter.
  •  Social media savvy: Don’t let your past haunt you! Use tools like Lifebrand to scan your social media for potential red flags violating the NAR Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 10-5 and posts that may risk your safety and reputation.
  • Check them out: Screen clients with Forewarn. This service lets you check potential clients for criminal conviction records, sex offender registries, foreclosure and bankruptcy filings, and even social media red flags. This will give you valuable insights before the meeting. Remember that all criminals don’t have conviction records, so use all the tools to confirm their identity.

AI cybersecurity risks

  • AI alertness: “You are the target!” according to Traci Dowd, high-tech crimes agent at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Since agents have a fiduciary responsibility to protect client information, Dowd advises agents to have separate laptops, one for business and one for personal use, when possible. She believes client and financial data should be secured, and no one other than the agent should have access to that device.
  • Stay informed about the latest AI phishing email tactics, wire transfer BEC scams (Business Email Compromise), and the dangers of deepfake impersonation calls, photos, and videos.
  • Insurance Umbrella: To protect against financial losses from wire fraud, ransomware, data breaches, and cyberattacks, invest in cyber insurance coverage like CRES, which offers E&O and all coverage in one place. Meet with your agent or insurance broker to get coverage based on your business practices.
  • Cybersecurity: Secure all accounts, including social media, email and websites, with robust passphrases or Google Passkey (fingerprint) and two-factor authentication (TFA) on all accounts. Manage complex passwords by saving them to your Google or web browser. Attend expert-led training, and educate yourself on possible threats.

“Review the FBI’s IC3 Annual Cybercrime Report: Focus on Business Email Compromise (BEC), ransomware, and investment fraud,” stresses Darren Mott, retired FBI Special Agent and owner of Gold Shield Cybersecurity. “Find examples of [fraudulent] BEC emails and educate agents, closing attorneys and title companies of their existence so everyone is on the same page regarding awareness and knows what to look out for.”

Showing savvy 

  • Let the client lead: Allow clients to enter rooms and spaces while maintaining a comfortable distance and avoiding isolated areas. Never allow your escape route to be blocked.
  • Safe open houses: There is safety in numbers. Partner with another agent or industry partner to accompany you, such as lenders, title or insurance companies, etc.
  • To lock or not to lock the door while showing: There is no correct answer. If the property is in an area with loitering and heavy foot traffic, locking the door is wise. If you are concerned about the client you are showing, leave the door unlocked for an escape, if necessary. Your instinct will guide you.

Utilize technology

  • Location, location, location shared: Utilize technology such as Google Maps’ live location sharing to share your location in real-time with selected contacts for a specific time frame.” It helps to have a team around you. Training on being self-aware, knowing what to do and knowing each other’s whereabouts is key,” advises Jeff Lichtenstein, president and broker of 24 years with Echo Fine Properties, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. 
  • Sync calendars: Share your Google Calendar with trusted contacts to ensure someone always knows your whereabouts in real-time. 
  • Cameras count: Deter unwanted behavior and promote accountability by displaying signage (temporary signs) whether or not there is a camera and/or utilizing security cameras at open houses and listings.

Financial safety and security

  • Electronic payments: Eliminate wire transfer, commission, and down payment risks and ensure transparency with trusted industry partners, such as Earnnest and Deposit Link for encrypted, secure and trackable electronic payments.
  • Stay vigilant: Avoid unusual payment requests, last-minute changes, sharing bank information, the request to purchase gift cards or Bitcoin, or high-pressure situations. Trust your gut and verify any suspicious activity. Warn your clients to never trust wire change email requests without verifying with you at a known phone number.
  • WhatsApp scams: Cybercriminals try to convince you to communicate solely on the WhatsApp platform. They often ask for personal or financial data, bitcoin or fund transfers. Never share that information or pay them. Avoid communicating on the app unless you have a vetted relationship with the agent or client. 

Auto armor

  • Emergency kit prep: Be ready for anything! Pack essentials like a first-aid kit, phone charger, jumper cables, non-perishable snacks, water, a blanket and a roadside assistance kit.
  • Hands-free focus: Minimize distractions by employing hands-free technology for calls and navigation. Remember, even map manipulation while driving can be dangerous. 

Remember

  • Trust your gut: If something feels off, don’t hesitate to reschedule or decline a meeting. Our intuition, instinct, 6th sense, gut, or even “spidey sense” has no agenda other than keeping you safe. Listen to it.
  • Invest in training: Knowledge is power. Lichtenstein scheduled a self-defense class for his agents after a local agent was victimized, and he offers them throughout the year. Participate in expert-led training and webinars to stay informed about the latest threats and best work practices.
  • Stay connected: Maintain open communication with your office, colleagues and a trusted safety contact. Share your schedule, location and any concerns promptly.

This expert-created toolkit equips you to embark on a safe real estate career. By staying informed, implementing proactive safety practices, and utilizing these valuable resources, you can navigate the industry with confidence and achieve your real estate goals without compromising your well-being.

You can show your value to consumers by leading with safety and discussing safety and security at each stage of the real estate transaction.

Tracey Hawkins is a former real estate agent, international real estate safety and security expert, instructor, and keynote speaker. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram.


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Property Chomp's Take:

As a real estate agent, your safety should always be a top priority. From client screening to cybersecurity and more, it’s essential for you to take care of yourself and stay safe in today’s world. Security expert Tracey Hawkins offers a range of strategies to improve your odds.

February is New Agent Month at Inman. Follow along as we go deeper on the tools, tech, and tips you’ll need to survive and thrive in 2024. For curated content crafted just for first-year agents, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Basics.

In the excitement of showings and client meetings, your safety should never take a back seat. Drawing from Tracey's years as an agent and teaching real estate safety and security, she has put together a guide that’s easy to follow and full of actionable tips. Safety should be practiced in layers, so do not rely on just one step. Whether online or face-to-face, Tracey has you covered with the best practices to keep you safe and confident.

When screening clients, it’s important to verify their identity and financial viability. Use tools like Lifebrand to scan your social media for potential red flags and screen clients with services like Forewarn to check for criminal records and other red flags. Always trust your instincts and take precautions to protect yourself.

In terms of cybersecurity, be aware of AI phishing email tactics, wire transfer scams, and deepfake impersonation calls. Invest in cyber insurance coverage and secure all your accounts with robust passwords and two-factor authentication. Stay informed about the latest cyber threats and educate yourself on best practices to protect your data and your clients’ information.

When showing properties, let the client lead and always maintain a comfortable distance. Partner with another agent or industry partner for open houses and consider using technology like Google Maps’ live location sharing to ensure someone always knows your whereabouts. Remember to stay vigilant and trust your gut if something feels off.

Overall, trust your instincts, invest in training, and stay connected with your office and colleagues. By following these expert tips and being proactive about your safety, you can navigate the real estate industry with confidence and achieve your goals without compromising your well-being. Stay safe and secure in your real estate career by prioritizing your safety every step of the way.

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