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5 Realtor Safety Apps to Help Protect You and Your Clients
Being a professional real estate agent involves working with new people you do not know, and that alone can be risky business. After all, research shows that Realtors meet with prospective clients they have never met before either at their office or a neutral location 65% of the time. Nearly 40% off all Realtors hosted an open house alone last year. Almost one in five felt unsafe when doing so. Agents who have shared their stories online about coming close to avoiding a scary situation when asked to show a home point to a common experience: Something just didn't feel right about the prospect. Calls from restricted numbers, requests to see a home on a moment's notice, or a prospect overemphasizing they will be paying all cash can be warning signs, agents have shared. Several agents have revealed that some sketchy prospects have turned into stalkers – fortunately, that landed them in jail. Fortunately, over the last decade, the National Association of Realtors, along with state and local Realtor associations nationwide, have emphasized the importance of personal, professional, and community safety. Historically, September has been Realtor Safety Month, although remaining safety-conscious is a daily task for every agent. The NAR offers a repository of safety information and tips on its website (nar.realtor/safety), including safety planning strategies, tips and best practices to remain safe, safety training videos, and personal protection resources, which includes safety apps for your smartphone. Do you need to use a safety app for your phone? Consider these agent safety study finding from Agent Genius: Most attacks took place on Thursday or Friday afternoons. Roughly 30% of attack victims are men. Most attacks didn't take place inside major metropolitan areas. About half of attacks involved guns. Several attacks resulted in murder, even though robbery was the original intention. Here are five real estate apps for smartphones that are designed to keep agents safe: 1. Forewarn $20 a month – individual agent What it does: Forewarn offers an instant background check. It lets you know in advance who you are about to work with by verifying identity, searching for criminal histories, and validating information provided by unknown prospects. It needs little information upfront, such as a phone number of the person the agent is planning to meet. Available both online and through its mobile app, Forewarn instantly can help agents reduce their risk through using due diligence upfront. In addition to a personal subscription plan, Forewarn is available through many Realtor associations as a member benefit. 2. Real Safe Agent $4.99 month – individual agent What it does: Real Safe Agent is one of the most robust safety apps designed for real estate agents. It uses Hoosfon to see if a prospect is using a prepaid phone as well as other key information that could indicate a red flag. With Prospect Link, Real Safe Agent offers the ability to request a selfie and photo of their driver's license. These tools are used to build an "Agent Comfort Index," which shows if a prospect has been reaching out to other agents and if those agents reported feeling uncomfortable. By leveraging a social networking design, it allows agents to identify individual safety "buddies," fellow teammates and partners, and other individuals to create a safety network of people who are alerted instantly when an agent feels threatened or is in danger. Agents can also use the app to ask for someone in their network to join them at an open house they are hosting alone via an "Accompany Me" feature. Other features include Drop-in Alerts, allowing you to ask another agent in your network to "drop in" if a someone is making you uncomfortable, and an Open House feature to arrange someone to join you when you are opening or closing – the most dangerous times of an open house. Real Safe Agent also offers a unique 9-1-1 Alerts feature, as it notes it is the only system fully integrated with the nation's 911 system, ensuring the correct address is provided to the 911 operator. The alert can be immediately deployed simply by violently shaking one's smartphone. 3. SafeShowings $4.99 month or $49.99 annually – individual agent What it does: SafeShowings, available to more than one million Realtors through their associations, protects agents and the homeowner by capturing facial images of prospects. It also collects geolocation information from your phone. If there is an alert involved, SafeShowings will automatically send the stat to your emergency contacts. During an open house or individual showing, SafeShowings captures a facial image of anyone who is about to enter a property. It allows you to set a timer during a property showing and if an agent is unable end the timer, an alert is instantly and automatically triggered. 4. Homesnap Pro Free for most agents via their local MLS Homesnap Pro+ is $599 a year, discounted to $499 a year for the first year What it does: Homesnap Pro has been downloaded by more than a million real estate agents nationwide. It has a safety tool built in to the app. Before a showing or an open house, an agent can set a safety timer. The safety timer can be set at the agent's discretion for the amount of time they plan to be at the property. The coolest feature is that the app uses Homesnap geolocation technology, which means it automatically populates the property address when you are within 2000 feet of the property you want to show. Homesnap Pro also has a Distress Alert feature that will automatically text to your emergency contacts your time-stamped location, which an agent can access at any time they feel uncomfortable or threatened. 5. SentriKey Real Estate App Subscription prices for its lockbox service vary based on local association member pricing What it does: SentriLock is the official lockbox solution for the NAR, and is an optional, subscription-based service that associations often offer to their members. Its built-in agent safety feature creates an automatic way for an agent to alert their designated emergency contacts in case of potentially dangerous situations. The Agent Safety feature automatically launches when the mobile app is used to open a SentriKey lockbox. The agent can select a set time – SentriLock recommends approximately 90 seconds — or a time determined by the agent — for the app to prompt for a status update. If the agent us unable to respond, the app will automatically alert the agent's designated emergency contacts if the agent does not or cannot confirm they are safe. Safety is not an accident As you can see, many of these safety apps often require a subscription service. But that can be a small price to pay for the peace of mind and comfort it can bring an agent. For more information about other safety technology for real estate agents, see NAR's Resources for Personal Protection. For help setting up or installing any of these safety apps, reach out on your Tech Helpline app, or call or text a Tech Helpline expert for personal and friendly assistance. To view the original article, visit the Tech Helpline blog.
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Friday Freebie: Safety Checklist for Real Estate Agents
It's September, and that means one thing in real estate: it's Realtor Safety Month! From showing properties to meeting new clients, there are a lot of things to consider to keep yourself safe on the job. To make managing your safety as straightforward as possible, this week we're highlighting a safety checklist that you can use to protect yourself across multiple scenarios. Read on to learn how to download your free copy! Free copy of The Real Estate Professional's Safety Checklist, courtesy of Zurple When it comes to safety, planning ahead (and knowing what to look out for) is the best strategy. What general strategies should you know to keep yourself safe? How about specific strategies for when you're active in the field? Prepare for all scenarios with Zurple's free real estate safety checklist. When you download your free copy, you'll get checklists for: Everyday safety tips Safety preparation Meeting new clients Parking your vehicle Showing properties Make the most of Realtor Safety Month — learn how to protect yourself and download The Real Estate Professional's Safety Checklist now!
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[Free Download] Data Security and Privacy Toolkit for Your Business
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How Safe Is Your Office?
Realtors meet strangers everyday, which opens your office to potential dangers. Do you have steps in place to make sure you and your team are safe at work? Screen potential clients – Background check all potential buyers and sellers—they are essentially a stranger. Look for red flags in behavior and trust your gut feeling. Know who is in your office – Have a login procedure in place with a check-in and out. Take a copy of the client's identification and keep a record. Keep it professional – REALTORS® get to know their clients on a personal level. Avoid sharing personal information about where you live, family, or if you have vacation plans. Have a plan – No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but having a plan could save your life. Performing safety drills will prepare them to take cover effectively in case of an active shooting incident. Practice drills will also help your team identify useful items to barricade the doors, designate a "safe room," and develop an emergency contact system to check in with all staff and agents. Get to know the local police department – Your local law enforcement may have some great tips and suggestions on how to improve your office safety or offer training. Opt for technology with built-in safety features – Your phone is a great safety tool with built in features like GPS location and the ability to send an SOS message. In addition, your SentriKey® Real Estate App also has a built in feature that checks in with you regularly during a showing. For more information about safety training or safety tips, visit nar.realtor/safety or contact your local police department. To view the original article, visit the SentriLock blog.
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Smartphone Safety: 8 Tips to Protect Your Personal Information
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How You Can Protect Your Business with an Effective Cybersecurity Strategy
Even though the influence of a growing number of remote employees on real estate markets has been widely discussed, there is little information available about the impact that remote workers have on real estate firms themselves, although this impact has been significant. Like with other sectors, most of the influence has been good. However, there have also been some negative consequences. It is known as cybercrime, and if you are not vigilant, it will find its way into your real estate business. Cybercrime may be highly damaging to real estate agents and their clients. In recent years, real estate investment trusts (REIT), brokerages, and other real estate businesses have experienced increased cyber attacks, ranging from phishing to email-compromised cyberattacks to data breaches. While cyberattacks are becoming more advanced, you can still apply measures to safeguard your real estate business, and the process begins with developing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Taking the threats that cybersecurity poses to the real estate sector, it is clear that a solid investment in cybersecurity is the only way to ensure data protection and consumer safety. Read on to get information about a basic cybersecurity strategy you can use for your real estate business. Why Do Real Estate Practitioners Need Cybersecurity? Real Estate Transactions Routinely Involve Large Sums of Money Since the real estate sector frequently deals with and transfers enormous amounts of money, real estate companies are on the radar of every cybercriminal. Thus, it is not just real estate experts and investors that profit from the real estate market. Cybercriminals can also profit from the real estate market. It has been estimated that one-third of small businesses, including real estate companies, have been a cyberattack target in the past two years, according to CNBC. Personally Identifiable and Financially Sensitive Data Real estate companies also make attractive targets for hackers due to the large volumes of financially sensitive and personally identifiable data they manage, such as social security numbers and bank credentials. Cybercriminals and Hackers Use Advanced Tools and Techniques To launch their attacks, cybercriminals and hackers have access to all of the tools, skills, and tactics they have. Business email compromises (BECs), for example, are one of the most common attack methods used today. A business email compromise occurs when an attacker impersonates a firm to persuade another business to move cash to a fake account. It is common for the hacker to send the email using a fictitious account that appears to be associated with a legit company. Compromised landing pages, ransomware, malicious attachments, trojans, and attacks on cloud-based services are all significant threats to real estate firms. Cybersecurity Tips: 5 Ways for Real Estate Agents to Avoid Getting Hacked Mobile Data Encryption More people are using smartphones and laptops today than ever before. Cybersecurity solutions can prevent hackers from gaining access to your communication networks. Data encryption software is an effective solution when it comes to protecting your data from hackers. It makes your data secure and protects sensitive data. Effective Email and Password Hygiene Resisting assaults and keeping organizations secure are very easy yet have strong effects. Here are a few tips from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to prevent being hacked. Use two-factor authentication. Avoid using public or unsecured WIFI. Use a different password for multiple accounts. It is recommended that you use a password manager. Long passwords with combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols should be used. Never open files received from unknown sources. These may contain malware. Secure access to email and confidential information used in transactions. To communicate sensitive information, use a transaction management platform, encrypted email, or file-sharing software. Clean your email account regularly and save copies of essential correspondence in a safe place for future reference. Make Use of Reliable Antivirus Protection A built-in antivirus protection system is included in most PCs. Because it takes a short time for updates to be applied, some consumers may ignore the process of upgrading their antivirus system. However, when it comes to cybersecurity, the most common solutions are antivirus software and protection. A paid antivirus system guards your system against cybercriminals and hackers more effectively. The paid versions involve the updating of antivirus software on a regular or basis. Every operating system is vulnerable to attack from hackers. So do not ignore the antivirus updating your software. Always Check URLs Usually, real estate professionals will submit all of their legal paperwork over the internet rather than in person. The submission of information over the internet is only a small portion of the rapid processing method. However, before uploading the papers, double-check that the URL is authentic. If you come across a website that begins with simply HTTP, avoid visiting that website. If the final "S" is not there, then the website is highly unsafe. Antivirus software prevents these websites from opening or displaying high-risk websites. Insurance Considerations, Law, and Policy Working with your attorney, establish a written disclosure alerting clients of the risk of cybercrime. The NAR has prepared a wire fraud email notice template that your counsel may use and customize. Keep track of the state legislation linked to personal information, creating and maintaining data security policies, and other security-related company practices. Final Words In recent years, cybersecurity has become a major headache, and real estate pros are increasingly confronted with cybersecurity-related challenges in their businesses. Like you would encourage clients not to relocate to unsafe districts, you must follow the same advice regarding your own business and ensure that your business operates in a secure digital area. A smart strategy that complies with the cybersecurity procedures outlined above is one of the most beneficial real estate investments you can make today. To view the original article, visit the Realtyna blog.
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8 Safety Tips to Share With Your Seller
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Taking Realtor Safety a Step Further
The National Association of REALTORS' 2020 Member Safety Report shows that 31% of REALTORS felt unsafe during either an open house or a showing, and 27% reported feeling unsafe while meeting a new client at a secluded property. At SentriLock, we take REALTOR® safety seriously and have made it a part of our lockbox features to keep you safe while on the job. There are a lot of ways you can be proactive about your safety on the job. Here, we will go over some safety do's and don'ts. Gather client's information before showing a home by getting a copy of their identification. Always be sure your first interaction with a client is at your office or a public area. Two is better than one – there is safety in numbers, so partner up with another REALTOR® for open houses. Be sure inform colleagues or family of your itinerary. Create a safe word or term that can be used in case of an emergency. This way, you can notify someone you need help inconspicuously. Don't share too much information – be friendly, but do not share information that could potentially put you or your family at risk. Follow behind your clients – let your client lead the way; do not walk behind them. Most REALTORS® will not go into attics or basements. Always be aware of your surroundings and who has entered and exited a showing. Do not park in an area where you can be blocked in. Be sure your phone is fully charged and programmed with emergency phone numbers. Your SentriLock App has as safety features. You can schedule regular check-ins to assure you are safe while on the job. Local law enforcement is happy to help. Learn where your closest police station is located and reach out to them if you have any safety questions. Learn more about SentriLock's commitment to REALTOR® safety here. SentriLock is a proud sponsor of the Beverly Carter Foundation. They offer safety seminars, educational resources, and instructor-lead training. Learn more at beverlycarterfoundation.org. To view the original article, visit the SentriLock blog.
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10 Questions You Should Ask about the Security and Integrity of Your Data
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Protecting Your Digital Information
Your personal information should always be protected. This includes your online information. In today's world of phishing, viruses, ransomware, and even whaling, your digital information needs to be locked down like Fort Knox. Here are some quick statistics: 67% of internet users are not aware of their privacy and data protection rules. 81% of US users believe their personal information is vulnerable to hackers. 33% of the world's internet users change their passwords So, in this world of internet piracy, how do you keep your treasure chest of private data safe? Do not use the same password for your logins. Make sure you use a complicated password using a combination of caps, numbers, and symbols. Be sure to change your passwords regularly and store them safely. Do not use public WIFI when making a purchase or entering a password/passcode—you never know who is digitally eavesdropping. Use two-step authentication for online accounts. Yes, it can be annoying, but it is an added barrier against hackers. Enable Touch ID with your SentriLock box for an added layer of security beyond your code. Be aware of your background while on Zoom calls. You may be giving away personal information without knowing. REALTOR® safety includes your personal data. SentriLock uses Google Cloud security, which provides encrypted internet communication, encrypted storage devices, phishing-resistant Security Keys, and more. To learn more about Google Cloud Trusted, visit cloud.google.com/security/infrastructure. To view the original article, visit the SentriLock blog.
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How Does Real Estate Privacy Law Protect You?
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Real Estate Cybersecurity Practices That Should Become Your Second Nature
The real estate industry can't function without sensitive information. The amount of personally identifiable information floating through real estate networks makes it a primary target for cybercriminals. Cyberattacks can result in disruption of business, financial loss and damage to reputation. Today, we are going to speak about the real estate cybersecurity practices that should become your second nature. Real estate agents are responsible for keeping their clients' information safe. Unfortunately, the real estate industry doesn't have regulations in place for real estate professionals and companies to adopt cybersecurity practices. So, the responsibility falls to individual agents. Remember, cyberattacks often are human behavior oriented. And by being aware and proactively monitoring our daily habits, we can significantly reduce the risk of the cybersecurity breach. So, what daily practices should real estate agents be aware of? Passwords This seems like an obvious answer, but you would be surprised how many people forget to update passwords or fail to use strong passwords. Weak or obvious passwords make the job of a cybercriminal easier. The best practice for keeping your clients' information safe is to keep your passwords completely random. No identifiable pattern means a whole lot of work for cybercriminals. If you want to have a secure password but also remember it, use a passphrase that is familiar to you only. Do not share your passwords with anyone. And always activate two-factor authentication for every account possible personal or business. USB Devices According to the Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI) USB devices are one of the major problems when it comes to cybersecurity breaches. It's easy to bring malware into your computer with a USB drive. That can significantly endanger your clients' personally identifiable information. USB devices present a classic situation known as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The good is that USB is an extremely popular, easy to use and inexpensive method to store and transfer files. Unfortunately, USB drives are often lost, or they simply stop working. This is the bad. And the ugly side of USB is definitely the ease of it getting infected and infecting your computer with malware. Instead of using USBs, we urge you to explore safer alternatives. Phishing Phishing emails are a very widespread phenomenon lately. They look like an official email, but that's just a disguise to scam you. The totally legit appearance doesn't make you question the validity of it, and you might enter your personally identifiable information or click on malicious links. That's why it's so important to be aware of phishing. So, what should you pay attention to? First of all, read your email carefully, and watch out if: The email is urging you to take action The email is inconsistent The email contains grammatical errors The email contains attachments and hyperlinks Software Updates Software updates is one the core four issues that make cybersecurity a liability. Software updates contain important security patches that keep your devices safe. Not updating your softwares might endanger your and your clients' personal information. Little Tips and Tricks You Shouldn't Forget About Don't forget to lock up your computer screen. If you're an agent on the run and you're constantly moving, there is a chance you might lose your laptop. Locking your screen will at least prevent cybercriminals from accessing your personal data. If you're still using USBs, use encrypted and high quality USBs, and don't plug it in untrusted devices. P.S. Want to know more about cybersecurity in the real estate industry? Check out our blog, Cybersecurity Guidelines for Real Estate Agents. To view the original article, visit the Realtyna blog.
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Proactive Tips for Protecting Yourself as a Real Estate Agent
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Tips for Staying Safe During Showings (and Beyond)
Real estate agent safety is an important topic that is often overlooked in many discussions. While no one plans to be in a dangerous situation, agents should be prepared for any possibility. In the most recent Secrets of Top Selling Agents webinar, "Don't Be a Statistic," Jay Thompson shares some of his best safety tips to help agents be more aware and create a safety plan. Entering the real estate industry in 2004, Thompson started out in the Phoenix, Arizona market. He worked three years as an agent before transitioning to open his own independent brokerage. In 2012, Thompson switched roles and began working for Zillow as their Directory of Industry Outreach, a position he held for seven years until his retirement. While Thompson jokes that he is "retired," he currently owns his own consulting business and shares his knowledge of real estate with weekly news articles. He prides himself for his role on the Beverly Carter Foundation's board of directors, whose purpose is to raise awareness about "lone worker" safety. Safety is all about awareness At the beginning of his webinar, Thompson shares that real estate agents are often called "lone workers," because they spend many of their working hours alone. Agents are often put in vulnerable situations, as they're showing homes to and hosting open houses for strangers. Thompsons mentions that they are most vulnerable when they are showing homes, as they're alone with a stranger at a property. While women in the real estate industry are targeted more often, many men are victims as well. Thompson stresses that, while most agents will not have an issue with their safety being compromised, it's better to be knowledgeable and prepared. He suggests that it may be useful to think about potential situations and rehearse a script of what you would say if ever faced with an off-putting client. Thompson likens this to agents preparing an objection script and says a similar idea could be applied. The reaction could come more naturally if you've prepared, as the muscle memory—both physical and mental—would be there. Go with your gut Overall, Thompson says that "awareness is the key" when preventing these types of situations. By understanding when and how these threats take place, agents can be more prepared and hopefully avoid these safety risks. One of Thompson's main points is, "if something doesn't feel right, there's a very good chance that it's not right." He also tells listeners to "trust your gut," because human instinct is usually right. He assures listeners that if they act on an instinct and they're wrong, the outcome is far better than if they didn't act and they were right. "It's far better to err on the side of safety and awareness than it is to fall victim to someone," Thompson comments. Be proactive rather than reactive It's important to be proactive rather than reactive. When you're reactive, you're already in that situation to begin with and need to find a way out. Thompson says it's better to pay attention to the warning signs in order to avoid the situation altogether. When you're at an open house, it's important to practice situational awareness. Situational awareness means being aware of the situation that you're in. Thompson gives an example of this by describing a training exercise in which a person enters a room for 15 seconds and is then asked to give details about the room. At an open house, for example, be aware of all the entrances, find out whether the neighbors will be home, and locate the closest police station. Beware of financial scammers While physical safety is a top concern, Thompson mentions agents should also consider their financial safety, especially for crimes like wire fraud. He uses the example of a scammer sending an email from what appears to be a title company asking buyers to send their banking information to complete their transaction. Agents should be screening their messages and keep in mind that almost every institution will never ask for secure information through text or email. Safety solutions Thompson offers a few different options for reactionary safety measures. However, he stresses that these options are still not foolproof and are not preventative measures. He says that they're better than nothing, but they aren't the best. Forewarn is a preventative app that offers an easy way to do a background check on a potential client. While Thompons encourages agents to set up an initial public meeting for a new client, he says that this app will use a client's phone number to check public databases to see whether the person has a criminal history. Real Safe Agent is another preventative app, but this one is community based. While it offers some basic background checks, its main feature is you can use it to send a message to agents near your location, asking someone close to check in and pretend they're previewing the listing. It also lets agents rank local clients and give information about their exchange history. Invisiwear is a wearable that comes in the form of jewelry. If an agent feels like they're in danger, they can squeeze the pendant and it will alert 911 that they need help. Wearsafe is another wearable and comes as a FOB that can be clipped onto a purse, belt, pocket, etc. It can also alert the police or a contact if a dangerous situation arises. Thompson mentions that there are many weapons options, including handguns, pepper spray, self-defense classes, etc. A concealed weapon is a potential safety solution, but agents have to practice with it and be prepared to use it. Thompson says that "you better train a lot and you better train frequently." However, he also reminds listeners that an assailant can take a weapon away and use it against you. He states that it's a tool, but it's not a guarantee of safety. Overall, agents should review safety protocols, trainings, and checklists to help prepare and become more aware of their safety. To learn more of Thompson's safety tips, you can join the Secrets of Top Selling Agents Facebook Group here. For more free real estate education, including best practices, visit the Secrets of Top Selling Agents website. To view the original article, visit the Homes.com blog.
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How Safe Is Your Computer? Check Out This Safety Checklist!
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Understanding IoT (Internet of Things) Risks: How your clients can protect themselves
The IoT, or Internet of Things, refers to any physical device connecting to the internet that collects and shares data. With the explosive growth of devices in a home that can connect to the internet, you and your clients need to understand the risks surrounding IoT devices and the ways to secure protection.
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[Best of 2020] How to Prevent Coronavirus by Cleaning Your Smartphone and Computer TODAY!
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Nearly 8 in 10 Home Buyers are Taking More 3D Home Tours During the Pandemic, Citing Safety Concerns
For residential real estate, touring homes virtually has become increasingly important since the coronavirus outbreak. Over the last seven months, home sellers, buyers and real estate professionals have had to work around restrictions preventing in-person property showings and grapple with safety concerns over potential exposure to COVID-19. Last January, Matterport conducted a survey to learn about buyer and seller preferences for home listings. We found that static photos are no longer enough and that both sellers and buyers overwhelmingly preferred a more immersive experience with 3D tours. In September, we partnered with Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage, to poll 1,000 U.S. home buyers and 1,000 U.S. home sellers to see how these preferences have shifted since the onset of the pandemic.
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How to Stay Safe: Agents Share Their Top Safety Tips
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8 Ways for REALTORS to Get Home Safely
The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is at the forefront of promoting agent safety in the real estate industry every day. Each September, NAR shines a spotlight on agent safety and well-being and its tenets of REALTOR®Safety: knowledge, awareness, and empowerment.
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8 Tips for an Agent Safety Month Unlike Any Other
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5 Resources for Realtor Safety Month
The year was 2011, and Ashley Oakland was a 27-year-old REALTOR in Des Moines, Iowa. She had been an agent for Century 21 since 2010 and was working inside a Des Moines model townhouse on Friday, April 8. A home builder employee heard a commotion inside the townhouse Ashley was showing to a potential buyer. The employee rushed to the scene and found Ashley on the floor, having been shot twice by her assailant. Ashley's killer has never been found.
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Hacking, Scams, and Viruses: 4 Effective Ways to Work from Home More Safely
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Are your kids attending school from home? Safest ways to share your work computer
The persistence of the pandemic means working from home will continue for some time to come. With most of the nation's largest school districts announcing virtual learning plans for the fall, real estate agents, like many others, face additional work-life balance challenges. While some school districts are providing students the tech tools they'll need for remote learning -- from iPads to Chromebooks -- others are allowing families to use the tech resources they have. Kids today are more tech-savvy than ever. According to a 2019 Common Sense Media report, 95% of families with children now have smartphones, up from 63% in 2013, and 41% in 2011. Nearly half of children (42%) ages 0 to 8 have tablets, up from 7% four years prior. For agents suddenly saddled with several students connecting from their home, sharing your work computer might be a reality. But how can you share it safely? Here are some things you can do to protect your work – and share your computer with kids learning from home. Create Separate Accounts Whatever operating system you use – Windows or Mac – allows you to set up separate accounts. You should do this for everyone who shares your work computer. This will give them a personal login and protect your work files from being accessed. Just remember not to share your password so someone won't accidentally sign into your account. Set a Schedule If more than one person is sharing a single computer, you need to make sure you have access to it when you need it. Use a family calendar – such as Google Calendar – to block out the times that your kids need the computer for classes and homework, and when you need it for work. Employ Ground Rules You need to establish ground rules for computer use to make sure your kids know what is expected of them when using a shared computer. There are also ways to adjust your computer settings to have a "kid-safe" mode to protect your work computer better. Unplanned scheduling conflicts can emerge, so plan for it. Think about priorities and alternative options in advance. If something does come up, you can avoid panic and adapt to an unexpected change more easily by having rules already in place. Establish a Central Location Having your computer set up in a set location can make it easier for everyone. If you are using a laptop, it's still a good idea to establish one location. It will save time in connecting needed accessories for learning – such as an external monitor, mouse, a video conferencing light, and a microphone. It will save everyone time and avoid a scramble to connect everything at the last minute if your laptop is roaming your home. Make your computer kid-safe The most popular computing operating systems – and web browsers – have built-in settings that can restrict, for example, what your kids can see when they search online. Microsoft even offers a Family Safety Account. The point is you need to not only talk about how your work computer can be used, but also ways it should not be used. If you want an added layer of protection, there are software programs built to make nearly every digital device safer for your kids to use – and safer for your work computer. Protect your computer Windows 10 and Mac both offer exceptional built-in protection from computer viruses and malware. If you want to be extra safe and you don't already use a virus protection program, you can add one to protect your work computer and your files better, no matter who is using it. Everyone is experiencing more stress these days, so having an organized plan on how to share your work computer with your kids can make things a little less hectic. And remember, for the 60 percent of real estate agents in North America who have access to Tech Helpline, you can always reach out for help for any computer issue you are having at work – or home. Tricia Stamper is Director of Technology at Florida Realtors®, which owns and operates Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.
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Are Electronic Signatures Safe?
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Detecting Thieves Posing as Buyers, Part 3
Got a buyer whose behavior sets off alarm bells in your mind? They may actually be a thief. Over the past few weeks, we've been introducing you to behavioral "tells" that indicate a buyer may be a burglar. Last week, you learned about a scam called "The Couple's Play." In this week's video, you'll learn all about "The Neat Freak." In this scam, the thief disguised as a buyer will "dust check" a window. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, what they're actually doing is unlocking the window so that they can come back later in order to burglarize the home. Watch the video above to learn other behaviors that suggest your buyer is preparing to burglarize a listing. Catch up with the full series on spotting thieves below: Detecting Thieves Posing as Buyers, Part 1 Detecting Thieves Posing as Buyers, Part 2
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5 Reasons to Safeguard Your Seller With Virtual Tours
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Detecting Thieves Posing as Buyers, Part 2
Have a buyer who's flirting with you during a home tour? How about a buyer who complains about their spouse? If your buyers are a couple, and one wanders off into the house while the other distracts you, they may actually be a couple of thieves. In part one of this series, we showed you how to look for signs that buyers are actually criminals casing the listing they're touring. This week, we look at a common scam—The Couple's Play—that thieves use to outright steal during a showing, or to plan a future burglary. Watch the video above to learn: Why couples who separate during a tour may actually be thieves The common behaviors thieves display to distract you What you can do when you suspect your buyers are actually burglars Stay tuned next week for the final part of this series!
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Detecting Thieves Posing as Buyers, Part 1
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Protect Yourself from Identity Theft: A Must-Do for All Agents
It is paramount that real estate agents protect themselves from identify theft. It is not just happening online. The types of crime identity theft includes range from credit card fraud to having all your financial and personal information stolen. If it happens to you, it can be very scary and time-consuming to fix. Now is your opportunity to be proactive. Here are the top nine ways you can protect yourself.
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How to Prevent Coronavirus by Cleaning Your Smartphone and Computer TODAY!
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Safe Selling: Reading the Predator, Part 2
What are the signs that a prospect is gearing up to attack you? It's all about the adrenaline, and the physical and verbal signs that adrenaline is surging in a would-be attacker's body. So why are the signs of rising adrenaline important to look out for? Because it's the body hormone that's released when a predator is preparing to attack--and if you see the signs of an adrenaline surge, it's time to get out NOW. Watch the video above to learn: The nonverbal changes to look out for How a predator's voice changes prior to an attack, and why What to look for when a predator is trying to cover up adrenaline surge symptoms Next week: How to show a vacant property safely.
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RPR User Shares Her Quick and Easy Safety Tip
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Safe Selling: Reading the Predator, Part 1
Throughout this video series, we've showed you how to deter predators. But what happens when you realize the person that you're with actually IS a predator? And what are the signs that tell you it's time to exit the house you're showing and get to safety? Watch the video above to find out the subtle, physical signs that a predator is gearing up for an attack. Next week: The details of how to tell when a predator is about to attack, from body language to voice changes and beyond.
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Dealing with Malware
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Safe Selling: Showing Prep Tips for When You Can't Arrive Early
In a perfect world, agents would always have time to arrive at a showing before their prospect in order to prepare the home for a safe showing. But as we know, the world isn't exactly perfect. What happens when you arrive to a showing at the same time as the buyer and don't have time to take the necessary safety precautions? That's what we'll show you in this week's Safe Selling episode. Watch the video above to learn: How to set expectations with prospects before a showing that you'll need to enter the home alone first A sample script to use when setting those expectations Why it's important to prepare the home for your safety... no matter what Next week: What happens when you're prospect really is a predator? Learn how to tell when they're gearing up for an attack—and how to stay safe.
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Safe Selling: Stay Out of Outbuildings!
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Safe Selling: Opening a Lockbox and Door
Never turn your back on a client... and we mean that literally. To prevent finding yourself in a vulnerable situation with a prospect, we know to never physically turn away from them. But what should you do in times where that seems inevitable--like opening a lockbox or door? In this week's Safe Selling video, we talk about just that. Watch the video above to learn: Precisely how to stand so that you can open a lockbox while still being able to see the client How to open a door and walk through so that your back is never to the client How to come off as warm and welcoming when opening door or lockboxes, rather than awkward or standoffish. Next week: Simple tips for navigating stairs safely during a showing.
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Safe Selling: Dealing with the Dangers of Master Suites
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Safe Selling: Why Bedrooms Are a Danger Zone During Showings
As an agent, you've heard it a hundred times: don't go into the basement or attic during a showing because you can easily get trapped and assaulted by unsavory prospects. While that seems like a no-brainer, there's another place in the house that you need to be cautious about--and for very similar reasons. That place? Bedrooms! In this week's Safe Selling video, we break down why bedrooms are a danger zone for agents during a showing. Watch the video above to learn: The two major reasons that bedrooms are unsafe for agents Why bedrooms are ideal for carrying out an attack What to do when a client has a question about a bedroom Where to safely stand when a client is viewing a bedroom Next week: Master suites present their own safety challenges during a showing. Learn how to navigate them safely.
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Safe Selling: How to Keep a Safe Distance from Prospects at a Showing
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Safe Selling: How to Maximize Your Visibility During a Showing
The appointment is set, and you've just arrived ahead of your prospect for a showing. Beyond previewing the home to learn its layout and features, this is the perfect time to prepare the listing so that you're safe during the showing. How? As we've learned, the first step is to open all the blinds and turn on all the lights so that neighbors can see in. The next step? "Blocking" your presentation. "Blocking" is a theatrical term that means planning where you're going to stand. In the case of real estate, that means planning where you're going to stand during different segments of your showing presentation. Watch the video above to learn: Why windows are your key to staying safe Why it's important not to stand somewhere you can't be seen from the outside of the listing The red flag that predators may display when you've denied them an opportunity to attack Next week: Why you should take the literal "high ground" when showing a home or meeting with new prospects.
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Holiday Tips for Electrical Safety
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How to Overcome the Pain of Passwords
Are you like me and password dumb? Do you use the same password all the time (NOT a good idea)? Different sites require upper case, lower case, a number, and a symbol of some kind, and passwords have to be a minimum of eight digits long. Now let's add even more reasons to forget passwords, like facial recognition, password managers, and a ton of other apps and programs. How many times have you tapped on the "Forgot Password" link and a site emails you 23er&#7di1? So you go in to change your password, and the one you enter is rejected because you have used it once in the past 10 years! How about sticky notes on your computer or desk?
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Friday Freebie: Guide to Staying Safe without Sacrificing the Sale
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Privacy Changes Coming to Facebook Groups
Facebook, one of the largest social media platforms in the world, is one of the best tools you can use as a real estate agent. It offers endless opportunities for you to engage with potential buyers. One of those opportunities, Facebook Groups, enables you to create a group that can be targeted to a specific location or audience. While Facebook Groups are great, there are some upcoming changes that may impact the success of these groups. To get you ahead of the changes, we outlined them and how they may impact how you use groups for your business.
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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with a Realtor Who Escaped an Attack
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Safe Selling: Protecting Yourself as a Real Estate Agent
It's September, which means it's Realtor safety month. Real estate can be an extremely rewarding career, but it comes with its own set of dangers. The people and even places you run across can be hazardous. Even driving in your car puts you at risk. Here are some things you should keep in mind when going about your job. We've also included some apps and programs you should consider investing in to make sure you are as safe as can be.
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Property Fraud Is Rampant. Don't Let This Happen to You or Your Clients
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What's the Safest Way to Manage Your Passwords?
It may be the biggest Catch-22 of technology: password protection keeps your data safe. After all, one in five Americans says they have experienced a compromise of an online account. But to be genuinely safe experts recommend using different, highly complex passwords: a mix of random letters, numbers, and characters. However, that approach makes these passwords nearly impossible for most people to remember!
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How NOT to Get Ripped Off by Your Contractor: Protect Your Clients and Your Properties
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Dealing with Squatters: How to Ask Them to Leave
So, you've calmed an agitated squatter in the home you're showing. What's the next step to take in order to show the listing without provoking a confrontation? Watch this week's episode of 'Real Answers' to find out. In the video above, you'll learn: How to safely give squatters options to leave so you can show the home What to say if they choose not to leave Why respect and appreciation for the squatter and their decision are key Why you should never issue ultimatums if you want to stay safe Sample scripts you can use throughout the interaction
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Dealing with Squatters: How to Calm an Agitated Person
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Dealing with Squatters: Avoiding Confrontation During a Showing
Last week, we showed you what to do when the vacant home you're showing has a squatter. If you used the techniques we discussed, the squatter may leave the property voluntarily--but what happens if they refuse? That's what we're exploring in this week's episode of "Real Answers." Watch the video above to learn: Why you should treat them like the homeowner to avoid a confrontation A sample script for starting a conversation with them What NOT to say to avoid aggravating a squatter The physical signs that hint that a squatter may escalate the situation No matter how considerate your approach, sometimes a squatter may want to confront you anyway. Tune into next week's episode for tips on talking down an agitated squatter!    
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How to Show a Vacant Property Safely, Part 2
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How to Show a Vacant Property Safely, Part 1
Vacant properties, while convenient to show, present a host of safety issues for real estate agents. First among those concerns, according to Real Safe Agent CEO Lee Goldstein, is the potential presence of squatters. In this week's episode of "Real Answers," a video series on real estate safety issues, Goldstein shows us how to deal with vacant homes in general and squatters in particular. Watch the video above to learn: What to do before you enter a vacant listing Why it's important to take accompaniment when previewing or showing vacant properties And more! Next week, be sure to tune in again as we cover Part 2 of how to show vacant listings!  
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Safe Selling: Reading the Predator, Part 2
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Safe Selling: Reading the Predator, Part 1
Throughout this video series, we've showed you how to deter predators. But what happens when you realize the person that you're with actually IS a predator? And what are the signs that tell you it's time to exit the house you're showing and get to safety? Watch the video above to find out the subtle, physical signs that a predator is gearing up for an attack.
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Safe Selling: Showing Prep Tips for When You Can't Arrive Early
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Beyond CCPA and GDPR: New Digital Privacy Developments that Realtors Need to Know
We recently talked about the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and its impact on the real estate industry in the United States. CCPA is the first domestic state regulation after the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and although CCPA isn't as far-reaching as GDPR, it will mean a change in the way real estate agents in the US handle and manage personal identifiable information for their clients and leads. Unlike the GDPR, CCPA is based in this country and, much like GDPR, has inspired other new privacy regulations in other states that are reflective of CCPA and the GDPR.
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Safe Selling: Stay Out of Outbuildings!
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Google Flags Websites that Are Not HTTPS as Not Secure
It's for your clients. It's for your security. It's for Google. Our team heard "rumblings" as early as two years ago from Google strongly "advocating" website owners move to HTTPS encryption to make the Internet secure and protect the privacy of your users. If you have not yet acquired an SSL certificate, you may have already noticed Google has flagged your website as "Not Secure" in Chrome.
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Safe Selling: Easy Tricks for Navigating Stairs
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Safe Selling: Opening a Lockbox and Door
Never turn your back on a client... and we mean that literally. To prevent finding yourself in a vulnerable situation with a prospect, we know to never physically turn away from them. But what should you do in times where that seems inevitable--like opening a lockbox or door? In this week's Safe Selling video, we talk about just that. Watch the video above to learn: Precisely how to stand so that you can open a lockbox while still being able to see the client How to open a door and walk through so that your back is never to the client How to come off as warm and welcoming when opening door or lockboxes, rather than awkward or standoffish.
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Safe Selling: Dealing with the Dangers of Master Suites
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Safe Selling: Why Bedrooms Are a Danger Zone During Showings
As an agent, you've heard it a hundred times: don't go into the basement or attic during a showing because you can easily get trapped and assaulted by unsavory prospects. While that seems like a no-brainer, there's another place in the house that you need to be cautious about--and for very similar reasons. That place? Bedrooms! In this week's Safe Selling video, we break down why bedrooms are a danger zone for agents during a showing. Watch the video above to learn: The two major reasons that bedrooms are unsafe for agents Why bedrooms are ideal for carrying out an attack What to do when a client has a question about a bedroom Where to safely stand when a client is viewing a bedroom
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Safe Selling: Quick Hack for Keeping a Safe Distance from Prospects at a Showing
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Safe Selling: The 'No Influence' Sales Strategy
Here's something you can try on your next showing: the 'No Influence' sales strategy. It's a showing technique you can use to keep yourself safe from potential predators--all while making legitimate prospects feel like a million bucks. From childhood, we're taught to make others comfortable in our presence, and as Realtors, a certain interpersonal ease is important in building a thriving client base. Because of this, too many agents ignore their gut instincts to protect themselves during in-person interactions with new prospects. They fear alienating a prospect by making them uncomfortable. The No Influence technique lets agents seem every inch the gracious guide during a showing. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, this strategy actually allows agents to subtly position themselves in a protective manner during showings. Check out this week's Safe Selling video to learn more about this technique. Watch the video above to: Get a script to use with prospects during the home tour Learn why this technique pleases legit buyers and deflates predators
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Safe Selling: Why You Should Take the (Literal) High Ground
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Safe Selling: How to Maximize Your Visibility During a Showing
The appointment is set, and you've just arrived ahead of your prospect for a showing. Beyond previewing the home to learn its layout and features, this is the perfect time to prepare the listing so that you're safe during the showing. How? As we've learned, the first step is to open all the blinds and turn on all the lights so that neighbors can see in. The next step? "Blocking" your presentation. "Blocking" is a theatrical term that means planning where you're going to stand. In the case of real estate, that means planning where you're going to stand during different segments of your showing presentation. Watch the video above to learn: Why windows are your key to staying safe Why it's important not to stand somewhere you can't be seen from the outside of the listing The red flag that predators may display when you've denied them an opportunity to attack
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Safe Selling: 4 Times You Should ALWAYS Have a Showing Buddy
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[Best of 2018] Safe Selling: Screen Prospects with This Easy Phone Trick
We're continuing an annual tradition of counting down our top 10 articles of the year. The following article was originally published in November and is #5 in our countdown. See #6 here. We're keeping it short and sweet this week with a quick trick you can use over the phone to reveal 'red flags' that suggest a prospect might be dangerous. You recently learned the basics of spotting red flags in prospects. In this week's 'Safe Selling' episode, discover a trick called 'The Training Play' that can help you gauge a prospect's hidden motives. Watch the video above to: Hear a sample script for using the Training Play on the phone Find out which vocal cues to be alert for Learn how to tell if you should take another agent with you on a showing Stay tuned until next week's episode of Safe Selling!  
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Safe Selling: The 3 Things You Should Do to Prepare a Home for a Showing
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Safe Selling: Use the Meet Time to Establish Power and Control
"Always take power and control wherever you can." That's the advice from agent safety expert Lee Goldstein. In this week's "Safe Selling" video, Lee shares another way that agents can turn off potential predators--by taking control of what time you'll meet a prospect for a showing. It's a simple tactic. Rather than simply agreeing to meet a new prospect at the time they suggest, Lee recommends telling the prospect you can meet them at an alternative time. Because predators look for weakness and subservience in victims, this minor pushback may signal to them that you aren't an easy target, and that YOU are the one in control. Watch the video above to learn: Why this tactic turns off predators, but leaves real clients unphased Why you should never apologize or ask if the alternate time is "okay" with a prospect
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Safe Selling: Using Property Information to Deter a Predator
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Safe Selling: Screen Prospects with This Easy Phone Trick
We're keeping it short and sweet this week with a quick trick you can use over the phone to reveal 'red flags' that suggest a prospect might be dangerous. You recently learned the basics of spotting red flags in prospects. In this week's 'Safe Selling' episode, discover a trick called 'The Training Play' that can help you gauge a prospect's hidden motives. Watch the video above to: Hear a sample script for using the Training Play on the phone Find out which vocal cues to be alert for Learn how to tell if you should take another agent with you on a showing Stay tuned until next week's episode of Safe Selling!  
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Safe Selling: The Office and Driver's License Myth
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Shady Prospect? Spot 'Red Flags' with This Technique
Have you ever gotten a 'funny' feeling when talking to a new prospect over the phone--like something just felt a bit 'off'? That may have been your intuition warning you that a prospect may not be who they seem. Today, we're exploring a communication technique that will help you uncover 'red flags' that warn you to be wary of a prospect. In this week's 'Safe Selling' video, you'll learn: What active listening is, and how to use it with prospects How to tell a legitimate buyer from a suspicious prospect The 'onion peeling process' of drilling down into what a prospect says and looking for inconsistencies Why inconsistencies in what a prospect tells you are a red flag And, bonus, while active listening can help you weed out shady prospects, it can also help you gain a deeper understanding of what real buyers need! Stay tuned 'til next week for more safe selling techniques!    
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5 Rules for Staying Safe on Social Media
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Safe Selling: How to Avoid Marketing that Attracts Predators
Does the information you provide in your marketing attract leads--or predators? Last week, we learned the difference between "strong" language that attracts leads and "weak" language that draws in predators. We're building on that lesson this week by exploring what types of marketing information attracts dangerous people, and what repels them. Watch the video above to learn: The difference between personal and professional information Why you should NEVER include personal information on your website or other marketing channels The personal details that can cause a predator to stalk you in person What topics your marketing should focus on instead Stay tuned for next week's 'Safe Selling' video!  
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The Smartest Agent Is the Safe Agent
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Safe Selling: Authoritative Language vs. Subservient Language
What kind of language do you use on your website and in your marketing? Is it weak, subservient language that attracts predators--or do you repel criminals with confident, strong language? Last week, we learned how agents can project power in their headshots in order to repel predators. In this week's Safe Selling video, we're taking the 'power' concept one step further by showing you how to convey power in your marketing copy. Why is being mindful of the language you use important? Well, if a predator has already started to focus on you, using subservient language is going to keep their attention on you. Because they're looking to have power over others, weakness in language signals that you're potentially a subservient target for them. Watch the video above to learn: The word you should NEVER use in your real estate marketing The phrase you should use instead Why strong language will attract more business while deterring dangerous criminals Tune in next week for more 'Safe Selling' advice!  
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Safe Selling: How Your Headshot Can Deter Predators
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How to Connect to a Computer Remotely
If you ever find yourself needing to access a computer remotely--either attempting to connect to a desktop computer at work or need to assist someone with their computer from afar--this primer is for you. Whether you have a Microsoft Windows PC or an Apple Mac, let's take a look at the basics you'll need to know.
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Safe Selling: Is Your Prospect Actually a Thief? How to Tell
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Agent Safety Month: 6 Tips for Real Estate Agents
September is Agent Safety Month, but we want real estate agents to be safe every day of the year. Real estate agents spend their days meeting with so many people, and they're entrusted with clients' homes during open houses and property showings. Beyond that, an agent's job often relies on their notoriety — and that means sharing a lot of information online. How can real estate agents take precautions online and offline to stay safe? Here are six of our biggest tips:
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Safe Selling: How to Identify Thieves
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Safe Selling: The Timeline of a Crime
Violent crimes against real estate agents don't start when the predator and the agent first meet. In truth, that first meeting is rather late in the timeline of a crime. Instead, these violent crimes start far earlier--when a predator first chooses a victim. Last week, we learned about the psychology of predators and the emotional cycle that drives them to commit a violent crime. Today, we're learning what that timeline looks like--from the initial selection to the research and fantasy stages all the way up to the attack. By understanding all the "pre-work" that occurs before a predator even contacts an agent, we can devise a plan to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as this "Safe Selling" series continues to find out more about protecting yourself!    
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Realtor Safety: Preparing a Home for a Showing
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Realtor Safety: Navigating Stairs without Making Yourself Vulnerable to Attack
We're re-running this popular agent safety video series from Real Safe Agent on our broker channel to highlight the importance of safety on the job. Brokers, please feel free to share and/or reuse this content on your own blog, website, social media account, internal communications, and beyond! We're continuing our new video series of safety tips for agents in the field. Last month, we learned how to open a door and lockbox without being vulnerable to potentially dangerous prospects. Today, we turn our attention to safety tips inside a home during a showing--how to safely navigate stairs. Julie and Lee with Real Safe Agent point out that the conventional wisdom--allowing your prospect to go all the way up the stairs before you follow them--is wrong. Why? Because it gives prospects ample time to turn a corner out of your line of sight and potentially get into an ambush position. How should you climb a staircase instead? Watch the short video above for more information and a demonstration. Tune in next time for more agent safety tips!    
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Who's Attacking Real Estate Agents?
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Realtor Safety: Opening a Lockbox and Door
We're re-running this popular agent safety video series from Real Safe Agent on our broker channel to highlight the importance of safety on the job. Brokers, please feel free to share and/or reuse this content on your own blog, website, social media account, internal communications, and beyond! In-person showings are fraught with potential dangers for real estate agents. So how can agents stay safe on the job? Today, we're introducing a weekly video series that shows agents all the subtle things they need to know to stay safe on the job--while still presenting themselves as a friendly professional. In this week's video, Realtor Jason Ralston of Conway Real Estate demonstrates how to open a lockbox or property door without turning your back on your prospect--a vulnerable position for Realtors alone in the field. Watch this short video to learn: How to subtly position yourself while chatting up your client in a friendly manner How to deal with tricky situations, like homes with an outside door that swings out and an inside door that swings in How to stay safe while treating your client in a warm, welcoming way If you found this video helpful, please share it with your colleagues--and be sure to tune in next week for more Realtor safety tips!
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Realtor Safety: Prevention vs. Reaction
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Rebuttal: Why Background Checks on Real Estate Prospects Don't Work
On June 21, RE Technology published an article by Lee Goldstein of Real Safe Agent that called into question the efficacy of background checks, with a specific focus on the application of such by real estate agents seeking to use information as an additional safety tool. This rebuttal, by James Reilly of red violet and FOREWARN, explores the weaknesses of the original author's evaluation of background checks: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of a fatal injury by 45 percent. If seat belts are not 100 percent effective at saving lives, then they are rendered unusable and ineffective, and give a false sense of security, right? We should all immediately stop wearing them, right? Of course not. Debate around real estate agent safety is a good thing. The fact that there is ongoing conversation about safety protocol, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of varying tools and techniques, means that this important topic stays fresh in the minds of the men and women who, unfortunately by the nature of their business, have inherent risk due to the need for personal engagement with individuals about whom they have little to no knowledge. Unfortunately, the dispersal of information that is rife with inaccuracies, false and misleading conclusions, and reckless recommendations is, in my opinion, not only careless but grossly negligent. Anyone involved in real estate owes it to their fellow industry professionals to shoot straight. The referenced article strayed well from the mark. As the only instant identity verification and criminal record indicator specifically designed for the real estate market, we (FOREWARN) take issue with the author's claims and associated conclusions and thank RE Technology for allowing us the opportunity to respond. AUTHOR'S CLAIM: Through creative wording and misleading isolation of data and comparison, the author represents that the Department of Justice feels that commercial background checks are ineffective. FACT: Virtually every government agency utilizes commercial databases as part of any investigative endeavor. Additionally, companies across America use commercial databases to power various forms of background checks in their daily workflow. AUTHOR'S CLAIM: Of the 10.7 million arrests in 2016, only 1.4 million had a final disposition, which is required for a record to show up in a commercially available criminal background check. FACT: The statement that commercial criminal databases only have records with a final disposition is FALSE. This claim demonstrates perhaps the single greatest piece of evidence that the author has no background in the investigative data industry or that he intentionally presents manipulated numbers and statistics as facts, tying them together to create a false narrative around criminal coverage. A quality investigative resource will show arrests soon after they occur, regardless of whether there has been a final disposition. AUTHOR'S CLAIM: There is a 30 percent error rate of instant background checks due to spelling of names, and errors in DOBs and data entry (implying that they are useless). FACT:  Variances and human errors in data entry do NOT render industry-leading information solutions ineffective or unusable. Anytime humans are involved in the collection and input of data, certainly there are chances for errors. A quality data provider accounts for these errors through highly technical data fusion processes and algorithms that result in not perfect, but highly accurate matching. High quality criminal record repositories, coupled with advanced data science practices, provide highly effective insight for a multitude of use cases, including screening individuals before face-to-face engagement. Further, the author limits evaluation to criminal records. Background screening of prospects also allows the verification of identity to ensure the person an agent is engaging with is who they say they are. AUTHOR'S CLAIM:  The use of criminal background checks poses a legal issue. The author cites the Supreme Court for the proposition that "the use of background checks may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act." FACT: By making these blanket statements with no further color, the author is extremely disingenuous. Organizations around the country use background checks every day without violating the FHA. It takes more than just a background check to violate the FHA. It takes a subsequent action that results in discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability (of which persons with criminal records are not a protected class under the FHA). To be clear, it is never okay to engage in discriminatory practices of any kind. Verifying a person's identity and understanding risk factors such as a criminal history to ensure one's safety is not the same as taking discriminatory action against a person because of their race, national origin or other protected characteristic. I think it's fair to say that the author would not have used this red herring had he known that FOREWARN is actually used by Housing Authorities. AUTHOR'S CLAIM: Only 37 percent of people charged with rape had a previous felony conviction at the time they were arrested for rape the first time. FACT: 37 percent of people charged with rape had a previous felony conviction at the time they were arrested for rape the first time. Even if the author's isolated statistic was the whole story, I'm confused as to how this supports his false narrative. In fact, the statement alone demonstrates that 37 percent of those charged had criminal records that could have found through a background check prior to their next assault. But consistent with the author's theme of disingenuous presentation of information, the same cited source (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) goes on to report that MORE THAN HALF of all alleged rapists have at least one prior conviction of rape, robbery, and/or assault and battery. Conclusion Not properly and comprehensively addressing agent safety can be catastrophic. In September of 2014, Beverly Carter, an Arkansas-based real estate agent and mother of three was murdered by individuals posing as prospective home buyers. "If Mom had been alerted on inconsistencies in the callers' story, she would not have handled that appointment the same way," says Beverly Carter's son and Founder and Executive Director of the Beverly Carter Foundation, Carl Carter, Jr. "With an application like FOREWARN, she would have immediately known that the spoofed phone number didn't match who they claimed to be. With more information at her fingertips, she would still be alive today." As executive management of a public company that provides information solutions to many industries, including real estate, I make no claim that I'm an unbiased voice. But through almost a decade of work with investigative data, dealing personally with law enforcement, other government agencies, and corporate and private investigators, I've been immersed in the world of, and the use of, commercial databases for risk mitigation and fraud prevention. As such, I emphatically believe that real estate agents should be armed with as much knowledge as possible. There is no single solution to the issue of agent safety. A comprehensive protocol of both tools and processes are needed at the agent, agency, and association level, to make a substantial impact on the safety of the professionals that are at the heart of making this industry thrive. Whether it be through FOREWARN or another information provider, the use of data to "know your customer" should be an essential part of that safety protocol for every agent across the country. The author seems to believe that unless a risk mitigation tool is 100 percent effective, agents are better off walking into engagements blind. I don't agree. Use your seatbelt. James Reilly is President of red violet (NASDAQ: RDVT) and FOREWARN.    
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Why Background Checks on Real Estate Prospects Don't Work
Many real estate agents run background reports on new prospects before meeting them in person. However, a new study by the U.S. Department of Justice shows why commercial background checks may be ineffective and dangerously misleading. This article explores the weaknesses of background reports: The NCIC, National Crime Information Center, is the gold standard in criminal background check databases and is available ONLY to law enforcement. This database is the most complete and accurate record of arrests and convictions in the United States and is substantially more complete and accurate than databases used by commercial criminal background check products--which is why a Department of Justice report released this year is so disturbing. The DOJ Report This year, the DOJ released its Survey of State Criminal History Systems. The two-year study of arrests and convictions data from 2016 provides insights into why commercial background checks are ineffective. The report found that a remarkably low percentage of arrests and convictions are making it into the nation's most complete criminal history database. The following are some highlights of the report: Of the 10.7 million arrests in 2016, only 3.6 million were reported to NCIC Of the 3.6 million reported, only 1.4 million had a final disposition. (Final dispositions are necessary for a record to show up in a commercially available criminal background check) 2016 was the most complete year in the NCIC's history What these numbers show is that even if a commercial instant background check system is using the most complete criminal history database in the country, it will still only have information on 13 percent of the crimes. Additionally, we also need to take into account the estimated 30 percent error rate of instant background checks due to variances in the spelling of names, errors in DoB, and mistakes that occur in the data entry process. So what does all this mean for real estate agents? If a prospect rapes, assaults, or kills a real estate agent, is convicted, goes to jail, gets out, and calls an agent to show him a house and the agent runs an instant background check, the agent has approximately an 8 percent chance of finding out about the crime. Predatory Behavior In addition to the incompleteness of criminal history databases, the very nature of crime against real estate agents makes reliance on criminal background checks problematic. Crime against agents is predatory crime, committed by true predators, and meets all the classic predatory behavior patterns. Consider what someone has to do to attack a real estate agent: The predator must "shop" for a victim (it is actually called victim shopping), choose a victim, research the victim (this research is associated with a fantasy stage as well as forms a basis for planning), choose a site, come up with a plan on how to get the victim to be with him at the site, come up with a plan for how to get the victim isolated where he or she can't be seen or heard by others while they are at the site, execute on all of those things, and then they still have to make an attack. These are not random opportunistic crimes committed by impulsive careless people with extensive felonious criminal "rap sheets." Additionally, predatory behavior, including the crime, is a progressive, obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern similar to that of a binge alcoholic. A predator's motive is power and control; they get an "emotional high" off their crime and all the events that led up to the crime. When visiting with an agent, they intentionally exert "dominance." This dominance is what causes agents to have uncomfortable feelings. Studies into various types of predators have shed light into their behavior patterns and lack of any criminal history while committing multiple crimes. On average, a rapist will have 10 victims in his adult life. (One individual raped 26 agents in 13 years before he finally got caught on the 27th.) Source: Repeat Rape & Multiple Offending among Undetected Rapists Other studies—such as Weinrott & Saylor's Self-report of crimes committed by sex offenders, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence—have found that, on average, a rapist will have 11 victims prior to being arrested the first time and they estimate that unreported rapes range between 68 percent to 92 percent. Only 37 percent of people charged with rape had a previous felony conviction at the time they were arrested for rape the first time, accoridng to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Fair Housing implications of background checks A discussion of instant criminal background checks would not be complete without considering the legal issues involved. Aside from the obvious legal implications of inaccurate reporting, according to the Supreme Court, the use of background checks may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled on Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, said that a party may prove violations of the Fair Housing Act by either showing intentional discrimination or that a certain practice has an adverse or "disparate impact" on protected classes. In a 2016 article entitled "What the Latest Fair Housing Guidance on Criminal Background Checks Means for Real Estate" about new HUD rulings, the National Association of Realtors said, "While persons with criminal records are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, HUD's recent guidance maintains that criminal history-based barriers to housing have a statistically disproportionate impact on minority groups. Because minorities are a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, HUD's guidance says that creating arbitrary or blanket criminal-based policies and restrictions could potentially violate the Fair Housing Act." Conclusions On the surface, running an instant criminal background check on prospects would seem like a sound practice. However, when you "look under the hood" and examine the completeness of criminal history databases, the error rate due to data variances, and the predatory nature of crime against agents, the effectiveness of background check systems in providing agents with "red flags" disappoints. Furthermore, instant criminal background checks pose a potential Fair Housing Act violation. Considering the lack of efficacy and potential Fair Housing issues, if an agent chooses to use instant background checks, he or she needs to do so with an understanding of the issues and risks involved. Lee Goldstein is the CEO of Real Safe Agent.  
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Tech Advice: How Safe Are Your Passwords?
When Yahoo! reported that someone hacked one billion of its accounts, it was a stunning revelation. Then it disclosed last fall that the names, dates of birth, email addresses, passwords and security questions and answers were compromised on all three billion of its accounts. For many, this news was devastating. That's because the vast majority of us use the same password or too close a variation of the same password for everything we access. Research also tells us that the average strength of our passwords is low. Also, most of us rarely change our passwords. In a 2017 survey, Keeper Security found over 80 percent of us reuse the same password, and nearly a third of us (29 percent) share a password with two or more people.
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The Browser Extension that Protects You from Facebook's Prying Eyes
There's been a lot of talk about Facebook lately--and we don't mean the run-of-the-mill "this is how you use Facebook to market your business" kind of talk. No, we mean the kind of talk that uses phrases like "Cambridge Analytica" and #deleteFacebook... in very angry tones. Facebook is under fire for violating users' privacy by allowing data firm Cambridge Analytica to access the personal information of millions of Facebook users, which the firm then used to influence elections across the globe, including in the U.S. So if you're concerned about your personal data in Facebook's hands, you're not alone. Facebook knows everything you do on their platform--and a lot about what you do even when you're off Facebook. While you can't prevent Facebook from knowing what you do while you're on Facebook, you can prevent it from tracking you while you're browsing the rest of the web. How? Well, that's thanks to a new browser extension called Facebook Container. The extension "contains" Facebook in a special browser tab that essentially isolates it from the rest of the internet--and therefore prevents Facebook from tracking you. It's like putting Facebook into a digital jail cell and forcing it to behave itself. Mo' zilla, mo' no problems Facebook Container is exclusive to Mozilla Firefox, as it takes advantage of a unique feature of the browser's architecture. (As does Firefox Multi-Account Containers, which protects your privacy across multiple sites--Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc.) If you haven't tried Firefox in a while, check it out. The browser underwent a major overhaul late last year, which doubled its speed, among other things. Firefox Quantum is the new version, and it's emerged as a serious challenger to Google Chrome's dominance in the browser wars. A few notes on privacy Online privacy is a complicated beast, so we thought we'd clear up few things about what this extension can and cannot do: Facebook Container makes it hard for Facebook to track your web browsing activities on third-party sites--but only when you're using the Firefox web browser. The extension is not available for other browsers like Chrome and Safari. Because the extension works on browsers only, Facebook Container cannot protect your phone from the Facebook app. (Your best protection from the Facebook mobile app is deleting it altogether. Then, you can use Firefox's mobile browser--with this extension installed--to access Facebook in a "Contained" tab.) If you click a Facebook Share button on a third-party website, it will automatically open in a contained tab. Just be aware that Facebook will know what you share when you use that button. If you use your Facebook credentials to log into other sites, they may not work with this extension. Same goes for Facebook comments and like buttons on third-party sites. This is because the extension deletes any cookies Facebook tries to store on your browser. This prevents Facebook from tracking you, but also makes it difficult to log into other sites with your Facebook ID. You can learn more about the Facebook Container extension in this post from the Firefox blog. Next Steps Firefox users: Download the Facebook Container extension Don't have Firefox? Get Firefox Quantum here Explore more Firefox browser extensions
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