Don’t pick up hitchhikers is common knowledge. “Don’t give rides to strangers” is the mantra. But that’s exactly what many real estate agents do.
I remember when I was a kid, a female real estate agent would drive my mother and me all over the place to see houses. I remember even then my mom telling me not to talk to strangers and wondering why this agent would drive total strangers around in her car.
For over 25 years I’ve been teaching people how to avoid and remove themselves from dangerous situations. I’m a self-defense instructor and a private investigator. When the National Association of Realtors developed Realtor Safety Week, I was on the team tasked with creating the safety content. And no matter how much I try, agents still put themselves directly in harm’s way. But it doesn’t need to be like that.
First of all, reassess the way you run your business. Is it absolutely necessary to drive prospective buyers around? Is it not feasible to arrange to meet that person at the properties he or she is interested in? Is it likely he or she will challenge you with, “Well, why don’t you just drive me around?” And if he does, then that sounds mighty suspicious. Red flag — don’t you think? Just because this is the way we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean this is the way it always has to be.
You’re eager to make a sale, but safety comes first. If you feel you must do the driving, here are eight ways to minimize the odds that a predator will strike you in your car:
- Before driving anyone anywhere, meet them at the office and get that person’s prequalified docs — get their ID and employer contact information. If a client gives you grief about this, that’s a warning.
- Make sure your office knows your whereabouts, though this won’t prevent a crime. It’ll just mean the authorities will find you sooner, should there be an incident. Also, no GPS app will stop an attack. Apps are a necessary layer of security but will not protect you.
- Inform the client ahead of time that you’ll be bringing someone with you, even if you aren’t. If they insist otherwise, that’s a warning.
- When you arrive at the property to meet the client, park your car in a highly visible area.
- Take a “defensive drivers course.” Google it.
- Keep pepper spray in the side of the driver’s door. But take a class first, and know how to use it.
- If you’re threatened in the car, drive to a police station, if you know how to get there. The predator doesn’t want a car crash, and he’s not apt to assault you while you’re driving him. Or, first chance you get, position your car so close to another vehicle that the predator can’t get out, then bolt.
- Another option is to cause a fender-bender at an intersection or disable the vehicle (under 30 mph). Do not be afraid to do this. Be creative and safe, but that sure beats the outcome of the secondary crime scene. Few victims will try this maneuver, but when it happens, the success rate is spectacular.
There was a case of a high-speed chase caught on helicopter video of a woman driving along a highway at her deranged boyfriend’s command. In the back seat was the woman’s very young daughter. After a few minutes, the woman took matters into her own hands. At a speed well-exceeding 30 miles per hour, she rammed the car into the back of a truck. The impact forced her door open. She and her daughter ran out, and the boyfriend was apprehended on the spot. This is an extreme solution to an extreme situation.
But really, you shouldn’t be driving your clients around unless you have properly vetted them.
What do you do to keep yourself safe in this business? Please share your tips in the comments below.
Robert Siciliano is CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and a personal security and identity theft expert.