Four Realtor associations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., area have issued security alerts to members after the report of three burglaries that may be linked to a missing lockbox key and pin number.

The association, in an alert to members, announced that a “Supra SuperKey” was reportedly stolen from a member’s car with the pin number attached to it. They key can be used to open Supra-brand electronic lockboxes. The St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, Southern Twin Cities Association of Realtors, and North Metro Realtors Association were also advising members about the lockbox breach.

“There have been three burglaries reported that we know of using the stolen key,” the Minneapolis association reported to members.

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors reported that the key, which was reportedly stolen late last week, is active until Oct. 22, and advised members to remove the key, key container or the electronic KeyBox from listed homes until Oct. 23. “The homeowner and/or listing agent would need to be present for showings during this period.”

Another solution would be to use a “Lock-Out Key” to block the stolen key from being used in the lock box, the association recommended, and association staff have made these special keys available to members. Also, Realtors can bring electronic KeyBoxes to the association office to be programmed with a “lock-out” code.

“There may be other solutions such as contacting your sellers to lock their screen or storm door so no one can get to the electronic KeyBox. Be creative. You are advised to secure your listings now,” the association advised.

Mark Allen, executive officer for the Minneapolis association who spoke for the four regional associations, said the associations learned about the system breach Monday. The burglaries took place in three suburbs: Plymouth, Maple Grove and Woodbury, he said. Allen said the attachment of the pin number to the SuperKey was “an outright violation of system use,” and that the association has “very explicit instructions” to keep the key and pin number separate. The violator who owns the missing lockbox key is liable, Allen said, “for the cost to restore system security.”

There are an estimated 19,000 actively listed single-family homes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Allen said, though he said there is no way to know how many Supra lockboxes may be in use at those homes. So far, thousands of lockboxes have been safeguarded against the suspect key, Allen said.

While the Supra system is not mandatory, Allen said it “is a prevalent system” in the region and that it “provides some forms (of security) that others do not. It is very important to note that the system has been in place for four-plus years without ever experiencing a breach – millions of showings have occurred.”

Jeff Byrd, president of Eagle Realty in Roseville, Minn., said he uses the Supra lockboxes but is not affected by the security alert because his company requires agents to call his company to receive a lockbox code prior to showing a listed home. “I am glad my sellers have a little better lockbox protection,” he said. “I’ve been fighting to have the (call-before-showing) code required on all of the listings in town. Hopefully (this incident) just ends up being thefts and nothing more serious.”

The high-tech Supra lockboxes, which are manufactured by a General Electric Co. subsidiary, are dominant in the national real estate marketplace. In an effort to eat into this market share and provide Realtors with other lockbox options, the National Association of Realtors launched its own high-tech lockbox this year, called SentriLock. And a local Realtor association, the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors in Illinois, this year launched its own brand of high-tech lockbox, called Easy Show.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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