NEW YORK — Safety-conscious real estate professionals have a myriad of mobile applications available to them should they find themselves in trouble when meeting an unknown prospect. But a brand-new real estate startup aims to prevent trouble before it starts.
Seattle-based Secure Show offers an ID verification service that determines whether the people an agent plans to meet are who they say they are. The service’s website launched in beta this week at Real Estate Connect New York City; its verification process will be up in February.
Here’s how it works: When prospective clients call an agent, the agent can send the prospects a Secure Show link via text or email. The clients register on the company’s website and send a picture of themselves and their ID or driver’s license taken with their computer’s webcam.
A third-party authentication service then checks the client’s ID against databases containing international passports as well as state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses. A verification squad of people check to make sure that a client’s current photo matches his or her driver’s license.
For the client user, registration takes about five minutes. The verification process takes a maximum of one hour, though often the process is much faster, according to Lynn Robertson, Secure Show’s founder and CEO.
She has been in the industry since 1987 and is the designated broker at YourSeattleHomeTeam.com Inc. In her decades of experience, she has seen the Internet transform how agents do business — and also increased the risks involved in meeting face to face with strangers who found them online.
"A lot of real estate companies and associations suggest getting (prospective clients) to come to your office and (copy) their driver’s license, but with real estate the way it’s done now with everything online, that’s very impractical, and agents want to get the sale, so it’s easy to compromise one’s own well-being," Robertson said.
Secure Show is a "built-in deterrent," she said. Even background checks would not necessarily weed out those with ill intentions because they wouldn’t know they were being checked out, Robertson said. And with Secure Show, agents would have the potential criminal’s personal information, and he or she would know it, Robertson added. Secure Show does not do background checks.
The verification process offers protection to the buyer as well. Real estate agents are also verified and therefore buyers need not worry getting scammed out of a deposit on a phony listing, Robertson said.
"Right now you can read about buyers getting scammed, so it goes both ways," she said.
A single verification costs $6.95 and there are discounts by volume. Robertson said making the product affordable was important to her.
"As a real estate broker and a woman, it’s my passion to offer something we can all use," she said. "We don’t think of our business as a dangerous business, but we put ourselves in compromising situations all the time."
Secure Show is a proactive way to take responsibility before anything happens and bring trust into the relationship, she added.