Being with strangers alone in a house is an inherently risky situation for anyone, and that, of course, includes people who meet strangers in homes for a living: real estate agents.
This is especially true if the property is vacant, under construction or newly constructed — in an area where nobody yet lives, congregates or is around to notice anything suspicious.
Maybe you’ve read that roofers and fishermen have high-risk jobs, but real estate is also a dangerous job. Predators know how easy it can be to pose as a homebuyer and seek out that perfect opportunity.
Here is a little advice to help keep you safe in the various everyday facets of your career:
- Always meet new clients at the office.
- Introduce them to office colleagues.
- Have clients fill out a customer ID form.
- Get a photocopy of their driver’s license.
- Never reveal personal information to your clients.
- Do your best to show properties only during daylight hours.
- Inspect foreclosures and new constructions before showing them. Don’t just inspect for signs of drug-user hideouts but also for animals nesting. Call the police if you see someone suspicious — don’t approach the person.
- Make sure people know your itinerary, and that includes the client
- Never close the door after you enter the property. The client should enter first. You should always be behind him or her.
- Don’t go inside small spaces such as the wine cellar. Let the client tour the basement and attic without you.
- If you feel creeped out, pretend you just got a call, take it, and then casually inform the client that another agent is coming and bringing a client.
- In the ad, mention that there will be video surveillance. This detail will stop a lot of shady characters from showing up.
- Tell neighbors your plans.
- Arrange to have someone with you or your well-trained German shepherd sitting nearby.
- Be suspicious of someone who’s needy and sucking up your attention; they might have an accomplice stealing items. But never approach a thief. Simply leave and call the police.
- Never part with your cell phone; keep the rest of your valuables in your car.
- Don’t drive your clients, even if they say they don’t have a car. This could be a ruse to get you to drive them because if a predator is alone with you in your car, he or she knows there’s a greater chance of getting away with murder. They can easily get an Uber or Zipcar.
- Don’t wait until you’re entrenched in the interaction to inform the client that your policy does not include driving to showings. Put this out there from the get-go. Don’t ask, “Would that be alright?” You don’t need a potential predator’s permission to be safe. It’s a statement, not a question: “My policy doesn’t include driving my clients; we drive to the properties separately.” Use downward inflection.
- Park on the street. A predator prefers that you park more inconspicuously.
Security is all about layers of protection. The more layers, as illustrated in the tips above, the more secure you will be. And while not all tips might be practical or even feasible at times, do your best to make them a habit.
Robert Siciliano is CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and a personal security and identity theft expert.