Over a quarter of real estate agents have reported feeling unsafe while showing properties to prospective clients. These results do not come as a surprise, as many REALTORS® meet prospective clients very briefly prior to venturing out to show vacant properties alone with them.
To ensure that you are as safe as possible while showing the properties make safety a priority. Hear the story of one San Antonio REALTOR® and make sure to incorporate the Safety Tips outlined in this section:
When you are showing an empty property, you can take these simple steps to empower yourself against attack or theft.
Be sure to use the lockbox property-key procedure that has been established to improve real estate agent safety. A reliable, secure lockbox system ensures that keys don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Show properties before dark. If you are going to be working after hours, advise your associate or first-line supervisor of your schedule. If you must show a property after dark, turn on all lights as you go through, and don't lower any shades or draw curtains or blinds.
Try and call the office once an hour to let people know where you are.
If you think it may be some time before a property sells (and you may, therefore, be showing it often), get acquainted with a few of the immediate neighbors. You will feel better knowing they know your vehicle, and they will feel better about the stranger (you) who frequently visits their neighborhood.
Prepare a scenario so that you can leave, or encourage someone who makes you uncomfortable to leave. Examples: Your cell phone or beeper went off and you have to call your office, you left some important information in your car, or another agent with buyers is on his way.
In showing a property, always leave the front door unlocked for a quick exit while you and the client are inside. As you enter each room, stand near the door.
It is better to not display purses while at a property. Lock your purse in the car trunk before you arrive. Carry only non-valuable business items (except for your cell phone), and do not wear expensive jewelry or watches, or appear to be carrying large sums of money.
Park at the curb in front of the property rather than in the driveway. You will attract much more attention running and screaming to the curb area. It is much easier to escape in your vehicle if you don't have to back out of a driveway. Besides, parked in a driveway, another vehicle could purposefully or accidentally trap you.
(Sources: Louisiana REALTORS® Association; Washington Real Estate Safety Council; City of Albuquerque, NM; Nevada County Association of REALTORS®; City of Mesa, AZ)
Identity theft is a serious and costly crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
The following tips can help you lower your risk of becoming a victim:
1. Protect your accounts against fraud.
Contact the fraud department of any of the three consumer reporting companies— Equifax®, ExperianSM and Trans Union®—to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert automatically lets credit card companies and other creditors know they must contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.
2. Don’t get caught by “phishing.”
Scam artists "phish" for victims’ information by posing as representatives of banks, stores or government agencies. This is done over the phone, through regular mail, and especially via e-mail. Don’t respond to a request to verify your account number or password. Don’t give out your personal information unless you made the contact. Legitimate companies will not request this kind of information in this way.
3. Keep your identity from getting trashed. Invest in a paper shredder and shred all papers with personal information before you throw them away, including unwanted credit card applications and "convenience checks" that come in the mail, credit card receipts with your account number, outdated financial papers and papers containing your clients’ personal information.
4. Control your personal financial information.
Many states have laws requiring banks and other financial institutions to get your permission before sharing your personal financial information with outside companies. You also have the right to limit the sharing of your personal financial information with most of your companies’ affiliates. Write to your companies that you want to "opt-out" of sharing your personal financial information with their affiliates.
5. Shield your computer from viruses and spies.
Use passwords with at least eight characters, including a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Use firewall and virus protection software and update it regularly. Download free software only from sites you know and trust, and don’t install software without knowing what it is. Set browser security to at least "medium." Don’t click on links in pop-up windows or in spam e-mail, and don’t download any file from an e-mail address you don’t know.
6. Click with caution When shopping online, check out a Web site before entering your credit card number or other personal information. Enter personal information only on secure Web pages with "https" in the address bar and a closed padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window.
7. Check your bills and bank statements.
Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Check for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Call if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.
8. Stop pre-approved credit offers.Stop most pre-approved credit card offers by calling toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) to have your name removed from credit bureau marketing lists.
9. Ask questions.
Ask questions whenever you are asked for personal information that seems inappropriate. Ask how the information will be used and if it will be shared. Ask how it will be protected.
10. Check your credit reports — for free.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to monitor your credit history. You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three national credit bureaus. Order your free annual credit reports by phone, toll-free, at 877-322-8228, or online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
(Sources: The Federal Trade Commission, The Office of Privacy Protection in the California Department of Consumer Affairs)
Stay informed about scams and fraud schemes that are affecting REALTORS® in our area and nationwide.
Check the stories and links below for more information:
Safety Alert: Please be cautious:
04/04/13 – This alert is being posted once again because a San Antonio agent recently encountered this individual again. Please continue to be vigilant . This is an update to this message issued 10/24/12 - A recent situation arose involving an agent that felt threatened in the New Braunfels area. The agent had reason to feel unsafe and the man in question wanted her to show him vacant properties. After stalling him, other customers arrived and the man fled in his maroon 4-door passenger car. The man was described as a white male having penciled in or tattoos on his eyebrows. He goes by the first name Dan, Daniel and sometimes John. He is known to have an unstable past. A police report has been filed with the New Braunfels Police Department (Case 12-40590). We have reason to believe that he is conducting business in the San Antonio area. Please proceed with caution should you encounter this individual and take all safety precautions if you feel that you might be contact with this individual. As always, should you find yourself in an emergency or questionable situation, contact the San Antonio Police Department immediately.
Scam Alert: Questionable Buyer Seeking Properties Near Randolph:
1/15/2013 – A buyer claiming to be a General Wilson called to say that he is going to be stationed at Randolph and asked to see properties from 3.5million-5 million. The Broker receiving the call was apprehensive about the call and called the number back. The recording was the same individual with a different name. He was asking to see properties the weekend of the 19th. Be Vigilant!
Potential Assault Alert - New Braunfels, San Antonio area:
10/24/2012 - A recent situation arose involving an agent that felt threatened in the New Braunfels area. The agent had reason to feel unsafe and the man in question wanted her to show him vacant properties. After stalling him, other customers arrived and the man fled in his maroon 4-door passenger car. The man was described as a white male having penciled in or tattoos on his eyebrows. He goes by the first name Dan, Daniel and sometimes John. He is known to have an unstable past. A police report has been filed with the New Braunfels Police Department (Case 12-40590). We have reason to believe that he is conducting business in the San Antonio area. Please proceed with caution should you encounter this individual and take all safety precautions if you feel that you might be contact with this individual. As always, should you find yourself in an emergency or questionable situation, contact the San Antonio Police Department immediately.
Assault Alert - San Antonio, Austin, Boerne:
SABOR is asking REALTORS® to remain vigilant in light of reported security risks in the Austin, Boerne, and San Antonio areas. REALTORS®, do not make plans to meet an unfamiliar buyer in a vacant property alone. If you find yourself in this situation, take someone along as there is safety in numbers. Reportedly, there have been four separate incidents involving Austin REALTORS® who had entered vacant properties that had been staged for a sexual assault under the guise of a property showing. These situations included an air mattress with ropes and ties stored in a closet. These incidents are said to have involved a man by the name of “Tate”. The individual is said to be dressed in medical scrubs. If you encounter this individual or find yourself in an emergency during a property showing, contact the San Antonio Police Department.
Alert: NAR Name Used in Consumer Scam
NAR's Finance division has become aware of a scam under which fraudulent checks are being issued to people from the "National Assoc of Realtors." After recipients deposit the checks, they receive a request to return some of the funds. The scam succeeds when the recipients comply by sending their own funds before the fraudulent checks from "NAR" are returned unpaid. There is no financial risk to NAR as a result of this scam; rather, the risk is to NAR's financial reputation if word were to spread that NAR is somehow involved in distributing fraudulent checks. Please alert your members that their national association is not involved in these actions but is a victim of corporate identity theft. For more info contact
Fraud Alert - Avoid This E-mail Scam:
Sham e-mails from a wealthy, out-of-area consumer looking for a residential property have been landing in real estate professionals’ Inboxes in the past few weeks. The messages, which come from a variety of aliases, are written in an unnatural, grammatically incorrect manner. If the real estate professional responds to the inquiry and sends the individual listing information, the alleged buyer selects the most expensive property from the list for purchase, claims that it will be an all-cash transaction, requests the information that he needs to write on the deposit check, and states that the check will be sent either to the real estate brokerage or to an attorney. Then, the practitioner will receive a forged check larger than the deposit amount; if it’s cashed, the alleged buyer will immediately withdraw the overage amount from the escrow account, which is the amount that the real estate pro will lose when the bank discovers the initial check is a forgery. If a member receives this e-mail, locate your local FBI office here and forward the message there.