REALTOR® Safety Awareness

A quiz to test your safety “smarts”


 Debbi Conrad  |    September 13, 2021
REALTOR Safety Awareness

September is REALTOR® safety month. Safety is a serious issue for real estate practitioners, but often those important safety cautionary messages fade into the background when nothing bad is happening around you. It is important for real estate professionals to remember the crucial commonsense techniques that help protect them against any potential risks threatening their safety and welfare.

Observe REALTOR® Safety Month 

REALTOR® safety month reminds members of the potential risks lurking in the background of real estate practice. Refresh your awareness by watching one or more safety videos, such as “Beverly & Beyond: The Best Tips Learned Since Losing My Sweet Mom” at www.nar.realtor/videos/beverly-beyond-the-best-tips-learned-since-losing-my-sweet-mom or one of the other REALTOR® safety videos at www.nar.realtor/safety/safety-videos. Take the REALTOR® Safety Pledge at www.nar.realtor/safety/pledge. And don’t miss all the other REALTOR® Safety Program materials and information at www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety

 

COVID-19 did not stop the real estate market, but it altered the way many real estate professionals practiced: many more were telecommuting and working from home. Which cybersecurity measures are critical for safe home operations or working away from the office?

A. Back up all files and data regularly, separate from online systems.

B. Keep separate files and accounts for business and personal emails so that personal shopping, gaming and video streaming can 
continue to be done from the device used for work.

C. Update all security and antivirus software and firewalls on the device used at home, including privacy tools, add-ons for browsers, router firmware and phone apps used for business.

D. Always use a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi connection and avoid doing business over public, unsecured Wi-Fi.

The answers are A, C and D.  If a hacker or malware enters a home system, all is lost without a backup. Do not mix work and leisure activities on the same device. It is crucial to keep personal emails and messages on computers separate from those used for work as it multiplies the risk of viruses or a hack. Many homes have secure Wi-Fi, but some older installations or shared connections may not be protected. This can be an issue when multiple people connect to a shared router. See NAR’s Cybersecurity Checklist: Best Practices for Real Estate Professionals at nar.realtor/law-and-ethics/cybersecurity-checklist-best-practices-for-real-estate-professionals and Data Privacy & Security at www.nar.realtor/data-privacy-security.

 

The hackers did not take a vacation during the coronavirus pandemic, and COVID-19 scams are their newest trick for stealing personal identification information and sending malware. Keeping your real estate business secure means observing which of these measures?

A. Lock all devices when not in use; use long, complicated passwords with letters, numbers and symbols; consider a password 
manager and use two-factor authentication whenever it is available.

B. Consider cyber liability insurance, a type of business insurance designed specifically to protect your business in the event of a hack, data breach or system failure resulting in data loss or financial damages. 

C. Open emails mentioning COVID-19 because this is an efficient way for charitable services and assistance centers to reach you, your staff, clients and other business contacts when soliciting donations.

D. Do not click links or open files in any email from a person or business you don’t know. Due to the increase in phishing scams brought on by the pandemic, it’s better to delete emails from people you don’t know.

The answers are A, B and D. Be on the lookout for phishing emails mentioning COVID-19. Advise your staff, clients and other business contacts to be on the lookout for any email mentioning the coronavirus. These emails may request confirmation of renewal of login credentials and passwords. See “How to Keep Your Real Estate Business Secure While Working From Home” at www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/CyberPolicy-Working-From-Home-v2.pdf.

 

The listing agent in northern Wisconsin received a call from a broker in the Milwaukee area. The broker wanted to meet at the listed property at 2:00 p.m. the next day for a showing. The agent wrote down the broker’s name. The next day, the agent pulled into the property driveway and parked, unlocked the front door and welcomed the broker in when he arrived. Did the agent act in a safe manner?

A. Yes, because the agent is male and can handle himself.

B. Yes, because the showing was during the daytime and not at night.

C. No, because the agent did nothing to confirm who the broker was; the agent did not look him up online and did not ask for 
identification such as a driver’s license or a picture ID.

D. No, because the agent parked his car in the driveway and thus was parked in.

The answers are C and D. It is always best to confirm a person’s identification to see if they are who they say they are. Meet new clients at the office, get a copy of their driver’s licenses, and make sure everyone knows the itinerary. Parking on the road is always best so the vehicle is not blocked in and a fast exit can be made if needed. Men are not immune from being assaulted, and attacks can occur just as easily during the day as at night.

 

The accessibility of affordable, wireless security systems and wireless cameras has allowed numerous property owners to have audio and video surveillance equipment on their property for their safety and security. Which of the following are true statements?

A. Sellers must post a note in their properties during showings to alert visitors that there is surveillance monitoring.

B. It is not an invasion of buyers’ or agents’ privacy when the homeowner has surveillance, whether audio or video, at an open house, individual showing or other viewing in connection to the sale of real estate, except surveillance in bathrooms, which is prohibited.

C. The owner of the real estate may not copy, sell, rent, broadcast, post, publish, distribute, disclose, transfer or otherwise share 
a representation of an individual recorded with a surveillance device unless it is pursuant to a court order or requested by law enforcement investigating possible criminal conduct.

D. The law requires the real estate licensee to ask the seller about surveillance equipment in the property so they can warn other agents and buyers.

The answers are B and C. The law does not require the real estate licensee to ask the seller about surveillance equipment in the property or require any disclosure by the seller or the real estate licensee as to any surveillance equipment in the property. Sellers arguably have the right to protect their property, and for safety reasons, should not have to publicly announce by posting on the property or via the MLS that there is surveillance equipment at the property. This would defeat their safety measures. 

 

Harassment occurs when a person engages in repeated acts that harass or intimidate another person and that serve no legitimate, valid purpose. It may include a telephonic or written threat to inflict physical injury or damage to property. Stalking is when a person knowingly alarms another by repeatedly doing things such as appearing at the home or workplace; making constant phone calls; photographing, videotaping, audiotaping, or otherwise electronically monitoring or recording another; sending unwanted gifts; or contacting friends, family or co-workers of the other person. How does a real estate professional best avoid becoming the target of such unwanted attention?

A. Marketing materials should be polished and professional and not include any alluring or provocative photography.

B. Personal information should be limited. Consider advertising without a photograph, home phone number or home address. 
Don’t use a middle name or initial. Use your office address or list no address at all.

C. Agents should use only their first initial and last name on “For Sale” signs to conceal gender and prevent anyone other than 
a personal acquaintance or current client from asking for an agent by name.

D. All of the above. Giving out too much of the wrong information can make an agent an easy target.

The answer is D.  Harassment or stalking can reach alarmingly dangerous and ugly levels, and it is best not to present any information or photos that might attract the attention of someone with bad intentions or make it too easy for them to intrude into an agent’s personal life.

 

Automated teller machines (ATMs) are a reliable convenience or a lifesaver, depending on the circumstances prompting the need for cash. Some ATMs offer a drive-up option while others are on the street or in a building lobby. Which of the following is not a good practice to follow when withdrawing money from an ATM?

A. Withdraw your funds during the day at an ATM in a busy public place.

B. Pause to carefully double-check your math on your phone’s calculator to make sure there are no errors in the transaction amount and verify the receipt is accurate.

C. Watch out for suspicious-looking people waiting around an ATM – they may not really be customers. If they offer to let you go ahead of them, decline politely and leave. If you have not finished your transaction, and a suspicious person approaches you, 
press CANCEL, retrieve your card and leave quickly.

D. When you make a withdrawal, quickly put the money away and leave. At a drive-through ATM, keep your doors locked 
and be prepared to drive away quickly.

The answer is B.  Any person at an ATM is vulnerable and is a potential target for criminals. Do not linger for any reason. Any computations and checking of receipts may be done later and brought to the attention of the bank at a later date if that is necessary. When at an ATM, it is always best to act quickly and move on as soon as the transaction is done.

 

Being with strangers alone in a house is an inherently risky situation for anyone, and that, of course, includes real estate agents who meet strangers in homes for a living. Which of the following is not good advice for showing property?

A. Inspect foreclosures and vacant property before showing them. Look for signs of drug-user hideouts as well as animals nesting. Call the police if you see someone suspicious.

B. Let the prospective buyers enter the property first so they can visualize coming home after work. Walk behind, 
not in front of them. Never close the door after you enter the property.

C. If you feel creeped out, take a deep breath and remind yourself to act professionally. After all, you are there to show 
the property to the prospects.

D. Don’t go inside small spaces such as a wine cellar. Let the client tour the basement and attic without you. Avoid going into 
basements and other confined areas. Always position yourself between the buyer and the exit. 

The answer is C. Real estate licensees should trust their gut. If something feels off and they don’t feel safe, they should immediately get out of the situation. Safety is more important than upsetting a buyer prospect.

 

The nightmare is happening. The agent finds him or herself alone in a property with a person who was supposed to be a buyer prospect but has turned out to be someone who may be more interested in taking money or doing harm. Which response is the most effective?

A. Escape! Make a run for it! This assumes that you have a clear escape route and can create a diversion. For example, the agent can say he or she needs to step outside to make a phone call and then not come back inside.

B. Respond physically to any force or threat of force and use your mace spray, knife, gun or other weapon.

C. If someone is coming toward the agent, he or she should hold out his or her hands in front and yell “Stop!” or “Stay back!” Criminals have been known to leave a victim alone if he or she yelled or showed that he or she was not afraid to fight back.

D. Not resisting might be the proper choice. An attacker with a gun or a knife may put you in a situation where you think it is safer to do what he or she says. If someone tries to rob you, give up your property, not your life.

One might tend to say A is the best answer, although any of the answers might be effective depending on the situation.  Trying to get away is generally the best plan, but whether an agent can actually escape depends on many things, including shoes and clothing, physical stamina, the terrain and proximity to the attacker. The primary goal in any incident is to escape from the danger and call for help. Responding with a weapon, on the other hand, may be the riskiest option. Personal safety is the priority. Property can be replaced, but the same cannot be said of a person’s life and health.

 

Open houses remain popular in Wisconsin, at least in some markets. Safety, however, must be at the top of mind for the REALTOR® hosting an open house. This includes protecting the seller’s property as well as the personal safety of everyone in attendance, including the agent. What are the best ways to keep everyone safe?

A. Use the buddy system and have at least one other person with you at the open house. The other person does not need to be 
a licensee; a friend or family member will do as long as they have a fully charged cell phone with good reception and emergency numbers ready on speed dial and are prepared to take action should danger arise.

B. Make sure the escape routes you selected when you first entered the property are not dead ends. Check all the rooms and scope out several exit strategies. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape. Make sure that if you plan to escape by the back door, there are no high fences in the backyard that can spoil your plan and leave you trapped.

C. Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and email so the police can figure out who the 
attackers or thieves were when law enforcement is called to the scene.

D. Don’t fly solo. Set up some guardian angels to help look out for you. Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask them to please keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary. Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.

The answers are A, B, D and half of C.  Safety in numbers is a tried-and-true safety measure, even if it sounds a bit corny. The crooks and robbers will think twice when it isn’t just you alone. Having others keeping an eye out adds an extra layer of protection. If you end up making a rapid exit from the premises, make sure you will not end up being trapped by a faulty lock or a six-foot fence. Having the open house visitors sign in provides a little bit of a deterrent to bad actors and may be most effective if IDs are checked, but the real bad guys probably have phony IDs and give fake information on a sign-in sheet.

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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