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Every day REALTORS® across the nation put themselves in positions where they can be victims of dangerous crimes. The National Association of REALTORS® has designated the month of September as REALTOR® Safety Month. below are tips for our members and consumers on how to stay safe with social media.

Whether on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites, because of the nature of your work, you are likely to have “friends,” followers, and connections whom you don’t really know that well. Following these basic steps can help avoid exposing yourself or your data to risk through social media tools. It is vital to consider what you are sharing through the Internet.

Keep Business Separate
One way that you can make sure you are not revealing too much personal information is simple: set up a business account on each platform. Sure, anyone can figure out that Sally Field, REALTOR®, is the same person as Sally Field—but Sally will only accept requests to connect to strangers on the business account, whether Facebook or Twitter. Her personal account stays private (especially once she familiarizes herself with privacy settings), protecting her family photos, links to her kids’ pages, and personal posts from people she doesn’t know.

Tag! You’re It!
When a friend posts your photo, you may be “tagged” against your will. If you don’t want clients or others to find a reference like this—such as a less-than-flattering photo taken at a late night party—you can remove the tag and/or ask the person who posted it to do so. And be sure to follow up and ask friends to check first before tagging!

Don’t Give Away Passwords
Consider this: One way that hackers manage to crack personal passwords is by searching Facebook for easy answers. They know they may find answers to common security questions such as “What high school did you attend?” and “What are the names of your children?” So keep information about family members, household details, and past events to a minimum in order to help prevent this.

Guard Against Identity Theft
These days, anyone can find all kinds of personal information about anyone else. That doesn’t mean you have to make it easy! For example, if you who want to post your birthday, don’t include the year. (And delete any public comments that indicate your exact age.)

Tweets Are Forever
Social media usage has an impact on your safety, as well as your reputation. Carefully consider each item you share, and be aware that old posts, even if they’ve been deleted, may be copied or saved—and the Library of Congress is actually recording every single Tweet.

Safeguard Client Data
Cyber security goes much deeper than safe use of social media: As a real estate professional, you routinely keep sensitive, personal information about clients on your computer. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to fraud, identity theft, or similar harms. To avoid potential legal and liability costs of a security breach, develop a data security program based on the Federal Trade Commission’s five key principles to a sound data security program. Details can be found at www.ftc.gov/infosecurity.

To learn about more safety strategies, and access free safety resources, including safety expert Andrew Wooten’s webinar “Social Media and Cyber Safety,” visit www.REALTOR.org/Safety.

(Sources: Andrew Wooten’s REALTOR® Safety webinar “Social Media and Cyber Safety”; www.ftc.gov/infosecurity)

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The holiday season is a great time to spend with family and friends, but it is also a very busy time. As people rush to get their shopping done, they can get distracted and safety takes a back seat. In fact, the month of December has the highest rate of home crime and holiday scams.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following holiday safety tips from a recent National Association of REALTORS® webinar, featuring advice from safety practitioner Andrew Wooten of Safety Awareness Firearms Education (S.A.F.E.).

Practice Holiday Home Safety Tips:

  • Follow the 3 ft. – 10 ft. rule. Keep your shrubs trimmed to about three feet and tree heights to no more than 10 feet, to prevent burglars from lurking around your home.
  • Make sure you always close and lock the front door.
  • Don’t place gifts under the Christmas tree where burglars can see them. Place a blanket over the presents, so they aren’t in full view of a window.
  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit. When you leave your home, place your inside lights on timers to make it appear occupied.
  • After the holidays, don’t advertise your gifts by leaving the boxes at the curb for garbage collection. It’s best to take the big boxes to the recycling center.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets and extension cords.
  • Never use indoor extension cords outside. Place electric converters above ground and away from puddles of water or snow. Always unplug the string of lights before you touch a bulb.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, cut two inches off the trunk and mount the tree on a sturdy stand. Keep the tree well-supplied with water and away from candles or a fireplace. Last year, there were 13 deaths and 27 injuries from trees catching fire.

Be Aware of Holiday Scams:

  • Be aware that skimmers thieves place on ATM machines are looking more authentic and harder to detect. It is also best to use an ATM that is inside a secure building, or in a well-lit area free from shrubbery and partitions.
  • Always check your receipt after your leave a store, especially when you have used your debit card. Make sure it doesn’t say that you received cash back when you didn’t.
  • Only give to charities that are well-established. Don’t get fooled just because the charity has children. Never give out your credit card information to a charity over the phone.
  • Check the shipping company and phone number on the note on parcels left outside your door. The note may ask you to call a phone number that is overseas and you will be charged high rates. Never give your personal information, or the times when you will be away from home.
  • Only buy gift cards at stores you know. Always check the receipt and make sure the code isn’t scratched.
  • Avoid the outside lane in gas stations. Since they are out of view, thieves can easily attach skimmers. When you are done with your gas purchase, make sure the machine clears out. Use a credit card to limit your liability.
  • When returning to your car after shopping, if you notice your car has a flat tire, even if a uniformed officer approaches you and offers to help out, it is best to walk back to the mall and contact mall security to help you. If you need to unload packages in your car and return to your shopping, be aware that thieves could be watching you. You may want to drive your car around and park it on the other side of the mall before you continue shopping.
May 2019
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