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Lessons Every Worker Can Take from Realtor Safety Month

September 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) REALTOR® Safety Month. With more than 1,5 million members, the NAR is the largest trade association in the United States, and it has extensive experience working with real estate professionals, law enforcement and government officials to improve on-the-job safety.

Lessons Every Worker Can Take from Realtor Safety MonthIt should surprise no one that real estate brokers, appraisers, salespeople and property managers are victims of violent crime, with 23% reporting that they feared for their safety, or the safety of their personal information, in the 2022 NAR Member Safety Residential Report. That is nearly 1 in 4 individuals who felt threatened on the job,

Safety Month exists to raise awareness of the common dangers faced by these professionals, who often meet with people alone, in remote locations and in empty buildings. Those situations are not unique to the real estate industry. Safety Month guidelines from the NAR are valuable for any worker who interacts with the public, particularly those who visit clients at home or in remote locations, including delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, plumbers, electricians and salespeople.

Understanding and Assessing Risk at Work

Safety Month was created to encourage workers to think about the risks they face on the job and the best ways to manage them. In assessing risk, it can be helpful to think about what motivates criminals and how they choose their victims.

Most criminals seek financial gain and use manipulation, harassment, threats or, if all else fails, violence to get what they want from you. There are some cases where an individual seeks to inflict some kind of personal harm on someone else, but these cases are far rarer than robberies or muggings. You are most likely to be a victim of monetary or property theft on the job.

Criminals prefer easy targets in situations that they can control, away from others. How you present yourself, both in person and online, and how you protect yourself on the job contribute to a criminal’s assessment of your vulnerability. Making yourself a difficult target and limiting the chances for a dangerous encounter will protect you from the majority of criminals.

Here are some practical steps you can take to make criminals think twice about targeting you.

  1. Be mindful of what you share online. Your online profile does more than advertise you to potential clients. It also lets criminals know how vulnerable you are. It is increasingly common for criminals to research their targets online and plan a robbery ahead of time. If you follow good practices for cyber security, which include limiting what you share, regularly changing passwords and enabling two-factor authentication, criminals may move on from you to someone who appears to be an easier target. Personal phone numbers, personal emails and daily schedules should never be shared online.
  2. Always meet new clients in your office or a public place. This will not work for service professionals, such as plumbers and electricians, but it is recommended for all other workers. If you are conducting an assessment or inspection in a remote area, ask to meet in public place nearby and travel to the location from there. This will give you a chance to assess any possible risk.
  3. Travel in pairs. Many service professionals do this with new clients. Bringing someone else reduces risk but does not eliminate it. If you feel that you will be outnumbered by a group of criminals, leave the area.
  4. Ask for a preliminary video conference. Service professionals can ask a potential customer to show them the problem. Real estate professionals and appraisers can ask for a quick video tour of the property. Criminals will not agree to this, either because there is no real problem or because they do not have access to the property.
  5. Keep a second phone exclusively for business use. Carry it along with a personal phone wherever you go. Be sure to check coverage maps when selecting a second phone, so that you can maintain signal wherever you go. In the worst-case scenario, you can throw your business phone at an attacker and run while keeping your personal phone to call for help.
  6. Be mindful of urgency. Criminals often use the pretext of immediate need, or the threat of a lost opportunity, to lure victims into situations they would otherwise avoid. They may contact you late in the day, over the weekend or on a holiday and tell you that you must immediately come to a location to win their business. If you attempt to slow the process down, either by scheduling an appointment the next day or asking for a video tour, criminals will either give up on you or demand that you come anyway. Never let the promise of business overcome your personal safety rules.
  7. Be aware of individuals who lurk. Keep a close eye on people who arrive late to an open house, insist on a showing very late in the day or who shadow you while you do your job. Some curiosity on the part of customers is normal; someone who follows you closely is a potential danger. In this situation, ask for some space so you can do your work or inform the customer that you need to check something outside.
  8. Take a self-defense class. The NAR reports that 40% of Realtors® have completed a self-defense class. Good classes teach the ability to spot dangerous situations as well as how to react to them. It is always better to avoid the confrontation entirely than to know how to handle it.
  9. Carry a self-defense tool. Service professionals will have a truck or van full of things that can be useful in an attack, but salespeople, appraisers and real estate professionals may have little more than a pen and a computer. The best self-defense measures are nonlethal and have an area of effect, such as pepper spray. You will be more likely to use them in a dangerous situation, and they can incapacitate several attackers at once. Be sure to check your state’s rules for licensing and training, as you could face criminal charges if you discharge pepper spray or bear spray, even in self defense.
  10. Report any threatening messages you receive. The 2022 NAR Member Safety Residential Report revealed that 30% of Realtors® who were targeted by criminals received a threatening voice mail, email or text message before the attack. Threatening messages should be taken very seriously by all professionals, and you should take extra precautions after receiving them. The individual who threatens ahead of time is more likely to be motivated by anger or revenge and is simply looking for a chance to attack. This individual wants to harm you, unlike the opportunist criminal who simply wants to steal your phone or money.

Safety Month Exists to Challenge Your Routine

All workers fall into rhythms and routines on the job. Even those who practice good personal and cyber security may get comfortable over time and relax their safety practices in pursuit of efficiency or out of a sense of confidence.

People like to think that they are aware of the risks they face. Some believe they have an instinct that lets them anticipate danger. These mental gaps can put you in threatening situations. Remember that criminals have one job: To find victims and steal from them. They spend all of their time looking for new tactics and honing strategies that succeed.

Safety Month provides an opportunity to think about the risks you face and to retrain yourself in practices that limit risk. This is a good time to review personal protocols, company protocols and cyber security practices. Should you need help with cyber security, or guidance on establishing safe working practices for your business, please contact us online or call us at 1-800-658-8311.


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