by Robert Siciliano
Real estate sales can feel like a continual popularity contest. Obviously you, as agents, are much more than that. Of course you want buyers and sellers to think of you when its time to make a move. Agents place ads in the real estate section of the local paper. You put your photos and contact information on signs. Some of you even rent billboards.
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And now, with the Web, you include your listings on your brokers' sites and your own personal pages. Your memberships are posted on all the association websites, boards, WCR, states, chamber of commerce etc. Some of you even have blogs.
Recent reports from San Diego, Calif., about a stalker calling agents on their cell phones to make threats confirms the notion that agents need to put up a barrier between their business lives and personal lives.
Google yourself, see what they see, almost anyone can find you online. They can find out where you live, too. If you're listed in the white pages or phone book, then the simple act of plugging your name and state into Google sometimes brings up enough information to get your hometown. Once they have this information, they can Google your name and town to get your home phone with a map to where you live. All on Google.
If you can do this, then the person who stalked agents in Southern California can, too.
Most agents business cards have up to seven phone numbers: business phone, direct, toll free, office, and fax. And there's more. They also have home phone, home fax, and cell phone numbers. Agents' Web sites aren't much different.
The real issue here is when you provide your personal cell or home phone number. Once you do this, a stalker can easily do a reverse search and find out your home address. That includes your cell number, which can also be traced.
Instead, use a toll-free number. It can't be reverse searched.
All an agent needs is one toll-free number pointed to your office line that can't be reverse searched. With "no-answer-busy" call-forwarding technology, that can then be directed to voice, cell, home or an answering service. You no longer need to give out so many numbers. The redundancy which is unnecessary also makes you vulnerable.
Set it up so your voicemail states "I'll return the call within 90 minutes." Most of the time you can answer the phone or return the call within 5 minutes.
If you've been stalked or suspect you might be stalked, change your business card to show only your company name, toll-free number, and a variation of your first name. Your ads and websites should follow suit. Take your name out of the phonebook. Then Google yourself to find out what information is out there and contact the website to remove whatever might make you vulnerable.
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Robert L. Siciliano is the author of The Safety Minute, Safety Zone Press, and a professional speaker on the topic of self defense and personal and property protection. He has been featured on CNN, Montel Williams, Sally Jesse, and the Howard Stern radio show. Robert is available to speak to brokers, associations, and to conduct seminars and workshops for industry events. Visit his Web site at www.realtysecurity.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on RealtyTimes.com Published: August 10, 2005 http://realtytimes.com/rtpages/20050810_safetyconcern.htm