Online, Safety Is Your ‘Social Responsibility’

Dangerous situations don’t only present themselves in person. Criminals can determine whether you’re a good target by finding out about you on your social profiles. Here’s what to be careful sharing online.

January 9, 2015

Social media has changed the landscape for everyone. For you, it’s made it easier to target clients. And for criminals, it’s made it easier to target you.

Any bad guy you would potentially deal with before, during, and after a showing is playing a role. He’s pretending to be someone you, the victim, can trust. From the time he first contacts you, he will stay in character until he either executes his plan or bails out. Pulling off that charade is a whole lot easier with free and easy tools online that he can use to create an identity and follow your trail.

On Facebook and other social media platforms, a criminal may be able to find out what college you attended, what sports teams you like, how many kids you have, and where you like to vacation. He can even see highly detailed images of where you work, live, and the place where he is going to meet you for a showing.

A criminal’s ability to “pull off his role” is magnified because it’s much easier to create rapport with target audiences online than ever before. As convenient as the cyber world has made doing business for the good guys, it’s made it a whole lot easier for bad guys, too.

Remember that online communities are comprised of three groups of users: the safest third, the not-so-safe middle third, and the highly dangerous bottom third. When it comes to the highly dangerous bottom third, some are transparent in their aggressive hostility and easy to see and avoid. However, it’s the more cunning psychopath that is more difficult to recognize because he is an expert at playing the good guy and gaining favor.

Here are some tips to make it more difficult for bad guys to target you online.

  1. Keep your social media identity focused solely on your real estate business. Controlling and protecting your Identity is important. As much as you’d like to show the world your new granddaughter, it’s far better to show your new property. The property can’t be kidnapped and held for ransom.
  2. Posting your birth date — and those of your family members — is increasingly risky, as criminals are getting creative at cross-referencing information and using it for bad intentions. When you share your birthday, it’s one less thing an identity thief has to dig for. John Smith might be hard to distinguish from other John Smiths when a thief is trying to steal your identify, but John Smith plus his exact birthday makes it one step easier.
  3. Some businesses encourage you to “check in” in exchange for a promotional bribe. Think twice about letting the world know where you are. If you check in for a workout, bad guys know you are at the gym for at least 30 minutes. Checking in for a movie is even a longer window of opportunity.
  4. What you may think is an innocent asset to a home could signal the perfect opportunity to attack for a criminal. Property descriptions such as “enjoy your privacy in this remote setting…” can be an invitation for trouble. Remote locations with privacy are exactly what an attacker wants.
  5. Post only your professional contact information online. Keep your personal information private.
  6. Never post that you are alone or where you are going, either professionally or personally. Friends with warm smiles are not the only ones reading your posts. It’s a dangerous mistake to post something like, “Just me, my favorite movie, and some wine tonight. Can’t wait!” That’s a red light invitation that you are alone and possibly intoxicated — neither of which looks good to anyone but a potential attacker.
  7. We’ve all heard that “what goes online stays online.” Even if you are careful and follow that warning, someone else may post something about you that is revealing or embarrassing. Create a Google Alert for your name, your phone, your address, and each member of your family so if there is any mention of any of this information, you’ll get an e-mail with a link to the page it’s on.