Whether you’re alone for a showing or suddenly confronted with an incidence of workplace violence, Officer Jeff Liberman has tips for real estate professionals that could save their lives.
CVAR hosted Liberman, a law enforcement officer with the Long Beach Police Department, along with FBI cybercrime expert Ron Manuel (he could not be photographed, so watch for an overview of his talk in a future edition of CVAR At A Glance. The sessions were live streamed to five other associations, including Beverly Hills, Burbank, Pasadena-Foothills, Rancho Southeast and Big Bear.
Offender, Opportunity, Victim
Liberman shared disturbing examples of crimes against agents, including the story of an agent who was kidnapped and assaulted at gunpoint when she arrived to show a home.
Liberman’s weapon of choice is a flashlight with a blinding beam, sharp edge around it’s face, and a clip that can be worn on type of clothing.
The three variables to a crime are the “victim, an offender, and opportunity,” Liberman said. The one you can’t control is the offender. He recommends that when you get a call to show a home, always ask the caller to send a copy of their driver’s license or photo ID. Most people can send it through their smartphone immediately. If that’s a problem for the “client,” it could be the first red flag.
Agents live for calls from new leads, and can be excited about the potential for a new client and commission. But, “trust your instincts,” says Liberman, “they’re usually right.” No commission is worth your life.
Liberman demonstrated that he was able to pull up information on the offender in the kidnapped agent case, and it showed he was a registered sex offender, information that was available to the victimized agent. She could have gotten that public information ahead of time, and taken more precautions–such as taking another agent with her, or requesting the caller meet her at the office first.
“Imagine if she had asked him to send a copy of his driver’s photo ID?” he asked the agents.
Always drive separately when showing houses, Liberman added, because your car can be your “safe space” or “method of escape.”
Sources for Predator Information
He recommends looking at a potential client’s social media pages, to see if they’re the person they say they are. He recommends that agents research a client’s background, or assess an unfamiliar area, through sites such as Crimereports.com and crimemapping.com.
“The more you know about your surroundings the better,” he says, adding that the Megan’s Law websiteandnsopw.gov, a DOJ national sex offender registry, give information that could be valuable to an agent in the field.
“Just because someone is a registered sex offender doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to buy a home,” Liberman says. But agents should use resources available to them for their own protection.
He also warns agents to limit what they disclose about themselves: Limit your personal info on social media, “no family, don’t show your car,” he says, adding: “What I’m telling you to do to research a client is exactly what some of these predators do to you.”
People in real estate “are notoriously good looking people,” Liberman joked, adding that it’s important to be careful how you market yourself. “The same for flashing wealth. People are out there hunting their next victim. It’s an overwhelming urge.”
–Laurie Schenden, CVAR Director of Communications & Marketing