It is paramount that real estate agents protect themselves from identify theft. It is not just happening online. The type of crimes identity theft includes range from credit card fraud to having all your financial and personal information stolen.  If it happens to you, it can be very scary and time-consuming to fix. Now is your opportunity to be proactive.

 

Here are the top 9 ways you can protect yourself.

 

  1. Get an EIN number – (Employment Identification Number)

When you are in a business such as real estate, many people operate using their social security number to complete the paperwork for their real estate broker and their taxes. Consider forming your own business entity. (Please consult your tax advisor for the one that best suits your business.) Giving out your social security number increases your risk for identity theft even from legitimate businesses such as your brokerage.

An EIN number is a nine-digit tax identification number issued by the IRS.  You can use it in place of your SSN on tax forms and other documents related to your business. It is much harder for someone who has your EIN number to open credit cards and bank accounts in your name. This greatly reduces your risk of identity theft.

 

  1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

 An increasing number of banks, credit cards, health services and even email services are offering, or even requiring, an additional step besides using your password to authenticate access to your online account.

There are several types of MFA methods, such as app-based authentication and SMS-based authentication. And while they may take an extra minute to set up, it is well worth it.

SMS-based authentication is the most common (a code is sent to your phone via a text message), and if you’ll be using it, as an added measure please make sure that your mobile provider is set up for you to be able to use it. Some mobile providers don’t automatically allow this; so, verify with them.

Another option is to request that the authentication code be sent to you as a phone call to your mobile phone. You will receive a call immediately with the code to access your bank account as an example.

Multiple-Factor Authentication is not a one-time deal. It must be done every time you want access to your account.

  

  1. Consider using a password manager

 Having multiple passwords for all the websites you need to access can be a bit overwhelming. And because real estate professionals are always on the go, carrying those passwords with you or on your phone is not the safest option.

Consider using an online password manager instead.  It will keep track of your passwords on various sites as well as your security phrases, should you forget.  The password managers can be used from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Some examples include 1Password, Last Pass, Norton, Keeper and Dashlane. There are many more to choose from. Research what will suit your needs and give you the best protection.

 

  1. Protect yourself from robocalls

We are in the people business and need to answer our phones all the time. Right? Well, what about the “Scam Likely” calls or the calls that have a local number so you think it could be important except for the silence on the other side?

The Federal Trade Commission states, “If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. If you’re getting a lot of robocalls trying to sell you something, odds are the calls are illegal. Many are also probably scams.”

Telemarketers, scam artists, or spam callers could be targeting you. Consider not answering calls from blocked or unknown callers. And definitely don’t ever give out personal information or give them payment until you have independently verified the authenticity of the caller.

Want to know more about call-blocking solutions? Check out this information from the FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-block-unwanted-calls

Don’t want to miss a call? Have a phone message or text that lets them know you will call them back within XX minutes if they leave you a message.

 

  1. Shred. Shred. Shred.

 Make it a practice to shred anything with your personal information on it. That includes financial statements, magazine labels with your name and address on it, and prescription medication bottles. Peel those labels off and shred them.

When purchasing a shredder, buy one that does micro-shredding so the pieces of paper look like rice. These cannot be put back together by potential thieves. The other types of shredders that shred vertical or horizontal can be put together again by those determined to steal.

 

  1. Limit pre-screened offers

Is your mailbox loaded with pre-screened offers from financial institutions or those seeking to solicit money from you each week? You can opt out of these offers by calling toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or filing a form online (www.optoutprescreen.com). For additional resources, visit:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email#:~:text=

 

  1. Use a credit card instead of a debit card for your spending

The benefits of using a credit card for your spending is that the major credit card companies such as American Express, Discover, Visa and Mastercard offer fraud protection built in for unauthorized transactions. Whereas if your debit card is lost or stolen, funds withdrawn from it may be difficult to recover.

When purchasing online, consider getting a bank gift card with a fixed amount of funds on it, to prevent unauthorized transactions, or using a card like Akimbo for managing budgets.

Also, be careful about what who has permission to use your debit or credit card, and review your financial and credit card statements monthly for charges you don’t recognize. One real estate agent complained about a doctor’s office that kept her credit card on file without her permission.  She noticed it was compromised when the office withdrew funds for visits when she never even had appointments. The money was returned, yet it was a hassle.

 

  1. Stay on top of your accounts and your credit report

 You are also entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you space out ordering your free credit report every four months for each of the above companies, that will cover you for the year. Usually, the credit score is an additional fee. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228.

Also, the FTC recently updated their website to state that “Starting in 2020, everyone in the U.S. can get 6 free credit reports per year through 2026 by visiting the Equifax website or by calling 1-866-349-5191. That’s in addition to the one free Equifax report (plus your Experian and TransUnion reports) you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

  1. Sign up for credit monitoring

 This could be one of the best investments you make as part of your business. If you have had a breach in the past and received a letter, you can receive credit monitoring, in many cases for free.

When you sign up with a Credit Monitoring company, you will be alerted within 24 hours of any changes to your report. The sooner you know about any potential signs of identity left, the sooner you can take immediate action.

 

You are worth it!

Much time is spent taking care of your clients and real estate transactions to ensure smooth and safe closings. Spend some time ensuring your own safety as well.

Nothing is life is fool proof and can guarantee protection of your privacy from identity theft. Being proactive is better than not doing anything at all. Take the same time as you would for your clients to care for yourself and protection of your assets.

 

Written for Form Simplicity by Janice Zaltman, a Realtor, LEED AP, Marketing Coach and Writer with more than 20 years of experience in the sales, marketing and media fields.

“Never be a prisoner of your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.” Unknown

Whether you are new to the real estate business or a seasoned professional, being betrayed by a client, friend or family member can feel like a stab in the back or even worse!  It can also affect how you continue to do business. It’s not just an unfortunate circumstance that affects your immediate income. Not being prepared to handle adverse outcomes can affect your self-esteem and future success in the business.

At a networking event, the conversation grew excited among a group of real estate agents. The question was raised to agents as to whether they had ever experienced a “perceived” or actual betrayal in their real estate business. They were also asked how it impacted them. One could hear several breaths being drawn-in, followed by silence.  Then the flooding of responses began.

 

Here are some examples of betrayals and deal-gone-sour.

Next Door Neighbor

The first agent that spoke up told his story about the next-door neighbor that he plays tennis with and has known for years. His neighbor listed his home with another agent, and he felt badly bruised because he considered this person his friend.  If you are thinking that maybe he was a new real estate agent, the answer is no. He was a broker associate and worked along with one other agent as a duo team for over 25 years.

 

Past Client

The second agent who spoke up said that a few years ago she listed the home that she had sold to the Buyer. The Buyer said he was very grateful to her and would list the property with her when he was ready to sell. She kept in contact with him, and he did sign with her when he was ready to sell four years later.

She spent three months guiding him as to the repair work that needed to be done, along with the staging, so the home would sell for top dollar. The home was put on the market and three weeks later, the seller was complaining that he should have received an offer already. What the client failed to acknowledge was that four years earlier, it was a hot sellers’ market. Now it was a buyers’ market. The home was priced correctly and there had been several showings, but no offers yet. The average days on market in that area was about two months.

He refused to speak with her after his initial complaint and hired an attorney to fire her. She did not understand why he would not speak with her.

Her broker advised her that sometimes it is better to let a client go that does not want to work with you. So reluctantly, she cancelled the listing.

Remarkably, the home was under contract two days later. As told by the neighbor, someone had come to their door interested in the property, and the owner saw the opportunity to sell it without paying a commission. The real estate agent that had put in her time, caring and experience left with nothing. Even though she was protected within the contract for the expenses she incurred in marketing the property, he refused to pay a dime. The broker told her to move on.  She said that to this day, she is hurt and feels that she cannot trust people anymore, as this seller was no stranger.

 

Buyer Who Ends Up Buying Home with Another Agent

 Another agent was distressed over a buyer to whom he had spent six months showing homes. He felt, based on the buyer’s pre-qualifications and motivation, he was going to buy. Well the buyer did purchase the home. Only NOT with him.

One of the homes that was shown to the buyer had gone under contract and became available again. The buyer went to see the home with another agent who wrote up the offer. The agent felt incredibly betrayed and could not believe the buyer would do this. Unfortunately, since he did not write up the offer or have a buyer’s agreement, there was nothing he could do. He spoke about the missed time with his family and the amount of time spent with this client. He felt betrayed.

 

Letting Go. How to do it so it works for you.

These are just a few examples. The list could go on and on. Letting go is important to be able to move on, although many times it is not easy. The good news?  As the new Spring begins, now is the perfect time to begin anew.

 

  1.  What Lesson Did You Learn?

Even the biggest thinkers and successful entrepreneurs have all experienced hurt. There is something to be learned from every circumstance. Don’t beat yourself up and go over and over the situation in your mind and experiencing the hurt over and over again.  This only creates more anguish. Instead, think about how you can set up your business model or do things differently in the future. Sometime things happen, and we don’t know the reason. The past has already happened and can’t be changed. When you continue to dwell on the person or situation that hurt you, it only brings your more pain. Instead, focus on the lesson.

“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.”  Steve Maraboli

 

  1. Replace It with Something Better That inspires You

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn A New Skill – Rather than spending endless time going over past negative experiences, consider expanding your life and learning new skills.
  • Exercise – A great way to heal from a negative experience is to let it go through movement. Take a kickboxing class, run, dance, or take the gym class that you have wanted to take for a long time.
  • Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga – Learn to meditate and/or do yoga to bring you into the present moment and feel peaceful within. Yoga is amazing for your mind and body.

 

  1. Forgiveness

Give yourself permissions to forgive. Many times, it is about forgiving ourselves, and not the other person. Spending time going over and over relentlessly in your mind what you could have done differently keeps the experience alive. It goes against letting go and releasing the pain of the past.

“I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.” T.D. Jakes

 

Take action this Spring.

The time is NOW to refresh and replenish your energy with things that inspire you from within.

“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present” – Bill Keane

Life happens. What we do next is what matters. Letting go is Powerful.  I encourage you to begin with at least one thing you will do differently this Spring.

 

Written for Form Simplicity by Janice Zaltman, a Realtor, LEED AP, Marketing Coach and Writer with more than 20 years of experience in the sales, marketing and media fields.

Amid non-stop e-mails and social media bombarding everyone each day, there is a powerful answer to help you stand-out above the noise. How can you make an impact that is both remembered and generates additional business for you? It is the power of the handwritten “Thank You” card.

Yes, Thank You via e-mail is so much easier. Yet, it is not the same. By setting up a system to send out handwritten Thank You cards, you will see a positive difference in your real estate business. The handwritten Thank You card is not something new and has been a tool for the success of many of the top agents in the country involved in real estate for decades.

Let’s look at some examples of when to send out a Thank You card. The list can go on and on, so remember to tailor your cards to meet your business model. Continue reading

Tip #1 – Know the Sellers’ Concerns Before Walking In The Door

Do your homework on whom you are meeting before you meet with them. Whether you are new to real estate or a seasoned pro, you will continuously hear the same questions:

• How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood?
• What company do you work for?
• What is your marketing strategy?
• What makes you different?
• How long will it take you to sell my home?
• What’s your commission?

Knowing the answers to the above questions puts you in the driver’s seat before you enter the home.

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It’s tax time and a perfect opportunity hire a good CPA to advise and prepare your tax return.  Have a CPA already? Great! It is also a great time to assess whether they are an asset to your business, and whether they are fully addressing the current and future needs of your real estate business.

What is your time worth?

Here’s why it’s a good idea to hire a professional: The money spent hiring a professional in most cases outweighs the time and expense of doing your taxes on your own.

Also, hiring a qualified CPA who fully understands your business and goals can contribute to your success and save you money!  You have enough stress dealing with the everyday demands of being a real estate agent. Outsourcing annual Federal and States tax returns to a qualified CPA can enhance your business while alleviating anxiety and stress when dealing with the IRS. So, do what you do well, which is your real estate business, and outsource your financials to someone who is highly trained and can offer you legal protection if needed.

Before delving into the importance of having your financials done by a professional, let’s look at the difference between hiring an accountant vs. hiring a CPA.

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Would you like to make 2020 your best year ever?  It is a time to leap, yes 2020 is a leap year, and your opportunity to leap into spectacular performance in all areas of your life.

Make the first year of the decade one worth remembering. Here are the top skills that will greatly enhance you in every area of your life:

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As a real estate agent, do you relate to the following?

  • You are available for clients 24/7
  • While working, you accept calls from clients that take a lot of time, rather than letting them know you will contact them later.
  • You work 7 days a week. Maybe not all day, yet every day.
  • You don’t know how to say no, as you are a people pleaser and always want to help others. (Thereby neglecting yourself.)

There’s an excitement buzzing in the air as 2020 approaches.  A brand-new year filled with new beginnings awaits you, and how well you take time for yourself will greatly determine the level of your fulfillment. Remember, success and happiness are not measured only by the income you produce. Quality of life includes your health, family and friends. Are you ready?

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Want to create a gift that is memorable and will bring you repeat business and referrals? You, as the real estate agent, are their first gift, as getting to the closing table can be an arduous process. Then comes something fun, creative, unique and memorable that will set you apart and potentially win you repeat business and referrals.

Many real estate agents have said that they prefer to call it a Housewarming Gift and have it personally delivered when the buyers move into their home. Any way you choose to call it, a thoughtful gift in addition to your outstanding service will be welcomed and remembered by your clients.

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“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill

How you think and what you do as a real estate agent on a day to day basis is what defines you. Yes, there are good days and bad days; after all, we are human.  Yet, as we enter the fourth quarter and end of 2019, now is a great time to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.  Did you reach your goals or exceed them?  If not, let’s evaluate how creating a new mindset can propel you positively, beginning today!

Whether you are a new real estate agent or an established pro, mindset applies to everyone. Are you open to pursuing a new, strategic and energizing belief system? Following these steps can catapult you to a new level of success in business for 2020.

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Halloween is right around the corner. It is a perfect way to bring fun, sweets and treats to your community and build your business.  Many real estate agents wait until the big holidays. Why not begin now? Want to get known in the community or a neighborhood? This is a great time go begin.

Here are 13 spooktacular ideas that are fun and can be put together quickly:

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