Online privacy is a major concern worldwide, including in the real estate industry. Fraud can lead to a loss of money or identity theft, with the added risk of also compromising clients and vendors you work with as well as friends and family. The care you should be taking to protect yourself in your offline activities should be echoed in the care you take in online activities. Here are 4 ways you can start to protect your online privacy:
1. What you share online.
How open are your social media profiles? What websites, videos, and images come up when someone Googles your name? Do you have location sharing enabled on all of your apps? Do you “check into” places online or share the locations along with your posts? Do you take online tests that share the results of, “What’s your favorite color?” or “Your alter ego’s name is the name of your first pet and the street you lived on when you were little”?
The answers to these questions can reveal more information about you than you wanted anyone else to know. Information is readily sold by social media companies like Facebook and Google based on everything from groups you’re a member of to searches you perform on either site, although it’s supposed to be sold without certain important identifiers. But you also could be directly revealing information — everything from your children’s names to phone numbers, addresses, and more — that you never meant to.
Sometimes, though, it’s just as easy to find out information about someone simply by clicking on their social media profile. If you haven’t locked down your Facebook profile or turned your Instagram profile to private, you may be sharing more information about yourself than you think. And it’s not just you that you should be worried about. Giving friends and family members, or even people who have connected with you on one of these sites, the ability to tag you in images or posts without your knowledge (or the ability to review) can make you vulnerable to a wider spectrum of people.
One of the easiest things you can do today is to go through all the Privacy and Security settings of each social media platform you have a profile on. Take care with what online quizzes you take and where they originate from. Make sure your Friends list is hidden from anyone who isn’t already a Friend — those lists can be used to message people asking them to click on suspicious links or asking for money.
Locations should still be shared under the right circumstances, but consider waiting until after you’ve left or after you’ve come back from vacation to talk about where you were and for how long. Also, remember that current and potential real estate clients are paying attention! What impression about you and your brand do you want them to leave with after they see, read, or hear what you’ve last posted online?
Finally, be careful with security questions. If someone gets ahold of your email account and wants to log in to your bank account, they can guess the answer to your security questions based on the information you’ve shared online in the past. To help mitigate some of us, more and more apps and websites are insisting on two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA). Two-factor authentication is a means of securing authentication about your identity via two methods, usually a password used on one device and a text with a code or another form of acknowledgment on a mobile device, and should be considered.
2. Use a password management system.
Even though two-factor authentication is becoming more prevalent and adopted by more people, passwords and social logins are still the most popular method of gaining access to accounts. A social login is when you use the same login information across multiple sites that you use to log into a social media account i.e. when a website allows you to log into your Facebook or Google account instead of creating a new account
There are a few basic rules around passwords that are fairly easy to implement. The first is to avoid using any word, date, or word + numbers that are easy to associate with you. So, don’t use your phone number, or your wedding location + date, or your kid’s name + birthdate if this is information that could be found by anyone looking for it online.
Second, don’t reuse passwords, even if it’s by adding an exclamation point to the end of one or adding a 1 or a 2 or a 3 to the end of it. Unique passwords mean just that — new, unique passwords — and try to make them around 8-10 characters.
Finally, pay attention to any emails, online alerts, or news stories that suggest that a site’s passwords and/or user information have been compromised. Getting in early to change your passwords can prevent further complications down the road.
Now, all of these seem extremely difficult to continue to juggle when you’re already trying to have a personal life and real estate business. That’s where password management systems come in.
Yes, the set-up may take a while, and you may want to set aside half a day to put it into place. However, password managers like Dashlane, LastPass, and 1Password are well worth the effort. They will create new suggestions for every site and app you sign up for, saving the information for later use, and you can tell it how many characters you want. You can also save important information on some password managers, including identity documents and payment information, in these apps and you’ll always have access to these passwords via an app or plugin on your browser by using one Master Password. That’s right, only ONE password to remember! One of the best features is they will also alert you to any sites and passwords that have been compromised, prompting you to change them on the spot.
3. Think before you click.
The good news is that there’s more information available online than ever before. The bad news is that some of that information is actually phishing or malware.
Malware is a form of software that gets downloaded to your device without your permission, usually via an emailed link, pop-up, or clickable advertisement. Once downloaded, the software will try to gain access to sensitive information, like email contact lists and passwords.
Phishing is a form of attack where an email is sent, usually with an attached file or website, that tricks you into revealing information or downloading malware. In real estate, many phishing emails have ended up in people sending their escrow to someone who ends up stealing their money.
Another form of phishing is called ‘spear phishing,’ which is when someone has done due diligence on their target and sends a specific, personalized message. These kinds of emails and messages are often harder to identify because of their personal connection.
Taking the extra time to look at an email, ad, or link and investigate where it came from instead of blindly clicking can save you a lot of trouble in the end.
4. Work with real estate brokers who take data privacy seriously.
Choosing a real estate broker who understands the importance of online privacy and security, and who has implemented a number of protective measures, can help give you peace of mind and allow you to maintain your focus on your real estate business. At Century 21 Redwood Realty, we understand the seriousness of our real estate agents’ online privacy concerns. Subsequently, we’ve implemented systems that address these concerns with a focus on our agents’ privacy.
One of these systems is Google Workspace which provides our agents with a c21redwood.com email address. Trusted by industry-leading companies all over the world, Google Workspace ensures its customers’ data is encrypted while also filtering and protecting against advanced phishing attacks and malware. That email has an extra layer of security via 2-factor authentication. Another benefit is it’s simple to sync email activity with Redwood CRM, plus you’ll have access to an internal calendar which provides you the ability to book office rooms or appointments with office support staff (Executive Vice President, Agent Support Managers, etc) with ease.
This is all part of our Agent Protection program, which includes an enhanced E+O insurance policy as well as access to a Corporate Shared Drive of Redwood-provided resources.
By following these 4 ways of protecting your online privacy, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding yourself and your real estate business.
Contact us if you’d like to know more about how Century 21 Redwood Realty protects our agents from data privacy issues.