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Social Security: Guarding Your Reputation Online

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By Marc Gould

online_security_loginAs you may already know, September is REALTOR® Safety Month. But hopefully, safety is not something you think about only once a year. Whether at a showing, in the office, meeting a client, or online, you and your agents should always keep safety and security squarely in mind. Markets are on an upswing, which means your office is juggling more prospects, more clients and more paperwork. As things speed up, it’s easy to let good online and technology safety habits drop down on your list of priorities. With that in mind, here are some tips for staying safe on social media and guarding your reputation online.

Reputation is more than just you. Take the time to set up a social media policy for your office, spelling out what is appropriate and what is not. What seems obvious to you as a manager might be news to a staff member. Getting everyone on the same page will clear up misunderstandings down the road.

Basic steps. Don’t list your home address or use social media to “check in” at your house. And make sure your photos don’t announce your address either; your real friends already know where you live. Likewise, don’t broadcast that you’re on vacation or away at work and the house is empty. If you blog or post about your family, make sure none of your passwords are linked to your children’s or pet’s names, your high school graduation year or your birthday.

Speaking of passwords, we all know we shouldn’t use the same few passwords, and that we should change them periodically. Consider signing up for a password management system like 1Password or LastPass to generate and remember secure passwords for you. Once you install the widget in your browser, you only have to remember one master password to unlock your vault.

Beware of single sign-on. More and more websites allow you to use your Facebook, Twitter, or other account information to gain access rather than having to register separately. While a time- and memory-saver, such features often allow these third-party sites to post on your behalf, access your contacts or track your online activity. Take the extra time to register independently.

Viruses and spyware, also known as malware, have moved from email to apps, to links in social media and to streaming video. These days, malware can infect your smartphone as well as your laptop. So, before you click on a link or install an app, make sure it’s coming from a legitimate source.

Privacy settings. Probably the most important way to keep yourself out of trouble is to periodically review your privacy and security settings. Websites are constantly tweaking their options and adding features that make the previously obscure readily searchable. Sign out of your account and then search for yourself. You might be sharing more than you expect.

Staying safe online is about more than just guarding your credit card information or avoiding the latest, long-lost Nigerian relative. It’s about assuming that all the careful roadblocks and privacy screens you have constructed will fail. Take some time to browse your history, your pictures and your posts to see what might cause trouble down the line. Keep safety top of mind throughout the year, and visit www.REALTOR.org/Safety for more great tips, tools and resources.

Marc Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for the National Association of REALTORS® and executive director of REBAC. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

For more information, visit www.REBAC.net.

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