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Is Social Media a Threat To Your Personal Safety?

Social Media Dangers

By now you’re familiar with the Horizon Realty debacle and how a single tweet led to the destruction of their reputation.

Obviously, what happens on Twitter can have a far reaching impact. Potentially damaging more than reputation, though, social media may be a threat to your personal safety…

Pillaging your privacy

A friend of mine recently tweeted about a killer new computer system they purchased. Later, they went on to tweet how they were traveling to Disneyland for vacation.

Connecting the dots? Nice new computer system in a now empty house, ripe for the pillaging. Add the fact that their residence is available for anyone capable of running whois on their domain name and it becomes pretty easy to be a cyber-stalking thief.

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How about an agent tweeting about how slow and empty an open house has been?

Okay, these thoughts may be a bit extreme but with everyone in a rush to stream their personal details we’re giving something up and at the same time, potentially setting ourselves up.

What’s the tradeoff? Is the gain of being social more than the loss of privacy and security?

Just some thoughts. I’d love to hear yours…

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Written By

Mark Eckenrode is a Certified Master of Guerrilla Marketing raised on comic books, punk rock, and Pepsi. He's also the chief marketing trainer at HomeStomper where AgentGenius readers can learn unconventional methods for winning with social media.



  1. Jim Duncan

    August 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Mark –

    Great post, and a thought line that I’ve worked through a few times; it’s why I’m still wary of all the location-aware services such as Brightkite and Google Latitude.

    The urban legend(?) of the family who went to the football game and who had their car broken into, the thief hit “Go Home” on the GPS, went home, used the garage door opener (which was in the car) and cleaned them out …

    We won’t know the full impact of all of these “evolutions” until we see it played out on Law and Order.

    recent article at TechCrunch:

    3. The Patriot Act can’t hold a candle to Citizen Paparazzi. An hour before Ev’s post, I was talking to two friends about Twitter. They mentioned that a friend of theirs had tweeted about their two-year-old son a few times, which they characterized as an “unusual” experience. Celebrities will finally have their revenge as two out of every three of your neighbors starts tweeting about everything you’re doing. The Supreme Court will have to revisit the definition of “reasonable expectation of privacy” when a father’s kid tweets that daddy is reading Playboy in the bathroom. (That happened to a buddy of mine. Not to me. A buddy of mine.) This may not seem like a new phenomenon, what with YouTube videos and the like already starting this trend. However, the pace at which things spread is now so close to real-time that it almost erases the line between past and present. Real-time communication invites the world to experience your life with you, as it happens.

  2. Joe Loomer

    August 3, 2009 at 9:20 am

    As I read this and check my email – i’ve got two attacks in there alone – claiming there’s something wrong with my webmail and need to verify my password and login id, and all my account information.

    The web and social media have already become playgrounds for tech-savvy criminals. I believe it will probably get worse before it gets better. There will no-doubt be a high profile case soon where a murder or two are commmitted as a result of a FB post or a tweet.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Dan Connolly

    August 3, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Good points Ken!

    I was recently told to remove any reference to a child in the listing’s showing instructions. (talking about a 2 year old’s nap schedule) because a perv might use that info to break in and kidnap the child. Yikes! You can’t be too careful these days!

  4. Brad Nix

    August 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve been much more aware of my social media updates in the past few months/weeks. These are real concerns and could be real problems for agents and their families. I believe ‘when’ something bad happens, people will stop using social sites as much particularly for location updates. The result could be these social sites becoming more like traditional media (ad and content channels a la tv & radio). This line of thinking is very real Mark and I hope the tipping point of social media is for the betterment of mankind, not evil.

  5. Mark Eckenrode

    August 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    @bnix – yes, it’s a “when” and not an “if”. agents have already shown they can be prey, social media simply makes it easier.

    in your experience, are these topics being addressed in the now en vogue “social media” CE or safety classes?

  6. Jim Duncan

    August 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    @mark – I don’t think that a “safe” middle ground has been identified as of yet. I’m sure some are thinking about it … for instance, I don’t publicly talk about my kid(s) and have my Latitude setting to show only a very select few people my location, as I’m still testing it out.

    Some go to the extreme of putting their location on their blogs, Twitter feed, etc … we’re in an evolving world of privacy and “walls” and finding the balance is likely going to take a few horror stories to set the initial thresholds.

  7. Chris

    August 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I never talk about when I’ll be out of town on any social networking site. Although I see lots of people doing just that. I kind of compare this with a locked door, the lock is only to keep honest people out. Excellent points – Chris

  8. Brandie Young

    August 3, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Great reminder, Mark. Especially telling thousands you will be away … might as well also leave the key under the front mat.

    p.s. That’s why the whois on my account is private. Though, I resent that I have to pay to have this “service”.

  9. Kathleen Buckley

    August 3, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Real Estate agents have been advertising open houses, thus announcing their vulnerability and location, for decades. As long as we’ve had voice mail we’ve left the out-of-the-office (i.e. away on vacation) message. Nothing new with social media. In fact, on facebook at least, I can set my privacy settings such that only accepted friends have access to info I post there.

  10. Elaine Reese

    August 3, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    I’ve thought about asking the County Auditor to hide my name from my property. I know cops, some media people, defense attorneys and prosecutors do this. When online, if asked to provide an address, I use my office address.

    While I may mention my kids, there are no names or photos or anything that would identify them.

    Realistically there are so many ways to find where people live, that it will be futile to try to conceal it. I guess it is a good time to have a name like Jane Smith.

  11. Amy Cesario

    August 3, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Good question. In response just to tweeting about an open house.

    We decided months ago to tweet our company web page with many open houses, but not the exact address of where we were.

    We do print in the news paper exact locations of open houses one Sunday a month. We give our name, phone number, address, photo and description of the house.

    I have received more traffic from the paper ads consistently compared to the times I did tweet my exact open house before deciding that might not be a good idea.

    I have only been holding vacant staged listings on purpose, because I do not follow everyone who enters the home into every room and I am not a security guard of personal items. But I built my business on open houses.

    Are the pervs and criminals only on the internet or could they possibly be purchasing a newspaper as well and if they really are stalking you, they know you sell real estate and they can stake out the house to watch how slow or busy you are.

    How we handle our safety at an open house is most important.

  12. Sal Antsipenka

    August 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I am not really using social networking websites to gain clients. Social networking sites and web 2.0 sites are great to push new business websites and acquire back links important for good SEO. I think if you decide to interact with all people visiting your SN accounts you will spend all your day typing.

  13. Paula Henry

    August 4, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Brad – With no official cyber-security system in place, we must be careful. I was once on the phone with a lead from my website. He was looking for a single story home and as we were talking, he said; “I can see your home online, are there any single stories in your neighborhood”?

    What he didn’t know is, it is my broker’s home, but it was eerie. This presents a good case for brick and mortar and to always be careful. We never know many of the people who follow us online.

  14. Paula Henry

    August 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

    ooops! I meant Mark!

  15. Bob

    August 4, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    a few months ago a friend asked me to go along with her on a showing and grab lunch afterward. She was meeting a new buyer at a vacant listing of hers. We got there a few minutes late and as she drove down the street, we noticed the prospective buyer was already there. She parked a few doors up the street, asked me for one of my business cards, then told me to stay in the car and went to meet the client.

    She walked up to him and I could see them talking. She took out her lockbox key from her purse, said a few more things, then handed him a business card and pointed to me in the car. 10 seconds later he walked away.

    When she got back in the car I asked her what the heck just happened. She said when he called her earlier, he mentioned that he heard about the open house she was holding open on Sunday via twitter, thought it was interesting, but couldnt make it, so he called her for a showing on Monday.

    She thought it was odd that anyone would be motivated to see a property via a 140 character message. She said she told him she had forgotten a biz card, but gave her mine, who she called her partner, explaining that I was in the car dealing with a counter. He suddenly decided that the house was smaller than he realized and wasnt interested. Then he left.

    My friend has great instincts. I can guarantee you she wont mention ‘vacant’ again when talking about properties online.

  16. Debra Sinick

    August 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    When we have any opens we always let our office know where we are. Also, one of my team checks on each other during the time. We also have a code we use in case we talk on the phone and all is not right. Bob’s friend was smart in the way she handled meeting someone unknown. I find it ironic that if a potential renter goes to an apartment complex to see an apartment the rental agent will photocopy the person’s license. We don’t do that because we are often out showing one home.

    The comments here were great and I will incorporate some of the ideas.


  17. Wendy Hughes-Jelen

    August 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I appreciate people sharing their experiences as it will make me more aware of what possibilities are out there that I should be conscious of.


  18. jf.sellsius.theclozing

    August 12, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    My house has motion detectors & cameras outside and hideen video surveillance in every room, I have a German Shepherd police attack dog and I sleep with a .44 under my pillow, I have a black belt in karate, was in the Green Beret and make it look like no one is home to trap burglars. So I have no problem with social media.

  19. Debra Sinick

    August 13, 2009 at 12:38 am


    I heard you had the local SWAT team on retainer, too.

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