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The Real Estate Lounge Chicago

Thomas McCarey offers relaxed insights of Chicago real estate market

By Tom McCarey | Broker in 60622

When Online Posts Open the Door to Your Life (Leaving You Vulnerable)

A peripheral glance earlier this week left an indelible mark on The Real Estate Lounge Chicago. Somewhere on google or yahoo was a reference to scheming thieves turning to your facebook account to gain a toehold on what's yours and making it theirs.

Without thinking at any great length this glimpse planted a seed and an idea took root. And what I came up with was how clever cretins could use new social technology to keep tabs on your updates when you leave your Chicago home and introduce themselves to your Gold Coast condo or Bucktown single family in your absence.

Think about it! While you are off in the hinter lands, grinning from the Eiffel Tower or awed by the Grand Canyon, posting to your facebook page or your twitter account about the pleasures of escargot in a foreign clime or the chasm caused by a river the rogue is jimmying open the back door of your Chicago home to take possession of your plasma tv.

Pretty much puts a dent in posting international or domestic travel itineraries away from your Chicago home for fear of being seen by the wrong eyes with even worse motives.

Danger! Thieves!

When I finally did track down the article that pushed the notion in the first place the idea was that techno-crooks are hacking sites like facebook and twitter to gain personal information akin to identity theft and using it to unsettle your life while economically enhancing theirs.

Not quite how I pictured it but yikes, the profit principle without a moral mooring.

For some strange reason the idea of a techno-skulker triggered me to ponder when Chicago home seekers turn to me as their realtor or the real estate listing agent and ask "Is this a safe neighborhood?"

As a Chicago real estate professional I can't answer as to the safety of say Chicago's Wicker Park  or Edgewater neighborhoods. What I can and do answer, though, is that the asker practice care and discretion. Respect the city and be smart.

The same things holds true when it comes to facebook and twitter. Be smart.

Though a big barking dog and a state-of-the-art security system will also serve the cause.

By the way, take your pick from this ezine online safety article, this facebook safety article and this twitter safety article to stay abreast of online safety tips.

Safety First is the First Step


By Joseph Washick,  Sun Dec 27 2009, 17:46
Hi Tom, This was an exceptionally important piece of writing. I'm surprised a real estate agent or broker has not offered any input. I own my own real estate company and misuse of online data is on my mind often. The economy is slow so we are busy trying to find leads and motivate buyers and sellers to "meet" and deal! I don't think often of the content of my writings online and they could make me vulnerable- not only to theft- but to countless acts of violence, harassment or misconduct. I remember back more than a decade earlier when the entire greater Chicagoland area (Northern Illinois, really) was uniting with Realtors- pooling their MLS resources into a combined MLS serving the entire No IL region. Many in the nicer neighborhoods expressed serious concern and reservations- the "what-ifs" began to resound. What if unknown persons came to look at our homes really only to plan their next crime... what if homebuyers were thieves in disguise... what if, what if, what if? Lockboxes have come a long way with technologies that safely accomodate real estate agents and give the seller peace of mind. Nobody enters my listings without my knowledge or consent. Still, we may be vulnerable at some point to the evil mind seeking to do harm or commit a crime. I believe the best advice to give to any individual providing information on a blog or posting on the internet is to use their best common sense and remember at all times that strangers close and far will be viewing their posting. So, don't announce your vacation plans or your departure schedule but also don't bad-mouth your current employer if you need to keep your job, don't make threats just because you are upset or frustrated... they may be taken seriously, DON'T write stupid things on the internet. The best lockboxes have helped us Realtors to keep our sellers confident in our ability to market their homes but we still must be diligent. A sign lying on the front lawn yells out that nobody has been around that house for a while. These precautions are yet more difficult because so many agents and brokers are struggling to stay in business much less drive by their current listings on a regular basis, listings they've been marketing for nearly two years. And lo, the forces of evil are lurking everywhere. We must be better Realtors, but neighbors and everyone must also be better citizens. Everyone has a cell phone today- call to report a problem or a crime. Also, it does not require much effort to pick up and reinsert someone else's sign on the front lawn. After all, a good deed may just make someone's life a little bit better and make the good-deed-doer feel a little better about themselves.
Touche...Facebook + an idle mind is a dangerous invitation to privacy touted in public. Its amazing what appears on pages from the generation behind me. Its amazing what appears on my fellow agents' pages.

Here's a crystal clear reference to keep in mind:
"Just like you would not list all of your personal information in paint outside your home. You should not do it on your profile page on Facebook."
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