If you are a real estate agent and own a smartphone, you likely receive emails on that phone. Given the electronic nature of most real estate transactions nowadays, you probably receive quite a bit of information in either the body of messages or as attachments. Are you taking the necessary steps to protect your clients’ privacy when it comes to your cell phone use? Here are a few things you can do to improve agent cell phone security and client privacy.
Password Protect Smartphones
Adding a password to your smartphone is a must nowadays. If your phone gets lost or stolen, no one should be able to simply turn on the phone and access all of your emails, contact information, etc. Additionally, most smart phones also have a data wiping feature if a password is entered incorrectly 10 times. This is an even better added level of security, assuming your data gets backed up somewhere to the cloud and you’re not notorious for forgetting your password. Lastly, be sure not to write your password on your phone! That would completely defeat the purpose of having a password to begin with!
Delete Email History
Once you receive emails that contain personal information, you may want to delete it from your email history after you have saved the information in an alternate secure location. Most email programs and servers will only move deleted emails to a trash folder. Be sure to empty the trash and permanently delete such messages.
Avoid Emailing Personal Information
It’s a good idea to avoid sending personal information via email to begin with. Email is inherently insecure. Even if your email software and/or email account is password protected, the process of transmitting that email over the Internet is most likely insecure. Advise your clients to use alternate and more secure methods of sending such information, whenever possible.
If documents must be sent via email, consider blacking out certain areas or leaving off some information. For example, personal checks can have the bank account and/or routing number blacked out. A rental or mortgage applicant might call-in to provide their social security number rather than including it on an emailed document.
Notify Clients of Breaches
Just as financial institutions must notify their customers of a data breach, as a real estate agent, you also have an obligation to notify your clients if your lose a cell phone that may contain their personal information. Your brokerage may even have a policy in place regarding this.
More on Agent Cell Phone Security
Real estate agents are trusted with quite a bit of personal information. With that trust comes an obligation to keep client information safe and secure. Above are just a few simple tips to improve agent cell phone security. Ask your broker for additional security considerations in your practice of real estate.