Albany -- Authorities are warning real estate agents in the metro Atlanta area to be on guard for clients posing as potential buyers. The safety alert came after three recent incidents including one in Gwinnett county where a man, posing as a client, abducted an agent and forced her to buy him a watch as a nearby shopping center.
Real Estate agents show homes every day, many of them vacant. They often work by themselves with customers they barely know. So agents, especially females, must take every precaution to stay safe on the job.
From the moment she opens the door, Real Estate Agent Lara Carter is taking silent steps to protect herself.
"You need to have you guard on at all times," she warns.
Carter says agents with Walden & Kirkland, and many other agencies, take a safety course to learn how to stay alert while showing homes.
"You never know when you enter an empty home or new construction, what you will be facing on the other side of the door. And there's nobody but you with this person."
Carter says that's why she never meets a new client for the first time at a site.
"Get them to come into the office, get to know them, get a copy of their driver's license."
Agents also tell the office who they are going to meet, where they're going and what time to expect them back in the office.
"If no one know you're there, no one is going to know your missing," Carter said.
And agents sometimes use the old fashioned buddy system.
"A lot of times we go out two agents together if we're somewhere with someone we don't know. On the weekends, you can always get a family member. My husband goes with me many of times to show with me on the weekends."
Inside the homes, Carter tries to take charge of the tour.
"You lead the client. You let them go before you. You say 'This way' or 'Through this door.' That's not only part of the tour which is nice, but also that way your back is never turned on the person you're with."
Carter says hearing stories about other agents who been attacked don't scare her, but they do serve as a reminder to listen to her gut instincts, stay cautious and be prepared while alone on the job.
Agents, of course, live and die by their cell phones. Police encourage agents to program 911 into that phone, so the call can be made quickly if problems do arise.