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Enthusiasm makes agents easy targets: Bosses

Real estate firm PropNex Realty's chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail Gafoor believes that people like property and insurance agents are targeted by sexual predators due to the nature of their job.

"To start with, why did a person (like convicted rapist Azuar Ahamad) target these groups of people?

"Simply put, agents work independently and in their interest to close a deal, they cannot ignore potential clients. This enthusiasm makes them easy targets," he said.

The solution?

Do not meet new clients alone, choose the right meeting place and ask the right questions to see if the client is genuine.

Mr Ismail said: "At the end of the day, the risk is inherent in this job.

"If I'm not comfortable with the client, I would rather lose the deal than take that risk."

He said that new agents in his company would always be paired up with a manager.

New agents undergo six training sessions to get familiarised with the do's and don'ts of dealing with customers, including errant ones.

Property firm ECG Holdings' chief executive Eric Cheng said his company has a tag-team system in which every agent is paired with another.

"If anything happens to one of them, the other person would know where he or she is," he said.

Instinct is important, said PropNex Realty senior sales associate director Joan Bagus, who is in her 30s.

"It is common for people in our industry to meet clients one-on-one.

"But if you go to their home to meet them, instinct tells you to stay at the door, or see if the spouse or their children are inside to indicate whether it is safe to enter," said Ms Bagus.

DESPERATE

The property agent, who has been in the industry for 14 years, gave some pointers on how female agents should deal with male clients.

"Before meeting them, check over the phone if the wife is around.

"Better still, deal with the wife directly," she said.

But some agents may be "desperate enough" to hook their clients that they ignore what their instincts tell them, Ms Bagus said.

ERA Singapore assistant marketing manager Linda Yang calls these agents "black sheep" for being willing to go further than necessary to clinch the sale.