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Putting Realtor Safety to the Test

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The 2014 kidnapping and murder of a Central Arkansas realtor left many colleagues thinking "that could have been me."

Since Beverly Carter's death, the real estate industry has worked to incorporate more levels of safety for agents.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 3 percent of all realtors become victims of a crime.

With the help of a local broker and Beverly's son Carl, we're taking a look at what's really changed and also put those changes to the test.

Realtors routinely get phone calls from prospective customers who want to look at a house that's up for sale.

"We have this hustle, you know you get up and do anything for anyone, anytime because you just want to help," says Kristen Kennon, owner and broker for iRealty Arkansas, who's helping us test one of her realtors.

Little does Jaird with iRealty know...he's being set up.

"I'm very nervous about doing this," says Kennon, who preaches safety to her agents. So much so, that she's willing to put it to the test. 

"If that's the only reason that you're going to be kept safe because you feel like somebody's going to secret shop you, then, good. I hope you're safer for that reason," she adds.

Her motivation tracks back to Beverly Carter.

"It rocked my world," she says. "Just the impact...it felt like that could have been me...it completely changed the way that I did things immediately." 

Carter had agreed to meet a couple at a vacant house in Scott in late September 2014. Court documents state she was kidnapped, murdered and her body found in a shallow grave days later in Cabot. The couple was arrested.

"Why Beverly?," the male suspect was asked at the time of his arrest. "Because she was a rich broker," he replied.

A profession filled with mixed perceptions, and as Carl Carter, Jr. says, rare opportunity.

"What other profession do you have where you have these perceived wealthy individuals that are going with complete strangers into vacant properties?," he asks.

It was a request asked of Beverly, just as we now asked of Jaird for this story.

After checking to make sure the $95,000 house was vacant and without any personal information more than a name and phone number, he agrees to meet us in 20 minutes.

We arrive and wait. The nerves set in. Partly for guilt of not being a serious homebuyer and partly the curiosity of his reaction.

We're armed with cameras and microphones when he arrives.

"You must be Jaird!," says Fox16 reporter Rebecca Jeffrey.

"Rebecca? Where's your car at?," Jaird asks her.

"Well, I hate to do this to you. I'm with Channel 16. We're actually doing a story about realtor safety," she tells him

"Ohhhh," he says. 

"And I just came and met you," she says.

"You did! I fell right into the trap," he says.

It's a situation he later admits he's been in many times before.

"I'm a guy and you're a girl," he continues. "It's in the middle of the day, so I didn't think anything of it. I should have asked more questions. Should have asked for your license, your driver's license and all that good stuff, so." 

"Is this going to make you think twice," Rebecca asks him. 

"Yeah, definitely for sure," he says. "Because you don't know if you're going to be on the news!" 

The surprise aside, we try a different agent. This time a woman who just listed a house for nearly $400,000.

This cold call could mean a big commission for Ana Bridges.

"I hate to ask but are you available in the next hour by chance to show this house?," Rebecca asks her in a phone call.

"Yes! Yes, actually I am. I'm going to go pick up my daughter right now," Bridges says.

Now we know she'll have someone with her, making her less of a target. And she asks Rebecca a few more questions.

"If you don't mind actually sending me a picture of your driver's license. It's just company policy," she says.

That's where Rebecca stops her. :08

"I'm here with Kristen and we were making cold calls checking on realtor security...and you passed the test," Rebecca tells her.

"Woohoo, I'm so happy I passed the test!," she says.

"She is a leader in the nation. People are not doing that," Carter adds.

It's a call to be commended. 

"I'm proud of you!," Kristen tells Ana.

But the award for her actions is coming safely home to her family.

"My family matters more than a sale," Carter continues.

For homebuyers, the easiest way to prove your identity and ease concerns is to get pre-approved by a lender before looking at houses.

Click here for a list of 56 realtor safety tips from the National Association of Realtors.

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