Dozens of female Realtors around the Lower Mainland have been receiving threatening and harassing phone calls, as well as explicit texts and photos, according to both real estate boards in the region.
Colette Gerber, the board chair of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, told Black Press Media Wednesday (Feb. 3) that the harassing calls started about a month ago.
“What’s been happening is that a male has been contacting some of our female Realtors by phone, starting to talk about wanting to sell a property,” Gerber said. However, the phone calls quickly turn into harassment, as the man changes course, with the conversation “very quickly getting into harassing and threatening conversations followed with rather ugly explicit text messages and doctored photo images.”
Gerber said that around two dozen realtors in REBGV have been harassed across in different communities. The REBGV covers Lower Mainland communities to the west and north of the Fraser River, as well as South Delta, the Sea-to-Sky region and the Sunshine Coast.
Gerber said there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the women receiving these phone calls, aside from it being targeted at female Realtors. She said the issue has been reported to the Vancouver Police Department, who told Black Press Media that their Domestic Violence and Criminal Harassment Unit is investigating incidents that targeted women in that city.
“Who knows what the reason is. If a person thinks that they want to harass, then they will harass,” she said, adding that she’s asked any Realtors who receive these phone calls to report them to police, and let the real estate board know.
Gerber said the harasser has typically called later in the evening, but said that with Realtors taking calls at all times of day it’s difficult to give helpful direction to avoid such calls. She emphasized that the board is concerned with safety first, and home sales second.
“I would suggest that women especially become a little more selective in answering phone calls and perhaps letting things go to voicemails,” Gerber said, adding that the harasser is clearly taking advantage of Realtors trying to be available at all times in order to make sales.
Gerber urged Realtors showing properties to vet their clients and try to not go alone.
“Failing that, have someone know where you are,” she said. “Always, always, always rely on your instinct. If you’re in a situation and you’re feeling uncomfortable, my first words of advice are ‘get out, and the reassess.”
And the calls haven’t been limited to Greater Vancouver. South of the Fraser, the president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board said that a man has been harassing its Realtors, too.
“This is very disturbing, particularly this recent news of him re-targeting one of our members just because she was brave and spoke out on behalf of the safety of the profession,” said president Chris Shields.
Kylene Shannon, a realtor with the FVREB, said that the calls started with a man calling her claiming his wife or girlfriend needed to sell her recently deceased father’s property.
Shannon at first took the calls at face value, but the wife never made it to the phone. Then, it shifted.
“The text messages suddenly started rolling in that were very explicit, pictures and messages,” Shannon said. “I’m not sure what they wanted, but their messages were just very explicit and graphic.”
Shannon said she has spoken to Langley RCMP about the calls, and that her real estate board has been very supportive, but warned other Realtors to be careful.
“Sometimes we give people the benefit of the doubt, that they’re generally good. But you really have to think about your safety when you’re running a business, especially as a woman,” she said. “Figure out who you’re going to contact and give all that information to, so you can have somebody check in on you, or go with somebody to meet new clients.”
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