Summer seems to be the time for all good scammers to come out of hiding and start their door-to-door fraud scams. In 2016, thousands of complaints were received by local law enforcement departments, state attorney general’s offices, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Believe it or not, there are many less-than-ethical home security companies that will use deceptive practices when trying to steal a customer away from a competitor. Claims such as offering a non-existent “upgrade”, or claiming that the current provider seen on the sign in the front yard has gone out of business or has been sold to the sales reps company are just a few to look out for.
Here are 4 scams, “red flags”, you should watch out for:
1. High-pressure tactics. An honorable security company will give you time to think about the offer and will normally agree to make a return appointment date to finalize the deal. If the sales rep tells you the offer is only good today, run, and run fast in the other direction! You should always have as much time as you need to make sure an important decision as to whose service will be used to guard your most prized possession, your home.
2. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! If the alarm company is offering you a deal that beats any deal you’ve ever heard up, watch out. In the home security business the old adage is true and you really do get what you pay for.
3. Company identification or lack thereof. Any legitimate sales representative of a legitimate home alarm company should be able to provide identification for both themselves and their company. Also be on the lookout for a company that appears to have no ties to the local community. Bands of “fake” home security sales reps have been known to travel around the country taking advantage of homeowners.
4. Check complaints online. Before signing ANY contract with ANY company, check with the BBB, Google the company’s name, check on Yelp, and ask others whose advise you trust if they’ve had any dealings with the security company.
Here are some things to keep in mind to protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Choose a reputable business. Carefully consider your security requirements and budget. You may also get recommendations from your homeowners or renters insurance carrier. Deal only with reputable firms
- Contact at least three companies before making a decision on which one to go with. Find out if they are properly licensed in your jurisdiction and ask if the company runs a criminal background check on employees prior to hiring. You can also look up companies on the websites of the Electronic Security Association – esaweb.org to make sure they have pledged to uphold industry standards.
- Ask about all charges up front. Prices for home security systems will vary based on the level of protection and type of technology used. Be sure to compare bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in the initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring fees. Many companies will actually offer a better rate on their monthly monitoring fee if you ask for it. Their sales reps are trained to quote the highest monthly fee first and if the customer accepts it that’s more profit for them and a bigger commission for the sales rep. Monthly monitoring fees are negotiable!
- Know the ins and outs of your contract. If your alarm system will be monitored, either by your installing company or by a third-party monitoring center. Ask where the monitoring center is located. Many are not even in the same state as where the residence is located. Find out the length of the contract. What is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided? Can you cancel the contract? What are your rights if your monitoring company is purchased or acquired by another alarm company? And what happens if you change your mind after the sale? In the United States, the “cooling off” rule is three-days for door-to-door sales.
Be mindful of the 4 scams that will be used in the coming months, and keep in mind some of the things you should consider before signing up with any home alarm company.