In this report
Scam Alert
Virtual watchdog?
June 2008
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Scam Alert: Don't get ripped off by an alarm company
The scenario: A representative from a home-security company knocks on your door and offers you a free alarm system in exchange for displaying his company’s sign on your lawn. Swayed by the prospect of getting a security setup gratis, you sign a long-term monitoring contact and end up stuck with a shoddy installation and substandard equipment and service.

How to spot a scam: Be alarmed if a salesman says he represents, or wears clothing with logos from, manufacturers like GE and Honeywell. These firms don’t sell directly to consumers and don’t allow their logos to be used by others. Also be wary if the rep does not take time to assess your home’s vulnerabilities or does not discuss alarm system details, alarm notification procedures, and the company’s call center. Companies with “vans ready to install your system today” are another tip-off.

How to do the job right: Quality alarm systems combine audible and silent alarms triggered by sensors placed throughout the home, not just on doors and windows. Use a combination of sensor technologies for fewer false alarms and better accuracy. Silent alarms notify the monitoring station, which contacts the police. Audible alarms prompt the burglar to flee.

Expect to pay $1 to $2 per square foot of your home for a complete system and about $25 per month for monitoring. Cheaper systems may use less-sophisticated sensors, says Ron Walters, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition’s (SIAC) director of field operations. “Low-tech sensors don’t recognize the difference between an animal and a human,” he adds.

Walters recommends you look for sensors that meet American National Standards Institute and SIAC standards. The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association certifies installers through its National Training School. And some states license alarm companies and installers.