Scammers target homeowners with existing alarm systems
Published: July 22, 2015 02:45 PM
Got a sign in your front yard warning would-be burglars that you're protected by an electronic alarm system? Instead of providing a shield, that sign may make you a target for home security system scams.
Summer is high season for burglaries, with the highest percentage of break-ins occurring during July and August. Since most burglaries occur during the day, when occupants are out, it's natural to rely on a security system to safeguard your home. But those warning signs posted in your window or on the lawn could work against you.
Here's why. Home security system scammers often look for signs of existing installations, especially older-looking signs, which might have the date of the original installation printed on the back. Then they strike, with a variety of approaches:
Fraudsters claiming to be remote access technicians from the home security system company mentioned on the sign may call to tell you that "the company computer" has noticed recent glitches in your system and they're sending someone to repair it. Their goal: To con you into letting them into your house on the pretext of "fixing" or "examining" the existing security device. In fact, they're tampering with the alarm system so they can return and burglarize your house.
Unscrupulous sales agents imply that they're from your existing security company and that they need to "upgrade" or "replace" your current system. Their goal: To pressure you into signing a new monitoring contract, at inflated prices and with a five-year term or longer. Victims who sign these deals often find they can't get out of the contract without paying a penalty.
Scammers may claim that your original system installer has gone out of business and that they've taken over the contracts. Their goal: To convince you to buy new equipment and sign new contracts again, at a higher price and long-term lock-in.
Some con artists take a deposit for a new home security system—and then are never heard from again.
Legitimate home security system companies do not simply send a repairman unannounced to your door. Similarly, if your monitoring company has gone out of business, you would be notified of a change by mail, not by telephone and certainly not by someone simply showing up.
Protect yourself by taking the following steps:
Get references. Ask the salesperson for names of previous customers, especially people in your neighborhood whose address you can check for legitimacy. Be sure to contact them to find out information about the equipment and the service.
Do a background check. Demand information about the contractor's license—the number, the state where they're registered and the name under which the license is filed. Check these out before taking further action.
Get it in writing. Insist that all estimates for home security system service and equipment be in writing, specifying the equipment, who will install it, how it will be maintained and, of course, the cost.
Reread the contract. Ensure that everything you've agreed to is written into the contract. Check the fine print for commitments you might inadvertently miss, such as monitoring fees, the term of the contract and your right to cancel the deal.
If you have regrets, you can change your mind. The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business. You do not have to give a reason. And you can change your mind even if the equipment has already been installed.
FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up? Manage your newsletters here too.
Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.