In-home security consultations are still an important part of many home security company’s marketing and sales strategy. But, while there are many legitimate salespeople and professionals who will work with you to assess your home and design the right system for you, there are unscrupulous door-to-door salespeople willing to con and take advantage of trusting homeowners.
Make sure you know what to do and what to look for so you can avoid being scammed while trying to protect your home and family.
Home Security Scam Red Flags
Too Good to Be True
Remember the old adage, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is? Well, that often holds true for in-home sales pitches. If your salesperson is promising no long-term contract, free equipment and a no-penalty trial period, you may have reason to be suspicious. While there are companies that do offer “free” equipment, there are often accompanied by inflated monthly fees and a restrictive service contract. Before you agree to anything, get it in writing and review it completely.
Scare and High-Pressure Sales Tactics
Be wary of a salesperson who tries to scare you with claims of increasing number of burglaries in your neighborhood or one who claims to have been sent by your homeowners association or Neighborhood watch. Be wary of a salesperson who is aggressive and pushy – if they’re trying to get you to commit to something when you aren’t ready, show them the door.
Claiming to be from Your Current Provider
If you already have a home security system installed and the salesperson claims to be from the company you use, telling you your system is “outdated” or your “monitoring service is being changed”, etc. While it’s possible the salesperson may indeed be working for or on behalf of your current provider, you should verify them by contacting your alarm company – and don’t be afraid to verify any statements the salesperson makes.
No ID, No Verification
If the person at your door cannot prove they work for or on behalf of an alarm company or service provider, do not allow them into your home.
Inability to Answer Your Questions
If salesperson is unable or unwilling to answer your questions or seems evasive when you press them for details, be wary. Questions about costs such as monitoring rates, upfront fees or about equipment functionality should be easy for any qualified professional to answer.
Lack of Respect and Pushiness
The salesperson should behave respectfully and cordially to you at all times. Don’t allow an aggressive sales rep to intimidate you into letting them inside your home. You should only have to say you aren’t interested in their pitch once. If you ask the rep to leave and they persist, do not hesitate to contact the police.
How To Protect Yourself From Home Security Scams
Ask for ID
Any representative from a legitimate company should have the proper credentials with them when making a call to your home. Are they driving a branded or unmarked vehicle? Are they wearing company-branded clothes or uniform? Do they have an employee ID badge? If they cannot verify their identity and association with a known home security company, do not let them inside your home.
Ask for Additional Information
A legitimate salesperson will have printed material and collateral from his organization explaining pricing, promotions and their service and equipment. Ask the rep for these marketing materials so you can review them.
Know How You Will Use the System
When you’re discussing your home security needs with an in-home security consultant or salesperson, make sure you have a complete understanding of how you will use the system:
- How many people will need to have access codes to the system
- Where are the most commonly trafficked areas in your home and how will the system monitor them
- If you’re interested in adding video surveillance, have the consultant show you where you should place the cameras.
Your consultant should be a trained professional capable of answering most if not all of your questions. Make sure the rep takes the time to explain and answer your questions and if you are still unclear or unsure, don’t hesitate to ask for additional information.
Know Your Current System
If you already have a security system in your home, be sure to have a good understanding of it. And not just about the equipment and how to use it. Do you know how much time is left on your current service agreement? Or if you can use your existing equipment but have the monitoring serviced by another company?
Beware of Unscheduled Maintenance Visits
If a rep comes to your door unannounced, claiming your existing system needs an upgrade or a repair you didn’t request, do not let them in. Unless you have scheduled the appointment or received communication from your alarm company (by phone, mail or electronic means), be very wary – an unscheduled on-site visit is highly unusual and most likely fraud.
Compare the deal, equipment and service available from the many reputable alarm companies available to the one you’re being presented with before you make a commitment. Use or expert walk-through to help determine what is important to you and identify the companies that best match your needs.
Do Your Research
Read online reviews for the company to see what customers think. Negative reviews and comments will frequently identify companies with problematic in-home sales reps. The more educated you are about the equipment, service and offer compared to other companies the more empowered you are as a consumer. You’ll be able to challenge the rep to backup any claims they make.
Ask Questions & Verify Answers
Don’t be afraid to challenge the rep on their recommendations. If they’ve recommended a glassbreak sensor instead of a motion detector or other piece of equipment they should be able to explain why. Find out if you’re buying the equipment or just leasing it during the service term. When the contract ends, will you own the equipment or be expected to return it? What will your monitoring rate be and what will the total cost to you be? The rep should write all of this information down for you – if not, do it yourself so you can verify the information with another source before purchase.
Get it in Writing
If the rep isn’t willing to put it down on paper, they probably making a false claim or misleading statement. Everything they promise and offer should be documented on paper for your records should you ever need to prove the claim/offer made by the representative.
Always Read the Fine Print (and take your time)
Regardless of what the rep says, there is no rush on you to sign a contract before you’ve had the chance to read through it completely. Trust your instincts. If you feel pressured to commit to something before you’re ready, make the rep leave and don’t sign anything until YOU are ready.
Don’t Sign on the Spot
Take your time. Read the contract. Verify all the fees and charges you’re agreeing to. Make sure the contract matches the claims from the rep.
Make sure you completely understand:
- Any and all upfront costs
- Monthly fees for monitoring
- Length of contract term
- Termination and cancellation fees
- Relocation process (and fees)
Know Your Rights
You have a three-day right of rescission or “cooling off” period during which you can exercise your legal right to cancel a contract you signed with a provider. You can learn more about the FTC’s guidelines here and should also review your state’s laws pertaining to in-home sales and contracts to fully understand your rights as a consumer.
State and city solicitation laws vary widely with regards to door-to-door or in-home sales, including permit requirements, hours of operation, and more. Familiarize yourself with your municipality rules and laws regarding door-to-door sales.
Remember, a knock at your door may not be the opportunity you expected. Before you open your home or wallet to someone promising you peace of mind and home protection, make sure you verify who they are, what they’re telling you and what you’re getting. Securing your home should give you a sense of peace not worry. Trust your instincts.