Everyone wants to feel safe in their home, so when home security salespeople come knocking, their pitch can be convincing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Better Business Bureau urge you to use caution when you consider what security system sales agents have to offer.
During the spring and summer months, home security or alarm companies hire traveling sales agents to go door-to-door, making unsolicited "cold calls" on homeowners. In some cases, the salespeople use high-pressure or deceptive sales tactics to get potential customers to buy expensive, and sometimes substandard, systems or equipment they don't need.
Before you let anyone inside your home, ask for identification. Some state laws require door-to-door salespeople to tell you their name, the name of the business they represent, and the goods or services they wish to sell before asking you any questions or making any statements. Other states require salespeople to show you their "pocket card" license and a photo ID. Take a few minutes to look over their documentation.
Signs of a Security System Scam
Unscrupulous door-to-door sales agents use a variety of approaches and pitches to get you to buy an alarm system and monitoring services.
Here's what to look out for:
• They may make a time-limited offer, and claim that you need to act now. For example, they may try to get you to sign a contract by telling you that the equipment is "free." More than likely, strings are attached. For example, to get your "free" alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive system monitoring contract.
• They may pressure their way into your home and then refuse to leave. It is not impolite or rude to tell a salesperson you're not interested. It's much easier — and safer — to say "no" on the doorstep than to try to get the salesperson to leave once they're inside. If a salesperson continues to pressure you after you've asked them to leave, call the police.
• They may use scare tactics. For example, they may talk about a rash of supposed burglaries in your neighborhood.
Some door-to-door sales agents target homeowners who have signs on their properties for security systems with other companies. In these cases:
• The sales agents may state or imply that they are from your existing security company and that they're there to "upgrade" or "replace" your current security system. Once inside your home, however, they may install a new security system and have you sign papers that include a costly contract for the monitoring service.
• They may claim your security company has gone out of business, that they've taken over the accounts, and that you have to buy new equipment and sign new contracts. If this happens, call your current monitoring company to confirm. Normally, you would be notified of a change like this by mail or telephone, not by an unannounced visit by a representative from another company.
Before you do business with anyone selling a home security or alarm system, whether they come to your door or you seek them out, the FTC and BBB urge you to ask potential contractors for the following information. Use it to check out the alarm company with the appropriate authorities. If the salesperson is reluctant to give you this information, consider it a red flag and find another company to consider.
• Contractor's name
• Street address (no P.O. Box)
• Telephone number
• Contractor's license number
• State that issued the license
• Name under which the license is filed
And remember to check out any company with BBB prior to doing business at www.bbb.org.