This past week, my wife and I had the unfortunate event of a “home security” company knocking on my door and offering us a new security system.
Their approach was smooth; the sales pitch, flawless.
And they had some great upgrade options for free.
(Automatic locking doors, wireless cameras and a thermostat controlled by our iphones)
But when all was said and done, something just didn’t feel right…
The company had stated that we had a 30 day “trial period” but the fine print on the contract stated we only had 3 days to cancel.
All of the “free upgrades” ended up almost doubling our current bill.
Coupled with the nearly 1300 complaints in the BBB based on these same sales tactics, my wife and I decided to immediately cut ties with this company.
It was my fault for not doing more research, but…. you live and learn.
Afterwards though it got me thinking, how many other people have been led astray by these same tactics.
Upon doing more research, I found out that we were not the only ones to fall victim to this…. but it could have been much worse!
That evening I turned on the news and actually caught this story (originally posted on KXAN Austin):
The home security sign in your front yard is meant to scare off intruders, but it could actually be making you a target of a scam.
Fake salesmen are going door to door posing as security company representatives and asking to come into people’s homes. The scam ends up costing victims thousands of dollars.
It was on Monday evening when homeowner Maria Avila got an unexpected knock at her front door.
“Actually, he said, ‘I’m with your security company we are here to do an update on your system I want to look at your box and I need to come inside your home,'” said Avila, who lives in East Austin.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Check to make sure sales reps have a DPS Certified License
- Look for a company issued badge and number
- Call your security company to verify the visit.
- Never sign any documents unless the visit is verified by your security company.
It was when she called Point Security that she says she immediately knew something wasn’t right. The next day, the salesman returned to her home still attempting to change her system.
“I told him I called my company and they told me they hadn’t sent anyone out,” said Avila. He then told me he was with another company instead.”
It’s a story Chris Quinn with Point Security says he hears often.
“They make their shirts, they make badges, they try to use sales techniques and unethical sales practices,” said Quinn.
He says his customers are being tricked into thinking they’re getting an update to their current alarm instead when they sign off on paperwork they’re actually signing a contract for a separate system.
“Before you know it you’re in a company issued agreement with two companies meaning you are paying two bills and it’s a very big issue,” said Quinn.
Point Security says while they still recommends that homeowners keep security signs in their yard to scare away intruders following several steps can also protect you from scammers.
For Avila, she says she’s glad she asked all the right questions before easily becoming a victim.
“People need to be aware to not let just anyone come in no matter what they claim to be doing,” said Avila.
Home burglaries typically rise during the summer months with families leaving for vacations. Experts say scammers are armed with that knowledge and are ready to act like they’re going to protect you.
It’s also a good idea to watch out for phone calls from people claiming to be your Internet provider, phone company or Microsoft and they want personal information or access to your computer. They probably aren’t who they say they are. Things to be suspicious about, they call you. They may claim something is wrong with your computer and they can detect that from their end. It’s total hoghash, HANG-UP immediately and if your worried then call your company back and talk to customer service or visit the nearest computer geek and tell them exactly what happened so they can fix anything that may have got through. Grrr 🙂
If you have not scheduled an appointment NEVER let anyone into your home unless they have a valid warrant.
If I did not go thru the effort to search out a product or service – #1 I did not see the need #2 I will be extremely suspicious. #3 I will do comparative shopping.
I may listen to what they have to offer, but any ‘special offer NOW’ is rejected until properly vetted.
‘Trust but Verify’?? No – you must Verify First and still Withhold Trust.
There are many alarm and security companies that will never send a technician to your home. You order the DIY install kit and install it all yourself. I was very satisfied with LifeShield. I don’t represent this company but they did me right.
I work for one of the largest alarm companies in the nation, and we have a bunch of ‘authorized dealers’ who do some of this. They are only a separate security company authorized to use or name, not really affiliated with the actual company. Lots of times they misrepresent themselves to be our company and since they have the logo on their shirts and have the signs, most people fall victim to their schemes. A couple of things to look for: on the paperwork, it should have our logo, but will also have ‘authorized dealer’ with it. Second, if they show up in a standard van with no lettering or a magnet stuck to the side, they are likely not the actual company. Always ask for an id. The person, sales or install or service, should have an id, and or at least a state issued registration card or license, depending on the state. Ask the right questions. The person, if they are legit, will not be offended by you asking for this information. If they are, that alone should raise a red flag. Be safe, be smart, be secure.
We just bought a house, within a month of us moving in an older gentleman who had no vehicle, badging or other information offered us a security system, with no vehicle I felt something was wrong. Turns out they are going through home sales listings so they can see what just moved into their neighborhood to come back and rob us. Luckily I felt in my gut something was wrong and called the police. Seems that this is another new scam. I doubt he’ll be back but if he does im locked and loaded and so is my rottie. Good luck gettin out of this house, weve had friends come over, go into the bathroom only to hear them screaming they couldnt get out. The dog might let you in but your not going anywhere until I tell her ok, go ahead break in… I dare you!
Actually, I thought this article was going to be about the dangers of having a remote-monitored/controlled security system. Consider those dangers for a moment: What if your legitimate security system gets hacked? or what if you get a system which is run by hacks? Either way, you could be at risk of having your private moments monitored, as well as having your system opened or closed at others bidding. Remember: “Open the pod bay door, Hal.”? 😉
In a news interview with ex-burglars/thieves, the burglars stated that the signs posted in the yards only gave them (burglars) the info they needed to disarm the system so they COULD enter the home. My suggestion for the yard sign is this: “This home protected by one of 300 security systems…YOU GUESS WHICH ONE!!!”
Welcome to the New AmurrriKKKa, where anyone can say and sell anything without a shred of reality to back it up. Reminds me of the old days, where you could drink radon water for your health, cathode ray lamps for tanning, and vornado devices for your car to get you 1000mpg!
This is what deregulation gets you… “snake oil” salesmen behind every bush, and no way to trust any of it.
Make sure the company, sales rep and technician are licensed; this is often handled by the DOJ or in cooperation with them and involves a pretty extensive background check.
Look for companies that work with affinity partnerships like USAA, AAA, AARP, etc. Again, make sure they are licensed.
A 3-day guarantee is a state mandated cooling period; a 30-day guarantee is usually provided by the company.
Don’t work with door knockers; this is a trade industry. I have yet to meet a door to door electrician, plumber or carpenter. If the rep just met with your neighbors, ask him to leave his info and license number with them. Do your research.
Don’t buy DIY junk kits or services that come in the mail because they’re usually not that secure.
Do your research. Do your research. Do your research. Nothing is for free. I have yet to have a plumbing company offer a free copper repipe for my home. Free usually means they’ll sell your info to a direct marketer, etc.
-20 years in the industry as a tech, consultant and manager
Be thankful it’s just a scam for dual security charges. They could just as easily turn the system off if you give them access to it, and come back at night and do a Manson Family job on your family. Just don’t fall for the trick at all. If you didn’t call them – ask them to sit there while you call a cop out to check them out.
Most security cojpanies will call and tell you if they are coming to your house and why. If someone says they were sent be their comoany,call and check,if you did not get advanced notice.
As a master locksmith and safe & vault technician, and an owner of a security business, We did everything except alarms.
In the security business there is an old saying – scare them bad, and sell them big. This is incredibly simple.
There are several things that make our alarm completely useless. The first, and the most damaging is that they all give of false alarms. Because of this the alarm has too go through a service, and that takes time. Then they call the police, who do not respond quickly because they do not expect to catch anyone. This all takes precious time.
If you have an exterior alarm. You are only going too piss off your neighbors. They will quickly stop paying attention to your house.
Signs in your yard, and stickers on your door, are screaming that there are valuables inside.
Bottom line, an alarm is just a stop watch that tells the crooks how much time they have to rob you. Five minutes is a long time to do their work.
There is only one way to use an alarm. The biggest problem is that it is not legal everywhere, because it could damage the criminal. It is very simple. Instead of putting sirens on the outside you put them inside your house, and use the sound level too drive them from your house.
Finally, if ANY “service person” comes to your house that you didn’t call, send them away. Write down their license plate number and call the police.
was the company called Vivant? they did the same thing to use
The we’re taking a survey technique is one worth watching out for as well. One scam someone tried to run on me was two guys coming up to my house, with a clipboard and pen, wanting to know who takes care of my glass for home and car. I told them I was not interested, and was satisfied with the folks who did my glass work, we had nothing to talk about. Then one of them got thirsty and wanted to come in for a drink. He would move around while the other one was talking to me. I went in the house, locking the door as I entered, clipped on my handgun, came out and threw one of them a bottle of water, and told them to make tracks off my property within 30 seconds. I likely would have presented the weapon had they not left.
Anishinabi, I would not have answered the door in the first place without my defense strapped on and ready to use it if need be.
I have been in the access control/CCTV/security business for over 13 years. A few tips, experiences, and things to think about:
1. If you didn’t call your particular alarm company to come look at or fix an existing problem with your system, never let a sales rep or technician in your house. Never.
2. If you are having issues with your system, a simple phone call to your monitoring company should be able to troubleshoot most problems. They will talk you through the troubleshooting process, there will be documented information as to what was or still needs to be looked at, and you may very well learn a little bit more about your system’s abilities and features. Also, if a tech needs to be sent out for further investigation, the company is aware of it and will be the ones setting it up.
3. Never, never, NEVER show anyone where your main panel is located, where wires run to your system, or details about what type of devices you do or don’t have. Not in general conversation with neighbors and definitely not with a door to door rep trying to up-sell you a new system.
4. Most current systems (though times are changing) are monitored through a connected phone line. It is usually from outside your house, easy to cut, and vulnerable to power and service interruptions. This is just a fact of life. You can upgrade to cellular dialers, have your phone interface moved inside your garage or closet, or have a secondary, inconspicuous line run independently for your system…but at a price. Most good systems should notify your monitoring station to a cut service line or phone interruption, and then they SHOULD notify you. Ensure you speak with your provider and request this aspect.
5. A “security system” is primarily a deterrent to those who are going to look for a softer target, give owners a little more peace as they sleep at night, and are only a limited, first line of protection. Do NOT rely on your security system to be a catch all and ensure you that the police will get there to save you, your family, or your stuff. Having a dog, a firearm you know how to use well, and a good relationship with your neighbors (notice it is ‘plural’) are much more effective.
6. Exterior lighting, reinforced doors and locks, thorny bushes around limited view windows, and a vehicle in the driveway that doesn’t stay in the same spot all the time, are great supplemental security upgrades that are easy and inexpensive.
And lastly…if a group of criminals are hell bent and determined to get in your house or steal your things, there isn’t a lot you can do. Remember, this is their profession. And some of them train hard. They will either follow you in your garage, recon your house until they are positive nobody is home, or plan their work when a power outage or major news incident has society reeling. Stay vigilant, don’t take chances, and live as low profile as you can. Flaunting your new luxury car in your driveway or new 65″ t.v. box by the trash is a “laser designator” pointed at your house.