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.