Scams on the Rise: The Doorknockers Have Returned
April 29, 2021
Feeling safe in our homes is the end goal, which is why many of us decide to invest in home security. Unfortunately, unless you do your homework, it can be incredibly simple to fall for the home security doorknockers, who are frequently selling a scam. These scams don't necessarily stop at just door knocking. They even progress to strange calls, websites, and unsolicited marketing text messages that you can't quite seem to get out of. Here are some common scams you might encounter, the red flags to keep in mind, and what to do if you accidentally sign on the dotted line.
Red Flags to Look for in Common Home Security Scams
1. They Push for a Quick Decision
This is a widespread technique for many different scams, not just home security. The unscrupulous salesperson will tell you this is a one-time special offer, and you have to act now. Some common phrases are, "the deal is only good today," or "we only have one system left at this price." They want you to feel pressured into signing the contract without actually taking a good look at it.
Spoiler alert: these one-time-only offers aren't genuine. Especially in security, actual companies don't change their prices daily. Keep in mind that if these security systems are so obsolete that they wouldn't be available tomorrow, you definitely don't want them in your own homes.
2. "Free" Equipment
Another tactic these salespeople will use to pressure you into buying is to offer what seems to be an incredible deal. They usually say that they can install a complete alarm system for as low as…free. You read that right; they offer to give you a free security system. But what type of system are they trying to give you?
First, these "free" products always come with MAJOR strings attached. To get them, you'll more than likely have to sign a lengthy contract that locks you into paying a steep monthly monitoring fee for three to five years, with other hidden fees. When you add all those fees together and the long-term cost of the system, it'll become very apparent that the "free system" will cost you more than a normally priced system
To make matters even more interesting, the equipment itself is often inferior. There have even been reports that some don't even work at all. The company will go out of their way to have a long installation proves for show, but burglars have caught on that these systems are easy to get around.
3. Scare Tactics
So, you're managing the other tactics well. The salesperson will turn up the heat and pressure you with fear. If you have a current provider, they will make up stories about your current provider's systems failing and even try to make up a story about a rash of burglaries in your neighborhood. They'll even tell you that your next-door neighbor got robbed in an attempt to make you feel like you could be next.
4. They Push Their Way In
This sounds extreme, but we've gotten reports of incidents where salespeople try to get inside your home. They usually trick you into letting them in the house to "scope the house out," and then once they are in, they refuse to leave without a signed contract in hand.
5. They Lie About Who They Represent
Just because you already have a security system, doesn't mean the salespeople from these scams don't see you as an opportunity. In fact, some sneaky sales agents specifically look for people who have signs on their property from other security companies. They'll knock on your door and tell you that your current provider sent you. They'll also say the need to inspect your system, do some maintenance, or upgrade the equipment. But, much like the above red flag, it's only just a ruse.
Once they get in, they'll take out your old system and install a completely new one. Then, they'll make you sign a new contract with their company, including those unreasonably high monthly fees. Here's the trick though. Because this salesperson isn't from your actual provider, you'll have to contract with your reputable provider. You'll still get a bill for service, even though you might not have their system in place. The new company has a habit of throwing away equipment regardless if it belongs to you, which means you might even owe your old company for the equipment that the new company tossed!
Here's the truth. A legitimate security company will never send someone to your door unannounced. ABCO Security will send you a bio sheet of the team member who will be assisting you in advance, as well as will have ABCO Security branded vehicles and business cards. If we need to do maintenance or upgrades, they'll call you first and make an appointment. If the workers show up without warning, you can assume they're not legit.
How to Avoid Home Security Scams
Pretty much all security scams work by trying to force you into making a hasty decision. The best way to avoid them is to refuse to be pressured. Insist on taking the time to check out the deal on your own – without the salesperson looking over your shoulder. In most cases, a little work is all it takes to show a home security "deal" is nothing but a scam.
Here are a few specific tips to keep in mind.
1. Don't Sign on the Spot
Do not make such a big decision like home security immediately. Instead, do some research on the company, including utilizing the BBB. A simple way to get around this is to tell them you need some time to think about it and ask them to come back later. If the company is legitimate, you will get no push back for your request. Legitimate companies are willing to wait on your decision, so you feel confident in your decision.
2. Call the Company
If the salesperson says they're from your existing security company, or from another company that's taking over its business, don't take their word for it. Call the company they are claiming to replace and confirm their pitch. More than likely, the company was not bought out and didn't send salespeople unannounced.
3. Get Details About the Company
This sounds like it would be simple, but these salespeople don't know much about the companies they claim to represent or represent. Ask for a business card or the company's phone or website. Ask for an email address or even the mailing address for your records. If they don't have this basic information, you have your answer on whether this salesperson is legitimate or not. Show them the door.
4. Don't Let Them In
A simple tip is to keep the salespeople outside on your doorstep. It's much easier and safer to get rid of them while they're on the doorstep. If they tell you that they need to come in, ask them to have the company call you and set up an appointment. There is nothing rude about saying no if you aren't interested. If you have told them to leave and they refuse to, get law enforcement involved.
5. OOPS! You signed something!
Perhaps you've just encountered this situation, and you've signed a contract! You might still have a chance to get out of it. The U.S Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a "cooling off rule" that gives you the legal right to cancel any contract within three days if it was signed in your home or in any location that isn't the seller's permanent place of business. You don't need to give a reason for changing your mind, and you are allowed to back out even if the equipment has already been installed. Under the law, the salesperson must notify you about this right and include two copies of a cancellation form with your contract – one to keep and one to send back. If the salesperson didn't provide these forms, contact your state Attorney General's office for help. You can also file a complaint about the company through the FTC Complaint Assistant site.
Home security scams are cruel for playing on your fears and desires to protect what matters most. Salespeople show up at your door concocting scary stories about burglaries in your neighborhood and warnings that you could be next.
But, in reality, there are much better ways to protect your home from burglary, especially when you go through a reputable security company. With a bit of research, you can easily find a system that fits your needs at a price that fits your budget.