Today it seems like we are all a little more “tuned in” to crime in our neighborhoods. Our local Facebook group, Nextdoor other local blogs alert neighbors to every car prowl, break-in and porch package theft that happens. Older adults can be the most vulnerable to these crimes, and are often also the most fearful.
This increased awareness of crime has been accompanied by an increase in companies selling home security products and services. But did you know that some of these companies are just about as likely to take your money as a burglar is?
The Federal Trade Commission warns that not all home security companies are created equal. Before you choose one, do your homework. Get references from family, friends and neighbors. Check out the company online. Talk to several companies, and get written estimates and service descriptions.
And above all, warns the FTC, seniors and people of every age should beware of the sales tactics door-to-door salespersons might use to lure consumers into buying expensive, useless and sometimes shoddy systems, cameras and equipment that they don’t even need.
Here are some of the tactics these deceptive salespersons might use:
“Act now!” The salesperson might push a “limited, one-time offer,” urging you to sign up fast to get a good deal. A common tactic is to offer free equipment to lure customers into signing a long-term, pricey system monitoring contract.
Foot in the door. Once allowed into the house, a salesperson might refuse to leave! Don’t let them in. Ask for written information, not an in-person sales pitch at the kitchen table. The FTC advises that if a salesperson refuses to leave, call the police.
Scare tactics. The salesperson may lure a customer into the sales pitch by describing a recent, lurid crime spree in the neighborhood … which may very well be fictitious. Feeling vulnerable to crime, seniors may be especially open to these tactics.
“I’m from your company.” In one common scam, an unscrupulous salesperson takes note of a security system sign in a customer’s yard, window or front door, and then claims to be from that company. The salesperson might say they are there to “upgrade” or “replace” the current security system, and then trick the customer into signing a contract for their own company.
“Your security company is going out of business.” A crook might claim that your existing company is no longer providing the service, but good luck for you, the salesperson’s company is taking over the account. False, of course. Your current monitoring company would have let you know; call them to confirm (and alert them to the scam).
Before you do business with anyone selling a home security camera or alarm system, check out the company with the appropriate authorities, including:
- Your state attorney general (find the link at www.naag.org)
- Your local consumer protection agency (find the information at www.usa.gov/consumer-complaints)
- The Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org)
- State licensing officials (find a list at www.nascla.org)
Ask the company for the contractor’s name, street address (no P.O. box), telephone number, contractor license number, and the name and state under which the license is filed. If the salesperson won’t give you this information, that’s a big red flag, says the FTC.
So how can you choose a reputable company that is right for your needs? The FTC offers more information about buying a home security system here. A quality system can keep seniors, their homes and their money safe—but doing your homework to protect your home is important.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on information from the Federal Trade Commission