How to Protect Yourself against Home Security Sales Scams
Summer is very nearly upon us. And with the steady rise in temperature comes a proverbial army of door-to-door salespeople. In addition to pest control, According to SDM Magazine, one of the leading publications on the home security, the home security industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Now, to be clear, this article is not meant to bash on the direct sales industry, to discourage you from doing business with door-to-door salespeople; many of these sales reps are honest and provide quality goods and services. But before you even think about signing the dotted line from your front doorstep, you need to understand how to identify common sales tactics salespeople may use, what to look for in the fine print of the home security contract, and how to conduct effective online research.
1. Understand Common Sales Tactics
When a salesperson knocks on your door, it’s important to prepare yourself against potential sales tricks or untruthful claims. And while reputable companies are taking steps to regulate and improve the quality of their salesforce, potential customers still need to protect themselves against misleading or unethical sales tactics.
Know Who’s a Target
Although predatory door-to-door sales tactics are starting to wane, some salespeople looking for an easy sale may take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners:
The elderly: one scam involves telling an elderly person that a home security system has already been purchased in their behalf, and that they only need to sign the contract to receive a free system.
Current home security system owners: Salespeople claiming to be from your current security provider may attempt to sell you an “updated” system, when in reality, the sales rep is not associated with your current company.
Our advice: Be sure to warn older family members or relatives against signing contracts for home security systems on their doorstep. And if you do have a security system in place, make sure to keep in touch with your account representative to determine whether the company is offering upgrades door-to-door.
One high-pressure sales tactic sometimes used by door-to-door salespeople is to instill a sense of urgency in their potential customers. This is often accomplished by stating that if the homeowner does not sign a contract today then her or she will miss out on special discounts or promotions. As many of us are hesitant to pass up a good deal when we see one, this tactic can prove quite successful. In reality, these promotions may not even exist; you may be paying full price (or more than full price) and only think you’re getting a good deal.
Our advice: Don’t ever impulse-buy a home security system—especially from an unfamiliar source. Passing up what appears to be a “golden opportunity” now pay off in the long run.
Foot in the Door
Some salespeople believe or are trained to believe that if they can get inside your home, the chances of making a sale that day will dramatically improve. The way this works is the salesperson will offer to give you a free initial inspection of the home, and point out problem areas that require a home security device. Once inside the salesperson will then refuse to leave until the contract is signed. Many unwilling home security customers have signed lengthy and expensive contracts just to get sales reps to leave their homes.
Our advice: It’s much easier to ask someone to leave before they’re inside your house. If you’re not interested in buying a home security system, you’re fully within your rights to say so and to ask the salesperson to leave. Even if the sales rep gets inside, you are under no obligation to sign, and can call the authorities if need be.
The Scare Tactic
Another tactic used by some home security salespeople is to play on the fear of unsuspecting homeowners, usually by saying there was a recent crime in the neighborhood, or that your home is high-risk for burglary. The rep may even claim to have sold security systems to your neighbors for the same reason. He or she will then point out all the “weak spots” in your home, and try to convince you to buy more equipment than you probably need.
Our advice: Stay informed on crime in your area by checking the news and getting to know your neighbors. And even if there is no crime in your area, you shouldn’t be the last to know if your doors and windows are subpar. In many cases, you may not even need a home security system as much as you need a strong deadbolt or double-paned windows.
2. Get Everything in Writing (then READ THE FINE PRINT)
It’s not uncommon for some home security reps to throw around the word “free” in their sales pitch: free equipment, free installation, free monitoring, etc. In reality, there is no such thing as a free home security system. While you may not have to pay certain costs upfront or immediately, the costs will stack up in other ways. That’s why it’s so important to not only read the contract before you sign, but also to know what to look for.
Contract Terms You Need to Know
Some salespeople will count on the fact that potential customers will not take the time to read completely and thoroughly through the contract before signing; however, even if what the sales rep has said is absolutely true, nothing is legally binding until it’s in writing. So as you peruse the home security contract, be on the lookout for the following terms:
Installation/Maintenance Fee or Service Calls: Companies and salespeople that advertise free equipment will usually make up for those discounts by charging an installation fee. Potential customers should also be aware of maintenance fees or fees that come with service calls in the event that a technician needs to come to your home to repair or replace one of your home security devices.
Term/Policy Length and Cancellation Policy: This is a big one. A significant portion of dissatisfied home security customers complain that they were unaware of being “locked in” to a multi-year contracts. A home security contract will rarely feature the word “years” in its fine print; rather, you’re more likely to see terms like “36 months” or “60 months,” because the word “months” seems to imply a smaller commitment.
Cancellation Policy: While each home security company carries a different cancellation policy, there are a few general rules to keep in mind. First, most companies will provide a certain grace period (some up to 90 days) for you to cancel your contract with zero penalty; however, you will most likely need to deliver your cancellation request in writing to be considered valid. If you decide to cancel after that grace period, and the security system carries a long-term contract, you will likely be responsible to pay the balance of the contract, which can sometimes result in hundreds of dollars upfront. One more thing: if you do decide to sign the contract, make sure it is dated correctly; some sales reps have been known to predate their contracts so as to limit the amount of time you have to cancel without paying a penalty or the remainder of the balance.
Moving Policy: If you decide to move after your security system has been installed, you’ll want to make sure you’ve reviewed the company’s moving policy. Some companies will charge you a re-installation fee if your system is moving with you, or require you to sign a new contract with a new system.
Equipment Warranty: Home security companies are very careful when it comes to their equipment. Some companies will charge you for repairs or replacement parts, while others offer a limited equipment warranty. This warranty will only cover malfunctioning equipment for specific reasons, such as the result of wear and tear.
Limitation of Liability: A limitation of liability excuses the company from legal action in the event that damage, loss, injury, or death should take place due either directly or indirectly to the failure of the company’s surveillance to detect or avert the occurrence.
3. Read Online Reviews
So, let’s say the salesperson gave you a sales pitch and an estimate, but you’ve decided you want to wait and think about it a little before moving forward. The most important step you can take at this point is to read up on the company to determine if it’s either the right company for you, or an outright scam. That’s where BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com can help.
We’ve taken the time to rank and review the top 128 companies in the home security industry. Each company company is ranked on the same criteria, and every company review contains the good (what we like about the company), the bad (potential pitfalls you should look out for), and the bottom line (our overall opinion of the company). High marks are given to companies that deliver the best value and transparency to their consumers, so if one of these companies comes knocking on your door, you can feel comfortable signing that contract.
It’s one thing for us to say “this company is great,” or “that company is not so great,” but our opinion as a review site only carries so much weight. That’s why we’ve collected thousands of reviews from actual customers detailing their experiences (both good and bad) with these very companies whose reps will be knocking on your door this summer. So before you sign that thick home security contract, don’t take the salesperson’s word for it, and certainly don’t just take our word for it; see what the customers have to say as well.