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Alarm company signs can attract scammers: What to do

Posted at 10:39 AM, Nov 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-06 10:39:54-05

Homeowners who have spent their hard-earned money on an alarm system are now finding themselves targets.

Many of us buy a home alarm to give our families a little bit of security. But an alarming deception is targeting hard-working homeowners who are just trying to keep their property safe.

Nancy Fitzgerald was working in her garden when, she says, "this young man was knocking on my side door. And I came up to him and said, 'What do you want?' And he said, 'I'm from your alarm company. I've come to update your system.'"

She was suspicious. She had not received any call or letter in advance.

"I said 'Well, I'm not letting you in my home. There's too much happening these days, and I don't know who you are!'"

But instead of moving on, she says, the man started getting aggressive, until her neighbor came to her rescue. "My neighbor heard the conversation and looked over the fence, and he said, 'Hey, she doesn't want to be bothered with you, so it’s time to move on!'"

He finally left. Fitzgerald, frightened, called her alarm company. "I went in and called my alarm company," she said, "and they had no idea who this man was."

According to police and the nation's largest alarm company, ADT, this is happening more and more: Sales people knock on your door to supposedly upgrade your system.

If you think you would just say No, wait til you hear what happened to Jeff Ritchie's mom.

Someone claiming to be with ADT showed up at her home. "They came to her house and got into her house, and we were very upset that they would approach my mom and get in the home," he said. Once they got  into her kitchen, "they gave her the sales pitch, and she decided to go with the new company."

ADT's corporate attorney, David Bleisch, told us this happens thousands of times a year.

"They're knocking on our customers' doors, saying they are either with ADT or saying other lies, like ADT went out of business, or that their company bought ADT,"  Bleisch said.

Wondering how the pitch works?

We uncovered a video that shows how salespeople are trained to deceive you.  In the video -- which ADT is now using in a lawsuit against a competitor --  the instructor shows salesmen exactly how to pretend they work for your alarm company. You see an instructor show young trainees how to get inside a prospect's home. "You're walking up to a house with a sign," says the instructor in the video. "This is what to do." He knocks.

He gives them lines to use, such as, "The reason why we're out here is we are just taking down those old panels, popping up a new one, nothing that you have to pay for."

"Hey, you got to say that right off the bat, that it won't cost them a thing," he says.

Of course, it will cost money for months and months down the road,  just not during this initial visit when the alarm hardware is switched.

It's a hard sell to get people like Nancy Fitzgerald locked in to multi-year contract with a new alarm company.

So how can you protect yourself from this type of deception?

  • If someone shows up, don't let them in your home, even if they show an alarm badge.
  • Get their name, and ask exactly who their employer is.
  • Then call your alarm company at the number on your keypad, not a phone number the salesman gives you (it may be his company).
  • If your alarm company does not know them, send them on their way: You may have been a target for an alarm switch.

"Before you let them into the house, make sure you know who you are dealing with," Bleisch said.

Jeff Ritchie decided not to file a complaint because his mom is satisfied with the company she was switched to. But she was lucky.

You may want to take after Nancy Fitzgerald where she said "I wasn't going to let him in my home!"

Some alarm sales people are with good local companies, and are upfront about who they work for.

They don't pretend to work for your company.

So feel free to listen to their pitch. They may have a lower monthly rate to offer.

But the bottom line: You should never let an unannounced visitor into your home, so you stay safe and you don't waste your money.