If you have a sign in your front yard warning burglars that you have a home alarm system in place, you could be attracting a new breed of scammer. That’s the warning from the consumer watchdogs at Consumer Reports, who say scammers look for signs of existing installations, especially older-looking signs, then strike with one of two approaches:
- Fraudsters claiming to be remote access technicians from your security company tell you, they noticed glitches in your system and they want to repair it. You let them in and they tamper with your system so they can return and burglarize your house.
- Scammers claim your company has gone out of business and they’ve taken over their accounts. They “examine” your system and convince you to buy new equipment. They take your money and are never heard from again.
The fact is that legitimate home security system companies never simply send a repairman unannounced to your door. Even if they telephone first, call them back to confirm. Similarly, if your monitoring company had gone out of business, you would have been notified by mail, not by telephone and certainly not by someone simply showing up.
Security experts say you can protect against these scams by taking the following steps:
- Get references. Ask any salesperson for names of previous customers, especially in your neighborhood, whom you can check with for legitimacy.
- Do a background check. Demand information about the contractor’s license: the number, state of registration, etc. Check them out before taking any action.
- Get it in writing. Insist that estimates for service or equipment be in writing, specifying who will install it, how it will be maintained and the cost—and pay by credit card, not with cash.
- Read the contract. Ensure that everything you’ve agreed to is written into the contract. Check the small print for any monitoring fees or terms you did not agree to.
Most importantly, remember that the FTC’s cooling-off rule gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract at home. You do not have to give a reason and you can change your mind even if the equipment has already been installed.