Can I trust a home security system company that makes cold calls?

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It's ironic that a common door-to-door sales scam involves security systems for the home. Because such salespeople can be so persuasive, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the country's national consumer protection agency, cautions you to be on the alert and take steps to protect your interests before signing up for a slick sales pitch or giving in to high pressure tactics.

Before you let anyone inside your home, ask for identification. Your state might require all door-to-door salespeople to give you their name, the name of the business they represent and the goods or services they’re selling before asking you any questions or making any statements and/or to show you their "pocket card" license and a photo ID, which you should look over.

Remember that no matter what the laws are where you live, you're not under any obligation to listen to their pitch, permit them to enter your residence or give them any information. In many situations, the best advice is not to let an unknown salesperson into your home—some people have had a hard time getting them to leave once they’re inside.

A reputable salesperson should be willing to give you all the following information:

  • Contractor's name and license number
  • Street address (not a post office box)
  • Telephone number
  • State that issued their license
  • Name under which the license is filed

Scam Signals

Here are some of the pressure tactics used to get you to buy alarm system and monitoring services (some are the same pitches you might get from any salesperson selling anything from life insurance to a gym membership):

  • "Time-limited offers." The pitch typically requires you to make an immediate decision.
  • "Free equipment." Some reputable companies do offer security hardware at no cost when you sign up, but there will always be a monthly fee for monitoring. Any agreement you sign might include lengthy terms, such as 5 years, with huge penalties if you try to cancel the contract early.
  • An aggressive push to get inside your home—once they get settled in, they may refuse to leave. If a salesperson continues to pressure you after you've asked them to leave, call the police, suggests the FTC.
  • "Scare tactics." A salesperson might try to intimidate you by claiming there have been break-ins in your neighborhood.

The FTC also warns that some salespeople actually target homes already protected by a security company. Common come-ons include implying that they’re from your existing security company to "upgrade" or "replace" your current security system, but then they go on to install a new system and have you sign papers that include a costly contract for the monitoring service, or claiming that your existing company has gone out of business and that they've taken over your account, then talking you into new equipment and a new contract. In any such scenario, simply call your monitoring company or check online--chances are, if there were a problem with your company, you’d have been notified by mail, email or phone. Vivint, a premier national security company, has a “Verify Rep” page on its website where you can enter a rep’s badge ID number to check it and where the company spells out the uniform and car logo you should expect to see with a bona fide representative. That’s a level of service you can trust.

For more information, check out the FAQ, “How can I feel safe about the security company I choose?