Fraud in Home Alarm Sales: Another Better Business Bureau Warning

Posted by , , at 10:28 am

Another alarm company is pushing the envelope in high pressure sales – and it’s not one of the usual suspects. This news report does not end well for the customer, and it’s a great example of why consumers have to be on guard, and ask the right questions. Of course, this cautionary tale doesn’t apply only to home alarm sales, but companies using questionable tactics to push security systems are increasingly in the news.

The Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners about a home security company that sells by going door-to-door. Ella Mae Sims said a salesman representing Safeguard America Security Services knocked on her door one day in July offering to install a new security system at no cost. Sims already had a security alarm system installed. But she said the Safeguard America salesman promised his company would pay off the remaining balance on her old system. And that she could expect to save $20 a month once the new system was installed.

This is a classic approach, one that often works on unsuspecting customers. What actually happens is often not what the consumer expects.

What it Cost Her

When a bill arrived in the mail stating that she owed $544, plus an additional $50 late fee, she realized Safeguard America didn’t pay off the remaining balance with the other security alarm system. “I’m having to pay the old company and the new one,” Sims said. Once all the fees were added up, Sims had to pay $42.38 a month to Safeguard America, with an additional service charge of $3 per quarter for 60 months. All that is in addition to the $49 a month she has to still pay her original security company.

The BBB Speaks Out

The news station that reported this story did a fair bit of research, including some BBB research – where they found the company in question has an “F” rating, and is not a BBB member, despite claiming to be one. There are BBB branches all over the US responding to alarm company complaints, and theBBB says the situation is getting worse:

Jane Driggs, a Better Business Bureau president in Utah, confirms that the [alarm] industry does resolve most customer concerns — but also ranks second only to companies peddling weight loss supplements in the number of complaints. Similar sales pitches are being uttered in neighborhoods nationwide as the billion-dollar home alarm business grows to staggering proportions. As sales mount, so do complaints that roving “trunk slammers” will stop at nothing to make a sale. “They deal on the moment,” said a local alarm company representative of the door-to-door sales crews. “Some of them tell the truth. Some of them don’t.”

What You Should Do

“Don’t sign anything unless you understand it completely,” said Durenberger, a Minnesota state official whose department took recent action against AMP and another alarm company, APX Alarm Security Solutions Inc., for alleged licensing violations.

Sounds like great advice. You would like to trust the person at your door offering to protect your home and family, but the evidence is that you may be at risk in doing so. Make sure you research a company’s BBB credentials, and also look at online reviews. At FrontPoint, we routinely encourage consumers to check us out – we have earned a reputation for safer, smarter, simpler and more affordable home alarm systems, supported with world-class service. The only stories you’ll read about us are good ones!

Comments (12)

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  1. pete

    Vivint and AMP who work for Guardian have been scamming people in CA. with this tactic and then go back to UTAH! The worse thing is they dont even tell them that they will pay it off, they just upgrade, sign paperwork for new contract and leave town. Vivint started this approach with APX and now eveyone will suffer.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Pete – thanks. Actually, it’s Vivint that is the main company in the door-knocking arena. They were called APX a few years ago (and Apex before that) – so it’s been a little tough to keep up with them. But the bad reviews, countless complaints, and low ratings have followed the company despite the name changes. Also, the word continues to get out about door knocking in general: there is too much aggressive selling pressure, and too much documented fraud and deception. The tide will eventually turn against this practice in general (it’s already starting to turn), as evidenced by the BBB, local law enforcement, and even the Federal Trade Commission issuing warnings about door knocking scams. Buyer beware!!! Thanks again.

  2. ile

    ADT has been horrible in our house. They seem like a good deal but they butcher you with fees when the tec guys come out. They charge by the half hour but they don’t carry all the tools and parts to do their job.
    A 30 minute job takes them 3 hours. Settling down bills is IMPOSSIBLE. They threaten with collection!
    Sorry ADT, I’m so happy to be called your ex-customer.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, ile, for your comment. You have joined the steady stream of customers who have been leaving ADT for some time – and now that ADT is a standalone public company, they are much more transparent about such topics as customer cancellations. In an industry where the average annual cancellation rate is around 12%, ADT has been hovering around 14% for some time. That means that roughly one in seven customers leaves every year, and has to be replaced just for ADT to stay even. And as many customers as ADT adds, they are still reporting about the same number of total customers, meaning all those expensive ads you see on TV are necessary just for ADT to maintain its current size. Why do customers leave their alarm companies – and ADT in particular? Moving used to be the biggest reason by far, but now other reasons are catching up, like switching to competitors with better technology, and leaving for bad service, or because of constant rate increases. We’re proud to report that our cancellation rate is a fraction of what ADT reports, which means we are experiencing real growth. But then again, you just have to read our reviews to see why – our customers say that we do a great job of providing peace of mind, while demonstrating that an alarm company really can offer world-class service. While we are sorry to hear about your experience, we thank you for sharing it here.

  3. Lea Gilchrist

    ADT pulse is pure garbage, so don’t waste your time or money. First they told me I could monitor cameras real time thru any computer – not! No federal system will allow QuickTime because of security failures, not even my local library. Then I set the cameras to take stills every 5 min; now they cut that back to 30 mins. The wireless cameras a pure junk and you can’t recognize someone 10 ft away. No motion sensors on the cameras, no email of motion trip, pure garbage with 45 degree viewing area. The website shuts you out after 10 minutes. Save your money and get a rabbit to watch and protect your home – it would be just as effective.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Lea – Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience with Pulse. I knew there had been issues with getting it to work consistently with different types of internet routers, but was not aware of the limitations you describe with the video. That’s tough to swallow, especially when you consider what ADT charges for equipment and monthly service. We did look at the interactive services platform they eventually chose for the Pulse offering, and took a pass. As time goes on, we’re increasingly happy we selected as our partner for the interactive services: not just video, but remote text and email notifications, and even Z-wave for remote control of lights, locks, and thermostats. It’s amazing what these systems can do – when they work! Thanks again.

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