There are already plenty of negative news reports on aspects of the alarm industry, like door-to-door alarm sales scams, but I just read another news article that’s not about fraudulent or deceptive sales practices, or stealing other alarm companies’ customers: this time it’s about identity theft. And while the alarm salesperson did not work directly for ADT, there was an unfortunate connection to the “big boy” of the US alarm industry. Here’s the story, from Tampa, Florida.
Thousands of local homeowners who relied on a national alarm business to protect their homes from intruders became victims of identity theft perpetrated by at least one employee of another company that sold them the security system, police say. “I went to them for security and I felt violated,” said Marilyn Varriale, 60, of Gibsonton, whose information was stolen, Tampa police say, after she bought an ADT home security system through Tampa Signal in February.
By way of explanation, alarm companies often perform an identity and/or credit verification for new customers, especially when the alarm equipment is deeply discounted – that’s the norm these days. But a few alarm companies (including FrontPoint) work hard to rely just on date of birth, without asking for a social security number.
Who is Tampa Signal?
Tampa Signal is an ADT Authorized Dealer that sells and installs residential alarm system under the ADT umbrella, and by all reports appears to have a good reputation. ADT purchases alarm customer accounts from a host of these independent companies. These Authorized Dealers are subject to some very strict rules, but it appears that routine background checks may not be included in the ADT dealer requirements. You would think that a high-profile alarm company allowing its name to be used would be more careful. For more on ADT’s Authorized Dealer program, see this prior post.
“Obviously I gave them my Social Security number, and it ended up being turned against me,” said Varriale. Her personal information and that of other victims, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, were sold to people who filed fraudulent tax returns, according to police who are investigating an explosion of tax fraud that they estimate has bilked federal taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Tampa area alone. Police do not think Varriale’s information ultimately was used to file a fraudulent return, although they say it was sold by a sales employee of Tampa Signal to someone who was committing tax fraud.
Police Track it Back
The Tampa Signal case came to light in April after, according to authorities, Kenandrae Telfair pointed a gun at an undercover officer outside Telfair’s home on Powhatan Avenue. When police went inside to seize the weapon, a police investigation report says, they found a laptop computer as well as papers and notebooks with names, birthdates and Social Security numbers. Telfair told an investigator he paid a woman who works at a company that sold ADT systems $200 for the information and said he used it to file fraudulent tax returns, according to the report. Later Telfair told police he bought personal information from Rachel Amones, who worked as a “closer” for Tampa Signal.
How it Works at Tampa Signal
After an employee sells someone a security system, the “closer” would take personal information for credit checks. Police said Amones, 40, had access to forms filled out by other closers who worked at Tampa Signal. Amones told authorities she and another employee sold information from about 3,000 Tampa Signal customers to people who committed tax fraud, according to the police investigation report.
Background Checks for Alarm Employees?
As someone who has been screening and hiring alarm industry employees for over 20 years, I certainly hope that ADT would require its Authorized Dealer network to run checks on all employees. While I recognize that ADT did not directly employee the person charged in this case, ADT was using the services of the company that employed the suspect. And this is hardly the first time an employee of an ADT Dealer has run afoul of the law.
FrontPoint takes extreme precautions with all personal information, and has never suffered a data breach of any sort. We also perform robust background checks on every FrontPoint employee. Once you start shopping online for home security and automation services, you’ll quickly learn why FrontPoint is the leader in interactive, wireless home security: our long list of five-star reviews spells out very clearly what makes us the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. Being on top means we have to prove ourselves in every aspect of our business – with systems that are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. These days, that makes us rare indeed among nationwide alarm service providers. And no worries about who has your personal information!