Biggest Lies Alarm Companies Tell

Posted by , , at 10:00 am

One of my colleagues here at FrontPoint suggested today’s blog topic. Ken Lawshe has spoken with thousands of alarm shoppers (many of whom are now happy FrontPoint customers!), and shared with me what he hears in the marketplace. There’s also plenty of online evidence that not all alarm companies are telling the truth – sadly. So here’s a list of the Top 10 lies that alarm companies use to get your business – and if you’re one of the nearly 80% of US homeowners without a monitored alarm system, you’ll want to keep this info handy when you do start shopping for peace of mind. Note: the links below provide helpful background on each item.

  1. “You really don’t need cellular monitoring.” This is probably the biggest fib out there.Burglars cut phone lines – and even if they didn’t, if AT&T and other carriers get their way, there won’t be any traditional phones left in a few years to cut. The only safe and reliable monitoring method is cellular. By the way, Internet monitoring is just as bad as a phone line: it’s every bit as easy to cut your internet connection as your phone line – same $3 pair of wire cutters.
  2. “Sure, our system is wireless.” Don’t be fooled by this dodge. Wireless equipment is not the same as wireless monitoring. You really want both, but some companies will try to pass off their wireless equipment as a completely wireless system, even though they still require a vulnerable phone line. Make sure you ask the tough questions, and get the right answers. Again, cellular monitoring is the only safe solution.
  3. “Crime is definitely up in your neighborhood.” It just might happen be true, but only by coincidence. Don’t let this high pressure sales tactic scare you into making a snap decision – especially if you have to “sign on the dotted line right now.” If you cave in to this threat, chances are there’s an installer circling the block, just itching to throw your system up on the wall. The “crime stat threat” is a favorite ploy of door knockers, the summer sales programs pushing alarm systems all over the US. Send them away while you do your research on the claims and the company: if they’re not willing to come back later, they’re the wrong company for you.
  4. “Our alarm system is ‘free’ – just for putting our yard sign in your yard.” Speaking of door knockers, this whopper works a lot of the time. Some seasonal alarm programs train their representatives to pretend they are “marketing agents” instead of highly compensated salespeople. They may also skirt the fact that there is a monthly service fee attached to this “free” system: unfortunately, many people find out too late they are paying too much for too little, and they can get more advanced services for less money – and a whole lot less pressure up front.
  5. “This very basic alarm system is all you need.” The minimalist approach really bugs the professional alarm companies who take the time to consult with the homeowner to determine the right level of protection. There are plenty of security providers who sell only a basic system, and then incentivize the installing technician to “up sell” more alarm devices –usually at much high prices. Some people small a rat and cancel service on the spot, but too many just give in and write the big check – when they don’t need to.
  6. “We’re GE Security,” or “We’re ADT.” Sadly, a handful of companies pretend to be the manufacturer whose equipment they sell (GE Security is the most common brand abused this way). It happens mostly on line, although some door knockers use it. Fortunately, the list of scam artists using this ploy is rather short. As for ADT and its “Authorized Dealers,” there is a big difference between the parent company and its agents – and it will surely benefit you to know who is who.
  7. “Interactive alarm services are unnecessary, or too expensive.” Alarm systems can do so much more today: there are free mobile apps, remote arming/disarming, text and email notifications, video services, and even home automation features for controlling lights, locks, and thermostats. Many alarm companies don’t offer these services – or if they do, they charge way too much for them. Here’s where it really pays to do your homework. Look for interactive cellular monitoring, and don’t overpay.
  8. “It’s too hard to set up your own alarm system.” It’s true that there are several alarm companies marketing a “DIY” approach to home security, but only one is truly the “plug and play” system the others pretend to be. You can get true ease of installation from the right provider, and the benefits are significant: no inconvenient appointments, no strangers in your home, and a system that can grow with you – or even move with you. Easy set-up is better, and should cost you less. But make sure you read those reviews first!
  9. “We’re with your current alarm company.” Another classic door knocker line, and using this approach has gotten several summer sales programs in big trouble with theBBB, AARP, and even several attorneys general. It’s called “poaching” or “slamming” – and when one alarm company does it to another, a lawsuit may result. ADT has sued over this practice: not just a door knocker company, but even individual sales representatives from the door knocking companies!
  10. “Our system can’t be defeated.” There is only one technology that is not susceptible to a “Smash and Crash” attack on your alarm system – and it’s patented by Alarm.com, FrontPoint’s technology partner. This remarkable level of security is extremely important, whether you’re away from home or experience a home invasion: you want to know thepolice are on the way. If an alarm company claims they have a system that can’t be defeated this way (and several try to say they do), push hard to have them explain how it works. The short answer: if it’s not Alarm.com, it’s not patented Crash and Smash protection.

You may have heard one or more of these lies, or read about them here or elsewhere. Alarm companies operate in a very competitive environment, but there really is no excuse for lack of integrity: lying just gives the electronic security industry a bad name, because the truth has a way of coming out – the Internet has seen to that. One of the best ways you can check on a company’s integrity is through online reviews (like BBB), and reviews constitute an area where FrontPoint truly shines. And it’s a big reason why we’re the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. Our approach is to be transparent, tell the truth, and treat everyone we speak to with respect: this seems like a simple code, but too many alarm companies just don’t follow it. They should.

 

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  3. Dilaney

    Thanks Mr. Rogers for explaining the differences in the internet monitoring services being offered by alarm companies. Consumers need these facts to make an informed buying decision.

    With the knowledge that you’ve provided, they can now ask the right questions.

    The internet monitoring that I referred to does involve continuous polling. Unlike what you described as being offered by Comcast, the client does receive a call from the Central Monitoring Station, as well as email and/or SMS TEXT notification sent to their cell phone(s) when there has been a five minute disruption (or possible “line-cut”) with their internet connection.

    However, internet monitoring is still significantly LESS reliable when compared with wireless cellular monitoring. As such, the fees associated with internet monitoring are lower (less expensive) than wireless monitoring, which reflects the fact that wireless monitoring is superior.

    While you and I both agree that wireless cellular monitoring is clearly the BEST choice, which we’d both love to see in ALL residences which have security systems, there are some homeowners who don’t have the financial means for wireless cellular monitoring.

    However, true security is available to suit everyone’s budget.

    Also, be aware of the “false sense of security” as offered by some alarm companies which don’t divulge all of the facts and weaknesses with their monitoring services and/or products.

    The important issue is to clearly understand the various monitoring services available (especially the ones that sound similar but are actually VERY different), and to make the best informed SECURITY choice for your own personal budget.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Dilaney. Not sure which service or provider you are referring to, but it sounds as if they are doing the right thing. Glad to know that at least one company using Internet monitoring may be thinking about real protection – but I am confident that the Comcast approach is much more prevalent in the industry, which is not good for homeowners. And yes, we do agree that cellular is the best (and safest) solution, as it is less liable to interruption in the fist place.

  4. Dilaney

    Thanks Mr. Rogers for explaining the differences in the internet monitoring services being offered by alarm companies. Consumers need these facts to make an informed buying decision.

    With the knowledge that you’ve provided, they can now ask the right questions.

    The internet monitoring that I referred to does involve continuous polling. Unlike what you described as being offered by Comcast, the client does receive a call from the Central Monitoring Station, as well as email and/or SMS TEXT notification sent to their cell phone(s) when there has been a five minute disruption (or possible “line-cut”) with their internet connection.

    However, internet monitoring is still significantly LESS reliable when compared with wireless cellular monitoring. As such, the fees associated with internet monitoring are lower (less expensive) than wireless monitoring, which reflects the fact that wireless monitoring is superior.

    While you and I both agree that wireless cellular monitoring is clearly the BEST choice, which we’d both love to see in ALL residences which have security systems, there are some homeowners who don’t have the financial means for wireless cellular monitoring.

    However, true security is available to suit everyone’s budget.

    Also, be aware of the “false sense of security” as offered by some alarm companies which don’t divulge all of the facts and weaknesses with their monitoring services and/or products.

    The important issue is to clearly understand the various monitoring services available (especially the ones that sound similar but are actually VERY different), and to make the best informed SECURITY choice for your own personal budget.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Dilaney. Not sure which service or provider you are referring to, but it sounds as if they are doing the right thing. Glad to know that at least one company using Internet monitoring may be thinking about real protection – but I am confident that the Comcast approach is much more prevalent in the industry, which is not good for homeowners. And yes, we do agree that cellular is the best (and safest) solution, as it is less liable to interruption in the fist place.

  5. Dilaney

    People need to understand very clearly the differences in the multitude of choices available to monitor home alarm systems, so that they can make an informed decision as to which technology best satisfies their own personal needs.

    It is not an entirely accurate statement, nor a fair comparison, to claim that: “By the way, Internet monitoring is just as bad as a phone line: it’s every bit as easy to cut your internet connection as your phone line – same $3 pair of wire cutters.”

    Telephone line and internet monitoring are not the same at all to each other: They both “behave” differently when their line is cut.

    If a telephone line gets cut, the monitoring station is only informed of the cut line when the panel misses its daily test signal, provided that the panel is programmed to send self-test signals every 24 hours.

    Unbelievably, many alarm companies do not program their panels for this daily 24-hour test feature!

    When compared with telephone line monitoring, the HUGE difference seen with internet monitoring is that there is continuous polling involved.

    If a criminal cuts an internet connection line, the supervised polling between the home and the monitoring station will stop. The polling allows the monitoring station to almost immediately determine that the connection has been severed. They will call the homeowners within ten minutes of a cut internet line to verify why the connection has been lost.

    The only similarity between telephone and internet monitoring is that if the connection does gets cut by a criminal, the monitoring station is now completely unaware of what’s going on in the home since no alarm transmissions can be sent.

    Thus, the supervised polling feature provided by internet monitoring is a very clear, obvious and superior improvement over an unsupervised telephone line.

    However, there is an unspoken “minor irritation” associated with internet monitoring that most alarm companies tend to keep to themselves: Internet connections get disrupted a lot more often than most people realize. Power failures will also disable routers so that the polling is interrupted to the monitoring station, even though the internet line connection is still intact and functioning at the home.

    When either of these common situations occurs, and they happen a lot, the monitoring station calls to verify if the internet line was intentionally cut by a criminal. These verification phone calls will most likely just needlessly worry the homeowner, when everything is still safe and perfectly secure.

    Despites its “problems”, internet monitoring is truly a much superior alternative to telephone line monitoring. It might be a very good choice for homeowners who can live with its limitations and aren’t bothered by “false cut-line alarm alerts” caused by frequent internet droppage or power outages.

    It might seem logical to just assume that the “best” way to go in any given situation is with the very “best” product or service. Untrue – as some people are willing to settle for “second best”, even after everything is clearly laid out and properly explained to them.

    For homeowners who are looking for true worry-free, dependable, uninterrupted service – who don’t want to be disturbed every time their home experiences a power failure or dropped internet connection, and who absolutely want the assurance that an alarm signal will ALWAYS be transmitted – no matter what lines get cut – then the “best decision” is wireless monitoring.

    But it should always be THEIR call, once they’ve been given ALL of the facts.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned post. You have opened something of a can of worms in regards to Internet monitoring, since you apparently believe that all Internet monitoring includes continuous polling. Such is not the case, sadly, and if it were, then I would be a bigger fan of Internet monitoring. But you have overlooked another very significant issue with Internet monitoring, which is, even for the providers who do poll for continuity, what happens when they detect a loss of broadband connectivity. That is where it gets very interesting!

      Here’s a real example. Comcast defaults to broadband monitoring, and they use the built-in GSM radio only if the broadband connection is not available. Less expensive for Comcast, but it means that the alarm system is always trying the less reliable channel first, which I don’t like. even ADT’s Pulse does not do that – although with Pulse you can still have a vulnerable POTS line in use, which I find amazing. Anyway, back to Comcast: you said that following –

      “If a criminal cuts an internet connection line, the supervised polling between the home and the monitoring station will stop. The polling allows the monitoring station to almost immediately determine that the connection has been severed. They will call the homeowners within ten minutes of a cut internet line to verify why the connection has been lost.”

      I beg to differ! If the polling shows a break with Comcast, it shows in one place, and one place only: on the keypad in the home. There is no reporting to the homeowner via interactive monitoring services. There is no notification to the monitoring center, who could call the homeowner. Again, the only indication is a message that is displayed in the home, and if you are not there to see it, then you have no idea. And there is a very sound and practical reason for this policy: Internet service goes up and down. And if the homeowner were notified every time the polling showed a lapse, then the homeowner would soon realize just how unreliable the primary monitoring channel is, to say nothing of the interactive services (which are ONLY transmitted via Internet). At least the basic alarm even signaling has the option of using the cellular link when the Internet connection is down. So when it comes to your comment on what the monitoring center does, I know this is not the case for very company using Internet monitoring. In fact, I’d be interested to know how many alarm companies using Internet monitoring make the calls at all! Here is what you said – and I respectfully say that you are wrong when it comes to many, if not most alarm companies.

      “When either of these common situations occurs, and they happen a lot, the monitoring station calls to verify if the internet line was intentionally cut by a criminal. These verification phone calls will most likely just needlessly worry the homeowner, when everything is still safe and perfectly secure.”

      I agree that consumers can and should make the choice for themselves – just as I think it’s important to explain exactly how the technology works along with explaining exactly how the companies behave. We clearly agree on the fact the cellular monitoring is the safest, and most reliable method. Thanks again for your comment.

  6. Dilaney

    People need to understand very clearly the differences in the multitude of choices available to monitor home alarm systems, so that they can make an informed decision as to which technology best satisfies their own personal needs.

    It is not an entirely accurate statement, nor a fair comparison, to claim that: “By the way, Internet monitoring is just as bad as a phone line: it’s every bit as easy to cut your internet connection as your phone line – same $3 pair of wire cutters.”

    Telephone line and internet monitoring are not the same at all to each other: They both “behave” differently when their line is cut.

    If a telephone line gets cut, the monitoring station is only informed of the cut line when the panel misses its daily test signal, provided that the panel is programmed to send self-test signals every 24 hours.

    Unbelievably, many alarm companies do not program their panels for this daily 24-hour test feature!

    When compared with telephone line monitoring, the HUGE difference seen with internet monitoring is that there is continuous polling involved.

    If a criminal cuts an internet connection line, the supervised polling between the home and the monitoring station will stop. The polling allows the monitoring station to almost immediately determine that the connection has been severed. They will call the homeowners within ten minutes of a cut internet line to verify why the connection has been lost.

    The only similarity between telephone and internet monitoring is that if the connection does gets cut by a criminal, the monitoring station is now completely unaware of what’s going on in the home since no alarm transmissions can be sent.

    Thus, the supervised polling feature provided by internet monitoring is a very clear, obvious and superior improvement over an unsupervised telephone line.

    However, there is an unspoken “minor irritation” associated with internet monitoring that most alarm companies tend to keep to themselves: Internet connections get disrupted a lot more often than most people realize. Power failures will also disable routers so that the polling is interrupted to the monitoring station, even though the internet line connection is still intact and functioning at the home.

    When either of these common situations occurs, and they happen a lot, the monitoring station calls to verify if the internet line was intentionally cut by a criminal. These verification phone calls will most likely just needlessly worry the homeowner, when everything is still safe and perfectly secure.

    Despites its “problems”, internet monitoring is truly a much superior alternative to telephone line monitoring. It might be a very good choice for homeowners who can live with its limitations and aren’t bothered by “false cut-line alarm alerts” caused by frequent internet droppage or power outages.

    It might seem logical to just assume that the “best” way to go in any given situation is with the very “best” product or service. Untrue – as some people are willing to settle for “second best”, even after everything is clearly laid out and properly explained to them.

    For homeowners who are looking for true worry-free, dependable, uninterrupted service – who don’t want to be disturbed every time their home experiences a power failure or dropped internet connection, and who absolutely want the assurance that an alarm signal will ALWAYS be transmitted – no matter what lines get cut – then the “best decision” is wireless monitoring.

    But it should always be THEIR call, once they’ve been given ALL of the facts.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned post. You have opened something of a can of worms in regards to Internet monitoring, since you apparently believe that all Internet monitoring includes continuous polling. Such is not the case, sadly, and if it were, then I would be a bigger fan of Internet monitoring. But you have overlooked another very significant issue with Internet monitoring, which is, even for the providers who do poll for continuity, what happens when they detect a loss of broadband connectivity. That is where it gets very interesting!

      Here’s a real example. Comcast defaults to broadband monitoring, and they use the built-in GSM radio only if the broadband connection is not available. Less expensive for Comcast, but it means that the alarm system is always trying the less reliable channel first, which I don’t like. even ADT’s Pulse does not do that – although with Pulse you can still have a vulnerable POTS line in use, which I find amazing. Anyway, back to Comcast: you said that following –

      “If a criminal cuts an internet connection line, the supervised polling between the home and the monitoring station will stop. The polling allows the monitoring station to almost immediately determine that the connection has been severed. They will call the homeowners within ten minutes of a cut internet line to verify why the connection has been lost.”

      I beg to differ! If the polling shows a break with Comcast, it shows in one place, and one place only: on the keypad in the home. There is no reporting to the homeowner via interactive monitoring services. There is no notification to the monitoring center, who could call the homeowner. Again, the only indication is a message that is displayed in the home, and if you are not there to see it, then you have no idea. And there is a very sound and practical reason for this policy: Internet service goes up and down. And if the homeowner were notified every time the polling showed a lapse, then the homeowner would soon realize just how unreliable the primary monitoring channel is, to say nothing of the interactive services (which are ONLY transmitted via Internet). At least the basic alarm even signaling has the option of using the cellular link when the Internet connection is down. So when it comes to your comment on what the monitoring center does, I know this is not the case for very company using Internet monitoring. In fact, I’d be interested to know how many alarm companies using Internet monitoring make the calls at all! Here is what you said – and I respectfully say that you are wrong when it comes to many, if not most alarm companies.

      “When either of these common situations occurs, and they happen a lot, the monitoring station calls to verify if the internet line was intentionally cut by a criminal. These verification phone calls will most likely just needlessly worry the homeowner, when everything is still safe and perfectly secure.”

      I agree that consumers can and should make the choice for themselves – just as I think it’s important to explain exactly how the technology works along with explaining exactly how the companies behave. We clearly agree on the fact the cellular monitoring is the safest, and most reliable method. Thanks again for your comment.

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