Federal Trade Commission Joins Better Business Bureau to Warn About Door Knockers

Posted by , , at 11:23 am

Better Business Bureau & Federal Trade CommissionI’ve posted numerous times on “door knockers” – companies selling alarm systems door-to-door each summer. They’re often called out by the BBB and others for complaints about aggressive sales tactics, fraudulent claims, and “poaching” customers away from other alarm companies. Door knocker season is now in full swing, and concern runs so high that the Federal Trade Commission has issued a blanket warning to consumers about door knockers – with examples of the sales pitch, and what you can do. For your own sake, you should read the entire warning. Here are some excerpts.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Want to buy a home security system? Beware of home alarm sales scams.

Everyone wants to feel safe in their home, so when home security salespeople come knocking, their pitch can be convincing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, and your state Attorney General urge you to use caution when you consider what security system sales agents have to offer.

Personally, I have real concerns about whether these companies offer a good value and service in the first place, but the door knockers’ use of underhanded sales tactics is also bad for the alarm industry: if you can’t trust your alarm company, then we’re all in trouble. It’s not every door knocker company, and it’s not all the time – but clearly there is a problem when so many states have levied fines and restricted sales activity of these companies, and when the alarm companies are even suing each other!

During the spring and summer months, home security or alarm companies hire traveling sales agents to go door-to-door, making unsolicited “cold calls” on homeowners. In some cases, the salespeople use high-pressure or deceptive sales tactics to get potential customers to buy expensive, and sometimes substandard, systems or equipment they don’t need.

Signs of a Security System Scam

Unscrupulous door-to-door sales agents use a variety of approaches and pitches to get you to buy an alarm system and monitoring services. Here’s what to look out for:

  • They may make a time-limited offer, and claim that you need to act now. For example, they may try to get you to sign a contract by telling you that the equipment is “free.” More than likely, strings are attached. For example, to get your “free” alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive system monitoring contract.
  • They may pressure their way into your home and then refuse to leave. It is not impolite or rude to tell a salesperson you’re not interested. It’s much easier — and safer — to say “no” on the doorstep than to try to get the salesperson to leave once they’re inside. If a salesperson continues to pressure you after you’ve asked them to leave, call the police.
  • They may use scare tactics. For example, they may talk about a rash of supposed burglaries in your neighborhood.

Some door-to-door sales agents target homeowners who have alarm company signs on their properties from other companies. In these cases:

  • The sales agents may state or imply that they are from your existing security company and that they’re there to “upgrade” or “replace” your current security system. Once inside your home, however, they may install a new security system and have you sign papers that include a costly contract for the new monitoring service.
  • They may claim your security company has gone out of business, that they’ve taken over the accounts, and that you have to buy new equipment and sign new contracts. If this happens, call your current monitoring company to confirm. Normally, you would be notified of a change like this by mail or telephone, not by an unannounced visit by a representative from another company.

What You Can Do

  • Before you let anyone inside your home, ask for identification. Some state laws require door-to-door salespeople to tell you their name, the name of the business they represent, and the goods or services they wish to sell before asking you any questions or making any statements. Other states require salespeople to show you their “pocket card” license and a photo ID. Take a few minutes to look over their documentation.
  • Check out the companies by entering their names in a search engine online. Read about other people’s experiences with the companies. Try to communicate offline if possible to clarify any details. In addition, contact your state Attorney General (www.naag.org), local consumer protection agency (www.consumeraction.gov), and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see if any complaints are on file.
  • Understand that you can cancel the deal. The FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. You do not have to give a reason for canceling your purchase. You have a right to change your mind, even if the equipment has already been installed.

As we’ve said before, FrontPoint has never sold door-to-door: and we don’t plan on selling that way in the future. Any alarm company that pressures you to “sign up now” is sending the wrong signal. Do your research, and take your time – it’s your money, and your peace of mind. It’s true that more people are looking for an alarm system in the first place: with home security expanding to include remote video, interactive features, and even control of light, locks, and thermostats, it’s no wonder that demand is increasing. But you should have time to make up your mind. That’s why we offer a 30-day 100% risk-free trial once you receive your FrontPoint system – we even pay for return shipping if you’re not completely satisfied. This consultative approach to alarm sales is what makes FrontPoint the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. We’re the best when you want interactive, wireless protection and peace of mind. And it also explains why customers stay with us longer than any company in the business. Just read the reviews!

Comments (12)

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  1. Betty

    Several of my neighbors and friends were under contract with other alarm companies when Vivint told them they would pay of the system costs and send letters to their providers to cancel. Well, now they have to pay early termination fees of up to $2,500 because of these misleading door Knockers from Vivint who made it sound so easy to get out of their existing contracts with other local providers. Vivint is trying to take over your neighboorhood! Should we contact the BBB? The world has enough problems already Vivint!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Betty – Thanks for your comment. What your neighbors and friends have experienced is called “poaching” in the alarm industry – when one alarm company actively solicits the customers of another alarm company, even if those subscribers are under a contract with the existing provider. Poaching by door knockers spiked up last summer – and this summer is going to be even worse, according to everything we hear. There is just too much money being thrown around, and after Blackstone Group paid $2 billion for Vivint, there is a huge expectation for continued growth. Something has to give – and unfortunately what appears to be falling by the wayside (in my opinion) is an appropriate concern for doing business in a transparent and ethical manner. Of course it’s not every salesperson, as these door knocker companies are quick to point out – but it happens so much that you have to wonder if such behavior is part of the embedded culture in these organizations – and that you can do just about anything to get a sale. We don’t think that’s the right way to operate, which is why we have a tiny fraction of the complaints, far more positive reviews, and a much lower cancellation rate.

      As far as contacting the BBB over these issues? Absolutely, along with your state’s consumer protection department, your Attorney General, and even local new stations, who are often willing to issue warnings when these folks blow into town and start playing their games. We all need to hold companies accountable – the same way our customers hold us accountable for the products and services we provide, and the way we have chosen to do business. Thanks again.

    • diana

      Betty, we to were led to believe that Vivint alarm was upgrading at no cost. They said we have 30 days to cancel and that they would pay off the remaining balance of our contract. They lied so we contacted the DA’s office. Vivint spokesperson said that they are a summer marketing program called AMR (American Marketing Research) that vivint hired this summer with thousands of out of state door knockers. I’m calling the BBB to file a report of this scam.

      • Peter M. Rogers

        Diana – thanks for the update to Betty’s comment. I’ll repost here exactly what I said to Betty:

        What your neighbors and friends have experienced is called “poaching” in the alarm industry – when one alarm company actively solicits the customers of another alarm company, even if those subscribers are under a contract with the existing provider. Poaching by door knockers spiked up last summer – and this summer is going to be even worse, according to everything we hear. There is just too much money being thrown around, and after Blackstone Group paid $2 billion for Vivint, there is a huge expectation for continued growth. Something has to give – and unfortunately what appears to be falling by the wayside (in my opinion) is an appropriate concern for doing business in a transparent and ethical manner. Of course it’s not every salesperson, as these door knocker companies are quick to point out – but it happens so much that you have to wonder if such behavior is part of the embedded culture in these organizations – and that you can do just about anything to get a sale. We don’t think that’s the right way to operate, which is why we have a tiny fraction of the complaints, far more positive reviews, and a much lower cancellation rate.

        As far as contacting the BBB over these issues? Absolutely, along with your state’s consumer protection department, your Attorney General, and even local new stations, who are often willing to issue warnings when these folks blow into town and start playing their games. We all need to hold companies accountable – the same way our customers hold us accountable for the products and services we provide, and the way we have chosen to do business. Thanks again.

  2. Betty

    Several of my neighbors and friends were under contract with other alarm companies when Vivint told them they would pay of the system costs and send letters to their providers to cancel. Well, now they have to pay early termination fees of up to $2,500 because of these misleading door Knockers from Vivint who made it sound so easy to get out of their existing contracts with other local providers. Vivint is trying to take over your neighboorhood! Should we contact the BBB? The world has enough problems already Vivint!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Betty – Thanks for your comment. What your neighbors and friends have experienced is called “poaching” in the alarm industry – when one alarm company actively solicits the customers of another alarm company, even if those subscribers are under a contract with the existing provider. Poaching by door knockers spiked up last summer – and this summer is going to be even worse, according to everything we hear. There is just too much money being thrown around, and after Blackstone Group paid $2 billion for Vivint, there is a huge expectation for continued growth. Something has to give – and unfortunately what appears to be falling by the wayside (in my opinion) is an appropriate concern for doing business in a transparent and ethical manner. Of course it’s not every salesperson, as these door knocker companies are quick to point out – but it happens so much that you have to wonder if such behavior is part of the embedded culture in these organizations – and that you can do just about anything to get a sale. We don’t think that’s the right way to operate, which is why we have a tiny fraction of the complaints, far more positive reviews, and a much lower cancellation rate.

      As far as contacting the BBB over these issues? Absolutely, along with your state’s consumer protection department, your Attorney General, and even local new stations, who are often willing to issue warnings when these folks blow into town and start playing their games. We all need to hold companies accountable – the same way our customers hold us accountable for the products and services we provide, and the way we have chosen to do business. Thanks again.

    • diana

      Betty, we to were led to believe that Vivint alarm was upgrading at no cost. They said we have 30 days to cancel and that they would pay off the remaining balance of our contract. They lied so we contacted the DA’s office. Vivint spokesperson said that they are a summer marketing program called AMR (American Marketing Research) that vivint hired this summer with thousands of out of state door knockers. I’m calling the BBB to file a report of this scam.

      • Peter M. Rogers

        Diana – thanks for the update to Betty’s comment. I’ll repost here exactly what I said to Betty:

        What your neighbors and friends have experienced is called “poaching” in the alarm industry – when one alarm company actively solicits the customers of another alarm company, even if those subscribers are under a contract with the existing provider. Poaching by door knockers spiked up last summer – and this summer is going to be even worse, according to everything we hear. There is just too much money being thrown around, and after Blackstone Group paid $2 billion for Vivint, there is a huge expectation for continued growth. Something has to give – and unfortunately what appears to be falling by the wayside (in my opinion) is an appropriate concern for doing business in a transparent and ethical manner. Of course it’s not every salesperson, as these door knocker companies are quick to point out – but it happens so much that you have to wonder if such behavior is part of the embedded culture in these organizations – and that you can do just about anything to get a sale. We don’t think that’s the right way to operate, which is why we have a tiny fraction of the complaints, far more positive reviews, and a much lower cancellation rate.

        As far as contacting the BBB over these issues? Absolutely, along with your state’s consumer protection department, your Attorney General, and even local new stations, who are often willing to issue warnings when these folks blow into town and start playing their games. We all need to hold companies accountable – the same way our customers hold us accountable for the products and services we provide, and the way we have chosen to do business. Thanks again.

  3. jack

    Traveling salesman from AMP come in groups and pressure seniors. They put a Guardian sign and sign up elderly for a 5 yr. contract. The worst thing is they do anything to make the sale. Poaching other alarm companies’ customers seems to be their favorite. They begin by scaring them with burglaries. Then if that doesn’t work they pretend to represent Honeywell or their existing system in an effort to upgrade or act like they are affiliated with their current system. Yes, and they too (like Vivint) come from Utah and then leave town. Contact the BBB if someone shows up at your door without a business card or license. Get their name, company name and look at their drivers license. If you have any doubt call the police because they are trying to sign you up for a contract without you really knowing it.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jack – Thanks for the warning. Summer is just around the corner, and these companies will be out in force with their scare tactics and other bad habits. I just read about another door-knocker company being fined in Kansas for breaking the rules. We think everyone should have time to shop and check reviews, compare offers, etc. – but these door-knockers say what they have to say and apply a lot of pressure since they have to make the sale right on the spot, or they know it won’t happen. Sad – people need to really watch themselves. Thanks again.

  4. jack

    Traveling salesman from AMP come in groups and pressure seniors. They put a Guardian sign and sign up elderly for a 5 yr. contract. The worst thing is they do anything to make the sale. Poaching other alarm companies’ customers seems to be their favorite. They begin by scaring them with burglaries. Then if that doesn’t work they pretend to represent Honeywell or their existing system in an effort to upgrade or act like they are affiliated with their current system. Yes, and they too (like Vivint) come from Utah and then leave town. Contact the BBB if someone shows up at your door without a business card or license. Get their name, company name and look at their drivers license. If you have any doubt call the police because they are trying to sign you up for a contract without you really knowing it.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jack – Thanks for the warning. Summer is just around the corner, and these companies will be out in force with their scare tactics and other bad habits. I just read about another door-knocker company being fined in Kansas for breaking the rules. We think everyone should have time to shop and check reviews, compare offers, etc. – but these door-knockers say what they have to say and apply a lot of pressure since they have to make the sale right on the spot, or they know it won’t happen. Sad – people need to really watch themselves. Thanks again.

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