Home security systems: Safe or scam?

All Things Legal

By Jane M. Winand, Chief, Legal Assistance Division

Home security systems are common these days. Whether you have expensive items in your house, a latch-key child who comes home alone, or you just want peace of mind, you may seek a home security system to give you a sense of safety.

But be wary if a salesperson from a home security service knocks on your door. You may be at risk of being scammed.

These door-to-door sales are unexpected and unsolicited. The salesperson appears on your doorstep and is attempting to sell you a home security system.

Both federal and state law provide consumer protection in this situation.

The Maryland Door-to-Door Sales Act requires the salesperson to state and provide written identification of: the salesman’s identity, name and address of the company for which the salesman works, and the kinds of goods or services being offered. All this must happen before the sales pitch is made.

Study the identification information carefully. The alleged “salesperson” could actually be a thief seeking access to your home to evaluate it as a potential burglary target.

And remember, you don’t have to allow a salesperson into your home. Once you let him or her in, it may be difficult to get them to leave.

The door-to-door salesman may use deceptive or high-pressure sales tactics to convince the consumer to buy a home security system that is overpriced or outdated.

Common signs of a potential home security system scam:

  • Some salespersons use scare tactics to convince a consumer to buy the home security system. They may cite statistics of home burglaries. This is particularly effective with older consumers.
  • The salesperson may claim that this is a one-time offer that must be acted on immediately. They may claim that the home monitoring equipment will be free if you sign the contract that day.

What you may not know is that you will be obligated to sign a long-term contract with high fees that more than pay for the “free” equipment.

  • The salesperson may pressure you to gain access into your home to make the sales pitch and then refuse to leave. It is not rude to tell the salesperson that you are not interested in the product.

It is always best to not invite the sales representative into your home. However, if the sales rep refuses to leave, call the police.

These scammers also target homeowners who post signs from their current home security company. The scammer may tell you that he or she has been sent from your current security company to upgrade your current system.

Once you allow the scammer access to your home, they install a new home monitoring system and have you sign papers that include a contract for the new system.

Another scam has the representative claiming that your current security company has gone out of business and that the accounts were taken over by a new company that he represents. The scammer may go on to explain that new equipment is required and a new contract must be signed.

Before you allow any changes to your existing home monitoring system, contact your current monitoring company for verification.

If you have a question about home security system scams, you may get additional information online through the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.

You also may call the Fort Meade Legal Assistance Office to schedule an appointment with an attorney at 301-677-9504 or 301-677-9536.

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