The Scammers of Summer

There are multiple “sure signs” of summer which nearly everyone enjoys… blooming flowers, evening barbecues, weekend camping trips, hanging out at the pool, etc.

And then there are the signs of summer we would rather do without – allergy pills, extra bugs, mowing the yard, and the perhaps the biggest pest, the return of solicitors. For the security industry, solicitors are more than just a nuisance to customers, they are a marketing nightmare. Deceptive door-to-door sales practices continue to create mistrust and a poor reputation that is difficult for even reputable companies to overcome.

Security scams often originate with smaller, local, home security companies who target the customers of larger, nationwide companies. The elderly tend to be their primary focus, and their tactics are aggressive and high-pressure. Victims describe similar stories: the rep tells them their current security company has gone out of business, or will no longer be servicing their existing equipment, then pushes them into a new contract with their company. The more unethical reps even pretend to be a rep for the victim’s security company, tell them that their current system is outdated and no longer reliable, and pressure them to purchase new equipment and sign a new contract. Victims often don’t realize the deception until they receive bills from both their old security company and the new one. Then they face the uphill battle of getting a signed contract canceled.

So how do consumers protect themselves from these unscrupulous sales reps?

  • Never let anyone inside your home unless YOU made the appointment. This goes for any company, not just home security!
  • If they claim to be from your existing security company, call the local office for verification. Reputable companies typically will not send a rep without contacting you first.
  • If they make claims about your equipment being outdated, or your current company going out of business, tell them you will check with your provider and get back to them.
  • Be prepared to hear stories of increased crime and break-ins in your neighborhood. Scammer reps love to use these as scare tactics.
  • If you are in the market for a home security system, do your research before choosing a company. Get multiple bids before you sign any paperwork; you should know what upfront costs will be, what equipment you will be provided, what the monthly monitoring costs are, and the terms of your contract.

Defensive tactics can originate from the security company, as well. Look at it as an opportunity to reach out to your customer base, warn them of the malicious practice of security scams, and provide the information they need to be prepared:

  • Educate your customers on how you conduct business and communicate, so they know when they are being approached by a scammer.
  • Give them a way to contact you should they have any questions or concerns.
  • Encourage them to report anyone who may be unlawfully using your company name. This will give them both peace-of-mind and trust that their security company is looking out for their best interest.

Ongoing efforts by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Electronic Security Association (ESA), and The Monitoring Association (TMA) have helped educate consumers and the industry about the effects of security scammers, and larger companies have reported a decrease in the number of complaints. However, any successful scam contributes to a negative perception of the industry. Jay Hauhn, the CEO and Executive Director of TMA, recently discussed the practice in a Security InfoWatch article, “If you do 50 things right and one thing wrong it is that one thing that gets all of the attention. When someone is victimized by this, the local television station has their consumer reporter talk about it and someone sitting there and watching this sees that as the industry and not necessarily as the nefarious practices of a couple of companies.”