4 Home Alarm System Red Flags and How to Avoid Them

4 Home Alarm System Red Flags and How to Avoid Them

An alarm system is a worthy investment but can also be a headache if purchased under certain pretenses. In this post, we cover four home alarm system red flags, such as scams, vulnerable equipment, hidden contract terms, and negative customer reviews, that should be avoided at all costs. Here’s what to be on the lookout for when beginning your alarm system search:

1. Scams

As you may have experienced, during the warmer months, many alarm system companies will recruit sales representatives to go door-to-door around neighbors attempting to acquire new customers. However, according to a report conducted by the Federal Trade Commission[1], not all of these representatives can be trusted, and are attempting to lock unassuming customers into lengthy, expensive contracts for a low-quality alarm system, or no alarm system at all.  Here’s how to know whether the sale is legal, or a scam:

High-pressure sales methods

  • Claims such as limited-time offers or deals that are only available if the contract is signed that day should raise a red flag. Oftentimes, salesmen will throw in “free” equipment or installation, but in reality they are having you sign longer term and expensive contracts to make up for those “freebies.”

Not taking “no” for an answer

  • Pushy salesmen will attempt to make their way into your home and refuse to leave until you sign. While a salesman may come across as unthreatening, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being pressured to enter into an inconvenient contract just to get someone out of your home.

Scare tactics

Salespeople often will inflate statistics and exaggerate crime reports in your neighborhood to make you feel unsafe in order to purchase their system.

False upgrades

  • Be wary of representatives who claim to be from your current alarm system monitoring company. Under the guise of replacing or updating your system, they may install an entirely new one and have you sign a different contract. Also, they may state that your monitoring company has gone out of business, and you must re-sign their contract to maintain service.

How to avoid them:

  • Read the fine print before you sign anything. Once you sign the contract, there isn’t much you can do to get out of it without paying the remainder or a large termination fee.
  • If you’re not interested in an alarms system, refuse service at the door, not after they enter your home. It’s much more difficult to say no in a high-risk situation than one where you’re in control. Call the police if a salesperson won’t leave your home after you’ve requested they do so.
  • Check the facts on your neighborhood crime reports. There’s no reason to be unnecessarily frightened of your community, so don’t let a salesperson incite any irrational fears. If your neighborhood crime rate is high and you would feel safer with an alarm system, it’s better to have time to do adequate research instead of agreeing to the first alarm system that comes your way.
  • Don’t allow anyone to tamper with your current alarm system without first speaking with your monitoring company and confirming the representative’s validity. A reputable alarm system company won’t dispatch professionals to your home without first making an appointment with the customer, and they won’t cancel your service without advanced notice.

2. Vulnerable equipment

While wireless alarm systems provide cheaper installation and remote control, they are not all free from error. According to an article in Forbes[2], some alarm system companies utilize unencrypted software to manage their wireless systems, meaning that hackers can easily gain access to your system and disarm it, or turn your smart home into an energy-consuming nightmare by turning the lights on and cranking the heat. Other systems were found to only be protected by the user’s wireless network so that anyone with a login could access the system and control it freely.

How to avoid it:

Before signing a contract or having any equipment installed, ask your alarm system company about their cyber security. Do they encrypt all of the sensors? Is access restricted by more than just your WIFI network? Is every portal password-protected? By getting your questions answered, you can avoid a weak system that is vulnerable to tech-savvy intruders.

3. Hidden contract terms

Ideally, an alarm system contract would be simple and straightforward, but unfortunately alarm system companies incorporate high fees, lengthy terms, access to personal information and shifts in liability.

Price

  • Alarm system companies try to lure customers in with “free equipment” or low installation costs, but they’ll likely be making those costs up with high monthly costs, early termination fees, restocking fees, minimum charges and increasing monitoring costs. Installation costs can climb quickly as well, as alarm system companies typically charge by the hour.

Length

  •  Again, it may seem like you’re getting a good deal by saving $10 a month and by signing a longer contract, but if you do the month, you’ll most likely be a greater total sum for your system over time. Some contracts also have a minimum charge, so even if your monthly costs are low and your contract is short, if you don’t hit the minimum, you’ll be hit with a bill for the remainder once your contract is up.

Termination

  • It can be extremely hard to get out of your alarm system contract before it has ended. According to Simplisafe[3], some companies charge up to $1,320 to terminate a contract, while others require you to pay the remainder of your term regardless of whether you still want the system. Plus, some contracts stipulate that the alarm system company has access to home once the contract is terminated in order to retrieve the equipment you’re leasing from them.

How to avoid them:

Read through your contract. If you don’t understand something, ask your alarm system company to clarify. Also, be 100% sure that you’re ready to invest in an alarm system before signing anything because it can be hard, and at times impossible, to back out without penalties.

4. Negative customer reviews

Every alarm system company is bound to have one or two disgruntled customers who write negative reviews about the company online; it’s going to be hard to find a provider with a 100% satisfaction rating. However, if the reviews online are overwhelmingly negative, or there’s one issue that recurs throughout all of the reviews, be wary of entering into an agreement with that particular provider.

How to avoid them:

Do your research. There’s plenty of information available on Consumer Affairs, CNET, Better Business Bureau, and countless other forums that can help you make an informed decision.

A home alarm system is not something to be purchased on a whim. Be smart about your investment by taking the time to do your research, read through your contract, and ask any necessary follow-up questions to avoid falling into a trap. We also recommend working with one of the top alarm system companies to decrease your likelihood of experiencing any of these red flags.

 

[1] http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0195-some-home-security-systems-may-be-scams

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/07/26/smart-homes-hack/

[3] http://simplisafe.com/blog/home-security-contracts

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