When the security man comes a knockin’

By Pamela Singleton, Sonitrol Pacific Director of Communications
Posted August 3, 2009

I’ve read several news reports recently (KING 5, Bakersfield Now, kitv news, CBS2Chicago, WBALtv) about salespeople from security companies canvassing neighborhoods and employing less than honest means to peddle their wares. Electronic security is a trust based industry and I feel so sad for people who have their trust violated.

I know representatives of wonderful and trustworthy companies do door-knocking campaigns. I also know there are people who take advantage of trusting homeowners. Before contracting with any company for security services, do some research.
1. Investigate the monitoring center. Look for a monitoring center that is UL Certified, maintains a 1:2000 operator or account ratio (many companies have one person watching 10,000 or more accounts), and verifies alarms with either audio or video technology.
2. Get a guarantee. Choose a company that stand behind their promises with a written guarantee that covers performance, equipment and labor, emergency service within one or two hours, false alarm fines and a six-month money back guarantee.
3. Ask local police officers what calls from burglar alarm companies are most accurate.
4. Find out if company employees will design, install, monitor and service your security system or if they use subcontractors or outsource.
5. Call the company’s 800-number and learn how long it takes to reach a real customer service person to answer your questions.

To avoid risks of unscrupulous security salespeople, partner with Sonitrol Pacific for business or home security. Not sure you’re ready to make a commitment to us, try these tips from the Better Business Bureau to ensure you keep the carpetbaggers at bay:
– Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company at the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, www.bbb.org.
– Don’t be pressured into buying something you don’t want or need. A reputable company will let you check out the offer and compare bids from several installers.
– Some companies will offer a “free” alarm system. While the equipment and installation may be free (make sure this is in writing), there is a monthly monitoring fee. When you compare costs, make sure you compare all the costs.
– Find out about local building codes and regulations regarding burglar alarms (including costs for false alarms).
– Check out the company that will be monitoring your system. Ask if it is the same company you are signing a contract with. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of this company.
– Consider advantages and disadvantages of each system and decide which will be best for your particular situation.
– Does the company call you first before notifying the police?
– Does the company call the police first?
– Does the company have a security patrol car that will check out the alarm and if necessary call the police?
– How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
– What happens if the alarm company is unable to reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
– Ask for procedures in writing, so you are aware of the steps and can anticipate how you can best handle the situation.
– Make sure it includes all promises made by the sales person. If the promises are not in the contract do not sign the contract.
– Study the contract carefully. Confirm information such as:
– Installation price
– Monthly price
– Length of the contract (most contracts are for at least two years)
– That any free or discount offers have been added
– Cancellation time frame to cancel the contract. The Federal Trade Commission requires that at least three days be provided (www.ftc.gov, three day cooling off rule).
– If you are planning on moving ask what happens with your contract, and get that information in writing from the sales person.
– After your purchase, make sure you check the system routinely to be sure it is in working order; by not doing this, you could be in violation of your contract.
– If you are having problems with your alarm, make sure you document dates, times, who you talked with, who came out and what was fixed.
For more advice on keeping your home and personal property safe, contact our security consultants or visit www.bbb.org