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How to avoid scams when shopping for a home security system

Home security systems are supposed to protect your home. However, not all security companies are legit, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned. Here’s how to learn the signs of scams, what questions to ask the sellers, and where to report fraud.

“Salespeople might knock on doors in your neighborhood, pitching home security systems. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many companies do it to drum up business. Unfortunately, so do scammers and dishonest businesses,” the FTC warns.

First, door-to-door salespeople must tell you their name, the name of the business they represent, and what they’re selling before they ask you any questions or make any statements, as required by laws in some states. Other states even require salespeople to show their “pocket card” license and a photo ID. It’s a good rule of thumb to take a few minutes to look over their documentation.

“Slow down if someone says you need to act now to get the deal they’re offering. Scammers and dishonest businesses might try to get you to sign a contract right away by telling you that the equipment will be free if you do (a lie). More than likely, strings are attached. To get your so-called “free” alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive system monitoring contract,” the FTC said.

You should not let anyone pressure their way into your home – it’s not rude to say you’re not interested. It's easier and safer to say no while the salesperson is on the doorstep rather than inside.

Scammers might talk about a made-up rash of supposed burglaries in your neighborhood. Ignore attempts to scare you and check with your local police department before buying or signing a contract.

Often, fraudsters imply they are from your existing security company, and they’re there to “upgrade” or “replace” the current system. They aren’t. However, dishonest sales agents may install a new security system and have you sign an expensive contract for a monitoring service.

“Doubt anyone who claims your security company has gone out of business. Scammers often lie, saying they’ve taken over your security company’s accounts,” the FTC warns.

Users have the right to cancel a deal. The FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule leaves three business days to cancel a deal without a reason if you signed the contract in your home or if you signed in any location that’s not the seller’s permanent place of business.

“The salesperson must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send back to them) and a copy of your contract,” the FTC explains.

It’s important to report suspected scams directly to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and to the local police department, your state attorney general, or local consumer protection agency.

The FTC’s guidance includes a list of steps on how to choose a home security system, including getting references, reading about different companies, checking contractors’ licenses, or getting written estimates. The full advisory can be found here.

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