BBB warns of spike in home alarm scams

Posted at 5:00 PM, May 25, 2016

You've probably gotten a knock on your door from a sales person at some point in time.

Right now, the Better Business Bureau says its seeing an alarming trend with a particular product. Thousands of complaints are pouring in about deceptive and aggressive sales tactics for companies trying to sign you up for home security systems.

Judy Ellis used to call her St. Pete neighborhood "scam central" because of how frequently it was being targeted by door to door sales people, especially those tied to certain home security companies.

"What was really bad was the aggression.  Someone would say, 'I'm not interested,' and they'd start yelling at them," Ellis said.

The sales reps would say they were with your alarm company and insist your system needed an upgrade..

"And what you'd wind up doing is signing a contract for their service, while the contract you had with your original service was still in effect," Ellis said.

That's why she worked with the St. Pete city council to pass tougher local anti-soliciting laws, which are now in effect. If you have a "no soliciting" sign on your home in the city, solicitors can't come ring your doorbell, or even leave a brochure hanging outside.

But the Better Business Bureau says high pressure home security sales tactics, like what Ellis experienced, are becoming a huge problem nationwide. The BBB offers this advice:

"Do your research. Read the consumer reviews. Read the complaints, before you do business with anyone," said Jane Driggs with the Better Business Bureau.

And here's an easy tip you can follow. If you see someone coming up to your driveway and think they might be suspicious, just take your phone and snap their picture, maybe even snap a shot of their car. Then you can use that information to know who they are and even report it to police if you need to.

The BBB says you should also read everything carefully before signing any contract, no matter the pressure.

"Don't default to trust and quickly sign contracts before fully understanding what you're agreeing to," said Driggs.

The BBB says rest assured, if you still sign something you later regret almost every contract has a clause to get you out of it.

Judy Ellis hopes more cities adopt rules to crack down on solicitors. In the mean time, she's says if you're considering making any major purchase, don't do it at your doorstep.

"You simply do not know what they're really trying to sell you," said Ellis.