Avoiding Alarm Scams
In the monitored alarm industry, "trunk slammers" refers to salespeople who sell cheap, unreliable alarm systems directly out of their cars, and then slam the trunks shut and drive away. Trunk slammers reach customers by going door-to-door to homes and businesses with promises of cheap or even free business security systems. They explain the benefits of owning a security system and quickly get customers to sign a contract for monitoring service. These people may not have appropriate installation experience, insurance coverage, or the ability to enforce warranties.
Licensed alarm dealers will meet with you at your home or office to find the alarm system that best works for you – trunk slammers have little concern for the type of system you want. Their goal is to convince you to sign a long-term contract with a monitoring company. Once you do, they will sell your signed contract to an alarm system company for a nice commission and disappear.
Rarely, if ever, will you hear from them again. Sensor stops working? You're out of luck. The monitoring company doubles your rate? Too bad. The victims of these scammers are often stuck with sub par, poorly installed systems and a contract that they can't get out of.
Here are some things to keep in mind to avoid being swindled by a trunk slammer:
- Some warning signs. Despite what a trunk slammer may tell you, the alarm system isn't necessarily free. The cost of the equipment is usually built into the monthly pricing for monitoring service. Also, be careful about who you provide with your social security number or bank information. Legitimate alarm dealers do require this information for credit checks but will show you proof that it will be used for its intended purpose. It's unlikely a trunk slammer can offer that same disclosure.
- Driver's side customer service? A legitimate alarm system dealer doesn't need to have a lavish office in the center of town, but they should have a phone number where they can be reached and a physical address – not a P.O. Box.
- Take your time. Buying an alarm system is a decision that could affect the safety of your loved ones or colleagues, in addition to your property. Don't let a salesman rush you into a decision with lines like "I just need to meet my quota for the month" or "this deal is only good today, the sale ends tomorrow."
- You get what you pay for. An old adage, but appropriate when discussing trunk slammers. They are going to focus on the most obvious benefit to most consumers – low price. A free or very cheap system will include only a few contacts for doors and windows, an inadequate or outdated alarm panel, and low-quality motion sensors. That may not be enough protection for your home or business.
- A matter of trust. Be very wary of dealing with someone that can't connect you with the monitoring service that will handle your account. Did the salesperson provide you with a phone number for service? Can you be ensured that you are in their database and will be connected with a service representative that will help you?
- Who's watching over you again? Alarm system scammers get you to sign monitoring contracts but rarely take the time to explain how monitoring works or even which monitoring company is watching over your home or business. Will you be guaranteed that the monitoring station will contact you if you experience an intrusion or an equipment malfunction?
- Certifiably legitimate. Check that the salesperson is a certified installer and officially contracted to work for a particular alarm company. Many non-profit organizations require strict testing to certify an alarm dealer and if the salesperson is licensed, you can put a little more faith in their workmanship and commitment to service.