Don’t Fall for the Deceptive Pitch of a Door-to-Door Alarm Salesman

August 05, 2009

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be extremely cautious when answering the door to traveling alarm system salespersons. BBB has received complaints from homeowners across North America who were subjected to high-pressure sales tactics and felt deceived by the salesperson into buying an expensive alarm system.

BBB received more than 2,000 complaints against burglar alarm companies in 2008, a 68 percent increase over the previous year. Already this year, many BBBs across North America have issued warnings to locals regarding door-to-door alarm salesmen making the rounds.

Many complainants allege that the salesperson used high-pressure sales tactics and made claims that were not included in the final contract. In addition, there have been reports that some companies are not attaining the correct licensing to sell door-to-door or legally sell and install alarm systems in areas they are soliciting.

Every summer alarm salesmen hit the pavement and every summer BBB receives a rash of complaints from consumers who feel they were ripped off. Even if the salesperson claims it’s a limited offer and they must act now, consumers must always stop and do their research before purchasing any products or services.

BBB offers the following advice for consumers on how to avoid becoming a victim of a deceptive door-to-door alarm salesperson:

  • Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company at the Better Business Bureau’s Web site,
  • 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 (, 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, visit


Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: or E-mail: or