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When home security salesman comes knocking, beware

The California Department of Consumer Affairs offers advice on how to avoid door-to-door sales scams.

December 02, 2012|By Scott J. Wilson, Los Angeles Times
  • Door-to-door sellers of home alarm systems are required by the state to have passed a criminal background check and have been licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.
Door-to-door sellers of home alarm systems are required by the state to… (Robert F. Bukaty, Associated…)

If someone comes to your door selling home security systems, be wary: They could be breaking the law and they could be trying to scam you, according to the state Department of Consumer Affairs. Key things to know:

• Anyone selling home alarm systems door-to-door in California is required to have passed a criminal background check and have been licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. But in reality, warned the consumer agency, many sellers have done neither. Before listening to the pitch, ask to see the salesperson's state registration card.

• Beware of pressure to sign a contract immediately. Homeowners are sometimes pushed to sign overpriced alarm contracts that last for as long as five years, automatically roll over to a new term and give limited opportunity to cancel, the department said. Some contracts stipulate an early termination fee of several thousand dollars.

• In one scam, a salesperson finds a home with an alarm company sign or sticker and claims to be there to replace or upgrade the system. Or the salesperson may tell you that your company has gone out of business and he or she represents the new company. In both cases, state officials said, you will be told you must sign a new contract.

• Note that legitimate alarm companies also sometimes go door to door. "The challenge for the homeowner who answers the front door is to be certain the salesperson represents a reputable company and is not a scam artist," the department said. Call (800) 952-5210 to check whether a business or person is licensed and see whether any complaints have been filed.

• State law gives you a three-day window after signing to cancel a home security contract and get your money back. Deliver your cancellation letter in person or send it by certified mail. To lodge a complaint against an alarm company, visit http://www.bsis.ca.gov and click on "File a Complaint."

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