Peace of Mind

In an industry that is supposed to protect your property and give you peace of mind, I find some of the security company practices just a big rip off. I have been in this industry for 20 years and have been associated with many of the different security companies either as an employee or sub-contractor. I have found there are some really good companies and then there are some you need to stay away from.

The larger national security companies seem to be a little ethically challenged. The largest will tell you that you get their $850 security system for free, with a $99 install charge. Monitoring is supposed to be $1 a day. Look at the terms and conditions page of their web site and find you have to pay $349 plus a $25 communication connection fee to get the system installed. You will receive a coupon for a $250 rebate in a couple of weeks or so. You have to fill this out and send in with a copy of your installation contract. I thought they already had a copy. You then wait for a couple of months to get a check. Monitoring is $32.99. Does that mean there are 396 days in a year? Your free $850 system has cost you $374 plus the 2 or 3 months monitoring. Then you get you $250 back after two or three months. That doesn't sound all that "free" to me. Also, if you want a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector there is an extra charge at installation and extra charge each month for monitoring. I can understand that you have to pay to have extra equipment installed, but it is not like it costs them any more to monitor your system if you have a smoke detector. So why should you get charged more each month?

They are going to lock you into a contract for 3 or more years and there is very little you can do to get out of it unless you sell your house and have already paid for at least a year and are willing to sign another 3 year contract and pay for another installation. You are stuck with paying them, you are their CASH COW. You can cancel it if your pay off the remaining amount. At the end of the 3 years it automatically renews for another 3 years unless you contact them in writing within their specified time frame, usually 30 to 60 days prior to the end of the contract. Not 61 days and not 29 days, and not by phone. This is usually the way it is with any security company that has a long term contract.

Cash Cow

Now for the big rip off. If you pay less than $600 for install, they still own the equipment!! You were getting a free security system but had to pay to get it installed. You pay for 3 years to have it monitored. You want to have someone else monitor the system you can't. They still own it. They actually have the right to come get their equipment if you cancel at the end of the contract.

Most of the larger national companies have a similar contract. If you are going to get a system from on of them, I suggest you read the contract thoroughly before signing. You might want to consider a local company. Their pricing is usually a lot less and you get better service because they are local and usually don't have the service load of the big companies. They usually don't have a contract like what I just mentioned.

Another tactic used by many security companies is to lock out your panel from programming changes so another security company can't program their monitoring station into that panel. If you want to change companies you have to have the system changed also. You paid for it so why should you have a system that can't be programmed. If you get a system installed, make sure to tell them not to lock out the panel. If they say it is for your protection and it is company policy, get another company. It is not for your protection, it is for their protection.

Some companies are not much more than marketing firms that have inexperienced college kids going door to door selling alarms systems using scare tactics. They usually say they are in the neighborhood looking for homes to install their equipment in for free. All you have to do is put their sign in the yard so they can advertise. They will tell you there has been a rash of break-ins in the area to get the fear factor up. They might mention they just installed a system for the Smiths down the street, never mind the fact there are no Smiths down the street. If they installed one down the street they have to be legit. They want to get you to sign a 5 year contract at $45 or more a month. Then, more inexperienced college kids come and install a system before you get buyers remorse. They get your credit card info and then they charge you an installation fee. These kids make up to $400 per sale; of course they are going to lie to get you to sign up. The company then sells the monitoring contract to a monitoring company, so you can't even call them for service. They won't even have a local office after the summer.

Rip Off

If someone knocks on your door from an alarm company, ask for a brochure or a business card if you are interested in an alarm system, but don't let them in. Look them up on line. Google them or go to, and if a bunch of red flags show up, go with another company. Check with the BBB. Do some research and call to have one of their reps come by. As always, read the contract before signing!!

Not all security companies fall into what I would consider a rip off category. There are a lot of reputable security companies out there. Some have cheap alarm monitoring and have excellent service to go with it. Iit just takes a little research to find one that you can trust.