The business of selling residential alarm systems is very competitive and customers are aggressively sought by many companies through a variety of methods and means. There is a difference between good salesmanship and fraud, and you need to be aware of the difference. Those who are preyed upon are often the elderly, non-English speakers and those who have recently purchased a home.
For Your Protection
Be cautious of any UNSOLICITED sales contact. Verify all information before you authorize any new work or changes. By capitalizing on large numbers of college students seeking summer employment, out-of-state unlicensed alarm companies often send teams of salespeople to cities. Most teams work on commission, incentives and contests. As they speak to homeowners they keep the pressure on in order make the sale. While licensed alarm representatives will complete the process ethically and responsibly, these representatives will not. ALL alarm businesses in the City of Milwaukee are required to be licensed (see list of licenses posted on the Wisconsin Security Association website). Check the agent’s ID and the company’s license before you allow any work on your alarm system. Many state and local jurisdictions provide on-line look up of required licenses. Consumers should protect themselves by choosing a company that is up-to-date on all their licensing.
Double Billing Scam
The fraud scheme goes like this: You receive an unsolicited telephone call or a knock on your door. This person tells you they now have ownership of your alarm system(s) or have taken over your account. The salesman starts making false statements similar to the following; your current alarm company has been sold, is going out of business, is going into bankruptcy, or we have obtained all rights to your account. The salesman will want to change the programming for your alarm system and update your paperwork by writing a new contract with their company. No legitimate alarm company will show up at your door to fix or replace equipment without a prior appointment having been made. If you are approached in this manner DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE ACCESS TO YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS. GET VERIFICATION FROM YOUR CURRENT ALARM COMPANY. Take the time to make a phone call. You’re still under contract with the current alarm company and a new contract may obligate you to a second alarm company and their charges. Without due diligence, you will start getting bills from both alarm companies. This becomes the “Double Billing” scam. You often are left paying both bills, costing hundreds of dollars. Alarm businesses generally notify you, in writing, when they are being sold, transferred or having billing changes.
It’s a FACT … false alarms rob communities of valuable appropriate police response. If you have any doubt about the use of your system, contact your alarm company immediately. Many WISA members have in-house False Alarm Control Teams that will help their customers remedy false alarms. When you have an alarm system installed by a professional, you will receive proper instruction on its use. Arming and disarming the system should be easy to learn and these instructions must be passed on to ALL persons who have a key to your home or business–employees, children, grandparents, neighbors, and don’t forget the cleaning help and delivery staff. Your security system will be designed and installed to be trouble free for your specific daily routine. It will provide you easy protection for your home and loved ones or your business. However, improper use can result in false alarms. Summoning the police or fire department when no real emergency exists is called a “false alarm”. Some simple steps must be taken to make sure that your system works false alarm free:
- Make sure all protected doors and windows are closed and locked.
- Do not block the sensing path of any detection devices.
- Leave your home/business promptly after “arming” your system and disarm your system promptly when entering.
- If you make an error on entering your keypad code, wait several seconds before trying again.
- Keep your alarm company up to date on changes to your key-holders who would respond with the authorities in your absence.
- Use alarm company decals on doors and/or windows.
- Have your security system periodically tested by your alarm professional.
- Make sure your alarm company has up to date phone numbers for verifying burglar alarm signals.
- And finally, if you accidentally trip your alarm system, follow your alarm company’s specific procedures for canceling the dispatch.
In an attempt to curb false alarms, most communities have instituted ordinances with fines for repeat offenders. The tax dollars spent needlessly on responding to false alarms is a growing concern for many communities. Most security companies today are implementing the use of new technology to prevent false alarms and they are using enhanced call verification to make sure that a burglary signal is valid. To learn more about enhanced call verification check with your dealer.
Why Use a WISA Member?
WISA members are Professionals
WISA members make the best business partners. WISA membership is voluntary, no company is required to join our association. The most reputable companies in the industry belong to WISA. We believe that the willingness of our members to seek out educational opportunities in order to better train their employees, submission to our Code of Ethics, and their commitment to cooperate with the association in resolving questions or complaints from consumers, demonstrates their desire to do business professionally and ethically. We strongly suggest that all Wisconsin consumers include WISA members in their comparative shopping. We believe this will lead consumers to the right system at a fair price, combined with the best possible service. We sincerely believe that you will receive a better mix of price and quality by doing business with a WISA member company. If not, we are here to help resolve any issue that might occur when doing business with our members.
Be an Educated Consumer
In order to be an informed consumer you need to understand the different components of a system. The best systems professional will help you determine what components you need to serve your home or business. Your systems professional should discuss what options fit your home and/or business and lifestyle, for instance, do you have small children, pets, are you away from your home for long periods of time, do you have expensive items such as jewelry you want to protect. All of these things may factor in to determine which system is best for you. You may decide to install a system for a specific purpose but keep in mind in you can link other devices into your system such as security, fire, entertainment, controlled heating and lighting, and carbon monoxide detection. There can also be cost savings to combine these features versus installing them at a later date. It all depends on what you want and what suits you best. The best systems professional will customize your system for your needs!
Professional Vs. DIY Installation
Before you decide to install an electronic system yourself consider these factors:
- Are you aware of all the codes and standards that govern how your system is installed and operated?
- Are you aware of all of the options and features of the equipment you plan to install?
- Do you hold the required license and have the ability to pull the permit?
- Have you considered the value of your time to learn about and install the system in calculating the cost of your do it yourself installation?
- Is the equipment you have access to at retail outlets of equal quality to the professional grade equipment?
- Do you own all the tools you will need to install, test and calibrate the equipment you plan to use?
- Will your insurance policies cover you if you are injured or do damage to your property during the installation?
- Does the company you bought the equipment from provide sufficient help in the event something goes wrong during the installation?
- Does your insurance company require a certificate of installation to receive a discount on your insurance?
- Who are you going to get the system monitored by? Is the central station UL listed?
Selecting a Contractor
Tips Before You Select a Contractor
The Wisconsin Security Association recommends that consumers take the following steps BEFORE selecting a systems contractor: Check to see if the contractor is a member of the WISA’s association members agree to maintain a high level of conduct under a Code of Ethics and render services at the highest level of quality. Call several companies. Ask them if their employees are trained and/or certified by the WISA. Ask the companies if they have appropriate state and/or local licenses, if required. Some sort of license may be required for any company that provides these services in Wisconsin (see use licensed contractors section below for more information) Ask the companies if they conduct any pre-employment screening. Contact your local police department’s Crime Prevention Department, state licensing agencies, Consumer Protection Agencies, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask your insurance agent, friends, family or neighbors for referrals. After you’ve narrowed the field to three or four alarm companies, ask for the name of the person who will call on you. It is best to plan the appointment time when all those involved in the decision are present. When he/she visits, ask to see some company identification. Ask each alarm company representative for an inspection, recommendation and a quote in writing. Use a checklist to compare different packages and price quotes. Use the following checklist when choosing an alarm company:
- Be sure that the installation company is a member of WISA, ours members agree to maintain a high level of conduct under a Code of Ethics and render services at the highest level of quality.
- Call more than one company. Schedule an appointment when all members of your household are present. When a security professional visits, ask to see company identification.
- Ask if their technicians are licensed or under the State apprentice program.
- Ask if they screen employees before hiring.
- Have their technicians been trained and/or certified by the National Training School? (NTS).
- Does the company carry adequate insurance coverage including Errors & Omissions?
- Does the contract include a 3-day right of rescission clause mandatory for residential contracts?
- Review what equipment you will actually own, and what equipment, if any, will remain the property of the security company.
- Inquire about the Central Station that will be monitoring your account.
- If service is required on the system, how soon will a technician be sent to your premises?
- Ask for referrals.
Only Use Licensed Contractors
Milwaukee law requires any person or company who provides investigations or security services (including burglar alarms, closed circuit television systems and access control systems) in the city to be properly licensed to offer or to engage in such services. This requirements of law was passed by the City of Milwaukee and is in effect. To offer or provide a service required to be licensed, without a license, carries criminal penalties and major fines.