, June 26, 2009  Consumer rip-off, door-to-door salespeople who use dubious tactics to sell burglar alarm systems

One consumer rip-off that shows no sign of abating is the annual invasion of door-to-door salespeople who use dubious and intrusive tactics to sell burglar-alarm systems to unwary homeowners, a topic we covered in "Scam Alert: Don't Get Ripped Off by an Alarm Company."

Jane Driggs, president of the Better Business Bureau of Utah, stops short of advising you not to buy an alarm system from door-to-door salespeople, but says, "You just have to make sure that you verify everything the company says and do your comparison shopping as if somebody hadn't come to the door." Read the BBB's "Don’t Fall for the Deceptive Pitch of a Door-to-Door Alarm Salesman."

Law-enforcement and consumer-protection officials warn you to be wary of an alarm salesperson who:

• Attempts to alarm you by citing rashes of burglaries in their neighborhoods.

• Claims to represent or wear clothing with logos from major alarm manufacturers like GE and Honeywell. These firms don't sell directly to consumers and don't allow their logos to be used by door-to-door salespeople.

• Tries to gain entrance into your home. "I actually had a salesperson reach inside the door to show me where his system would go and ask if he could come in," says Driggs. "I have a big dog, so I wasn't worried about it, but I could see a lot of people might have let him gain admittance that way."

• Offers a free system. Experts say "free" systems usually come with higher monthly service fees. Also be sure that the contract clearly indicates what the monthly service fee will be. "If they say your charges are going to be $44 a month for a one-year term, verify that that's what the contract says—don't sign it if it isn't clearly stated," says Driggs.

"Alarm companies generally don't make money on the equipment, but on he monthly services. You should focus on the quality of the service and the length of the contract—many jurisdictions limit the length and number of automatic renewals," says Ron Walters, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition's director of field operations. Make sure the contract stipulates the length of the agreement and any associated early-termination fees.

• Says the company is ready to install your system right away. Experts say legitimate alarm companies don't mind taking the time to talk to consumers to get a comprehensive view of their security needs.

• Claims your current alarm company is defunct. A scam recently spotted by our colleagues at The Consumerist involves Orem, Utah-based Pinnacle Security. The company's reps have been implying to customers of CastleRock Security in Wichita, Kansas, that CastleRock has gone out of business, a claim CastleRock disputes. Another variation on this theme is a salesperson's claim that your current equipment needs updating. Read more about this story on the KWCH Web site.

Industry experts stress that you should deal only with well-established companies. Find out which local or state agency has jurisdiction over alarm companies and check the records of any company you're considering using. Also see whether your homeowner's-insurance company offers a discount for using certain alarm companies.—Gian Trotta is a web site and email service that gives local communities a simple tool that can help them organize and make a stand against crime in their neighborhoods. The web site allows residents to easily report and track two types of neighborhood activity, i.e., suspicious vehicles and solicitors.

  • Suspicious Vehicle in Your Neighborhood? LicenseLook allows neighbors to input license numbers and descriptions of cars that appear to be out of place in their neighborhood. By logging the license plate and description of suspicious vehicles (whether the car is parked or passing through) you are creating valuable information that the police can use to capture criminals.
  • Odd Door-to-Door Solicitor? More and more scams are happening right at your front door with criminals posing as representatives of charitable organizations or local service companies. LicenseLook will also allow residents to log visits from questionable persons posing as salespeople soliciting your business

LicenseLook was created to give local residents tools to help them deter criminal activities in their community and better their chances of catching criminals. The system allows residents to organize around a common goal and gives them the tools to make their efforts visible to would-be criminals as well as to their neighbors and friends.

Please go to or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  To signup for a monthly newsletter that will outline changes and progress with LicenseLook as well as best practices: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

December 1, 2010:  LicenseLook yard signs are now available at Evergreen Nursery (350 San Leandro Blvd.) and at the Bal Theatre (14808 East 14th St.).

Recently there has been a rash of solicitors in San Leandro neighborhoods. The stories have been bold and varied. The youth have often been polite, clean cut and well behaved. Their stories often sounded very legitimate.

 Here is what the San Leandro Police Department says about solicitors:  Identify who is knocking or buzzing by asking through the door before opening. If they are some sort of solicitor, have them produce identification. The PEDDLER PERMIT from the City of San Leandro has the city logo and states the card is the property of the City of San Leandro. The card is a laminated card and must be worn by the person at all times while conducting business in the City of San Leandro. They also need a city Business License. The Business License has CITY OF SAN LEANDRO in large print on the front side. Do not accept any excuses. If the solicitors do not have the proper ID, tell them you are not interested and contact the SLPD non-emergency telephone number 577-2740.


Below are some of the types of door-to-door stories that occurred in a San Leandro neighborhood around the dates of March 2 to March 8, 2010 and March 17, 2010

    • Youth soliciting for baseball
  • Collecting money for San Leandro High School baseball team to go to the World Series in Lahaina, Maui;
  • coach was making him do this, had nothing in his hand
  • collecting money for his team;
  • collecting money for his team and claimed to live on San Jose St., had spikey hair, tall, Caucasian, wire-framed glasses, wearing a blue sweatshirt
  • white male claimed he lived on Lee Ave., son of a doctor, did chores for people to raise money, washes Mr. Jones’ car 2 doors down (note, there is no Mr. Jones two-doors down);
  • claimed to be Dr. Lee’s son and to live in the neighborhood, 20’s, almost shaved head, black Nor-Cal jacket, red & white tennis shoes, jeans, umbrella, pierced ear


Reprinted from Estudillo Estate Homeowners Association Newsletter, February, 2010

  1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator;
  2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier;
  3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste ... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up all the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
  5. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance; don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.
  6. A good security company alarms the window over the sink and the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there, too; 
  7.  It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door ­understandable. But I don't take a day off because of bad weather. 
  8. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters (Don't take me up on it.)
  9. You really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet;  
  10. Hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms; 
  11. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me;
  12. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at
  13. Sometimes I carry a clipboard, or dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
  14. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
  15. l'Il break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If He doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.
  16. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
  17. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
  18. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.
  19. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air; for me; it's an invitation.
  20. If you don't answer when I knock, I'll try the door – Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky; security consultant Cbrls McGoey, who runs; and Richard T. Wnght, a criminology professor at the University of Mlssouri-St Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book "Burglars on the Job."

The National Crime Prevention Council has a brochure on prevention of auto theft. Click here to download the document.