Not much is more frightening than a home invasion. Over the last several years, the Better Business Bureau has seen an increase in the volume of inquiries into door-to-door alarm sales companies. These calls have particularly spiked in late spring into the summer months, as this is when door-to-door alarm companies begin hitting the pavement.

Texas law requires any person or company who provides investigations or security services in the state to be properly licensed to offer or to engage in such services. Operating without a license carries criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

A home security system can bring you great peace of mind. However, without researching the company and reading the contract, you may find it to be a great financial headache.

The BBB advises consumers to be on the lookout for the following deceptive sales tactics used by unethical alarm companies:

Tactic No. 1: The salesman in your house is not licensed with the state.

Always ask for their DPS Private Security pocket card, which will also have their picture. This ensures that they have gone through the proper background checks. State law requires that the installation technicians must have their license number displayed on their vehicle.

Tactic No. 2: They will help you get rid of your old equipment.

When you agree to purchase from a door-to-door salesman, and you already have an existing alarm system, they will tell you that they will remove the old equipment for you. Usually it will end up in the trash.

Make sure you actually own the equipment. In some instances, the existing equipment is leased to you, which means you might have to pay both companies until the terms of one of the contracts has been fulfilled.

Tactic No. 3: Seniors are given an extended cancellation period.

Numerous seniors have reported to the BBB that they have been told that they have 30 days to cancel. Ultimately, you should go by what your signed contract says.

The Federal Cooling-Off Rule states that you have three business days to cancel a contract from a door-to-door salesman as long as the purchase is over $25. Sundays and federal holidays are not counted as business days, however Saturdays do in fact count as a business day. A simple rule to follow is that if the mail is running, it’s considered a business day.

Trick No. 4: You’re not under any obligation to your existing alarm company.

One sales tactic used is to tell people with existing alarm systems that they aren’t under any obligation to their existing company, since their original contract has expired. This is very likely not the case at all.

The alarm industry’s standard procedure for contracts is an auto-renewal for one year after the initial contract is finished. To cancel, you must notify your existing company in writing 30 days prior to the auto-renewal date. This means that if you have an existing provider, you are most likely still under a contract. If you have a new alarm system installed, you might be stuck paying both companies until the end of the contract.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

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