The Crime Prevention Website


The unscrupulous and dark side of the alarm industry

On 8 August 2014 I published a news story on this site about a nameless alarm company using scary sales tactics and false information about crime levels in an attempt to sell residents in Cumbria alarm systems at inflated prices.

Although these sales techniques are frowned upon by the professional security industry I thought it might be useful to add the following information to this section so that you are aware of what occasionally goes on.

The 'rip-off' merchants!

A few years ago, for research purposes, I followed up on a cold call just to see what would happen.  I obviously had absolutely no intention of buying a thing, but thought it would be fun and at the same time useful in my crime prevention role with Camden police.  Based on this personal experience here’s what you can expect......

You might get a cold call (either on the phone or at the door) from someone who’ll tell you they are not selling you anything, but are instead making appointments for a security company to visit your home to give you free security advice.  They’ll probably be wearing a bright badge with their photograph on it.  The same person might suggest that crime is going up in your location and also say that they’re working in the area anyway and whilst there it would be no bother to offer you free security advice.

They might also offer you an incentive, such a free alarm or free installation. The alarm installation might be ‘free’, but you’ll have to pay very high monitoring and annual service charges and the ‘free’ element will be so basic that you’ll end up paying for all the add-ons, such as bell boxes, extra detectors, a panic button and so on!  There’s no such thing as free!

Should you agree to an appointment you will be visited by a sales representative, who will know as much about security as I know about Ming china.  This rep will be trained in sales techniques, which will involve tricks to convince you that you need their alarm system.  They usually like the ‘lady of the house’ to be present or the ‘targets’ to be elderly, as research shows that these people fear crime more than younger men.

The stuff they’ll tell you will be just plainly ridiculous.  They’ll suggest crime is going up in the area, they might suggest they’ve been working with the police, even quoting the names of the local neighbourhood policing team, which they will have obtained from the website!  They’ll agree with everything you say about how bad crime is with the sole purpose of getting you into the ‘yes’ mood.

If you’re really lucky the rep will show you some gory pictures of burglary scenes and perhaps even a couple of victims; maybe one with a black eye and plenty of tears.  This is intended to make you worry and desire their products.  

When they quote you a price it will be ultra ridiculously high and you’ll say ‘no thanks’. 

They’ll then tell you about some sort of introductory offer, but they’ll have to clear it with their boss. So they ring the boss in front of you so you can hear their scripted conversation and you might well hear the rep trying to convince the boss that you should be treated as a special case.  The call will end and then about five minutes later the boss will call the rep back.  This will result in you being offered the deal at a massively reduced price.  You’ll possibly be told it’s a one off and they can only do this price because their ‘engineers’ are already working down the street.  It’s done like this so you’ll feel more obliged to say yes, because of the efforts by the rep, who will invariably be a ‘nice young man or lady’.

When I baulked at the still very high price for the system – twice as high as that quoted by the average alarm company - he even offered to reduce his own commission from the sale, presumably to make me feel sorry for him!

Needless to say he left having made no sale.  Including his pathetic security survey this whole experience lasted well over one-and-a-half hours! I expected this, because they are constantly trying to wear you down and some people will agree to a sale just to get the rep out of the house!

My advice

  • Don’t buy products and services from cold callers at the door or on the phone – period!
  • Do get yourself a telephone call blocking device – see our Directory
  • Do your own free Home Security Survey using the application on this website
  • If you want an alarm use a member of the NSI or SSAIB and shop around for the best deal. Use the information I’ve given you in Burglar Alarm Advice.
  • Contact your local Crime Prevention Officer or someone in your Neighbourhood Policing Team if you receive a cold call from a security company, just to make them aware.

Fortunately the vast majority of security companies and locksmiths are decent organisations and people that offer their products and services at sensible prices and are certainly not in the business of scaring the wits out of their customers!