Door to door alarm scam: fake agents selling new policy to victi - Tucson News Now

Door to door alarm scam: fake agents selling new policy to victims

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Scams associated with the alarm industry have come to the attention of the State Board of Technical Registration (BTR). Unlicensed agents have targeted houses with posted signs stating the house is already protected by an alarm company, especially in retirement communities.

Individuals claiming to be alarm agents have been going door-to-door, telling homeowners that their account has been taken over by a different alarm company and that the agent would need install new equipment and have the homeowner sign new paperwork. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that the homeowner is now on the hook for two separate contracts, and likely owes money to their original alarm company for the equipment that was taken out of their house. 

In other cases, the scammer may present themselves as an 'authorized dealer' for an alarm company and that they need to install updated equipment in order to offer expanded services at no additional cost. In reality, they are selling a new contract with an unspecified company, despite the fact that they display the logo of the current alarm company.

BTR has learned that tracking down these bad actors is extremely difficult and the alarm companies typically state that they had no idea that these contracts were formed in a deceitful way. 

"[The problem is] as a regulatory board, we are not proactive in searching out violators of our practice act, we are reactive. Meaning that when we get complaints, all we can do is send out our five investigators to gather evidence," said Melissa Cornelius, Executive Director of BTR, in a recent House Commerce committee hearing. "But we don't have the authority, under statute, to issue citations for crimes that occur immediately. Those cases would have to be referred to a city or county prosecutor, or the Attorney General's office."

Cornelius believes that the Department of Public Safety would ultimately be a better fit for this industry. "They currently register private investigators as well as security guards and, in doing so, they do a criminal background check that the legislature has required for alarm agents and controlling persons of the firms." 

Transferring authority to DPS would also allow the alarm industry to be regulated by a proactive agency. 

However, until the time that BTR is given the authority needed to properly regulate the alarm industry, or regulatory authority is transferred to a more suitable agency such as DPS, the best defense against these scams is the following:

1. Remember that most, if not all, reputable alarm companies will never send agents door-to-door to earn business.

2. Ask to see their certification card issued by BTR. Since alarm agents are required by law to be certified by BTR, they are given an agent card to carry. The card should have their name, picture, and registration number, along with the Arizona State Seal. If they do not have this card, do not let them into your house. If they do have this card, call BTR or check the website to verify the agent is in good standing.

3. Thoroughly read any paperwork before signing.

4. If the agent is claiming that they have taken over your account from your provider, call your alarm company to confirm that the story you are being told is legitimate.

Those who have fallen victim to one of these scams, or have been approached by an uncertified alarm agent can file a complaint with BTR by sending a written complaint to the Board's enforcement unit, 1110 W. Washington Street, Suite 240, Phoenix, AZ 85007.  Or send a complaint via email to complaints@azbtr.gov, or call (602) 364-4930.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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