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Protect yourself from being ripped off

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 10:10 a.m. CDT

Summer is a time for fun in the sun, vacationing and outdoor adventures. Unfortunately, it is also a busy time for burglars. Investing in an alarm system may be a necessary purchase for some homeowners. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is advising homeowners, who are looking to install a home security system, to do research first.

It is not uncommon for unethical salesmen to go door-to-door with high pressure sales tactics, making homeowners act quickly. They will go over the big details of their system and rush through the process to make a sale. Unfortunately, the sense of urgency these salesmen give to their customers can lead to a lot of trouble later on if the proper research is not done.

“A home security system is a major purchase, and it is important that you research thoroughly before making any decisions,” said Steve J. Bernas, president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “There are many door-to-door salesmen that may not have your wants, needs and safety as high on their list of priorities.”

The BBB advises consumers to do the following when looking to invest in a home security system:

• Choose a professional installer. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company’s Business Review with your BBB first at www.bbb.org You may also get a recommendation from the insurance company that covers your home. Carefully consider your security requirements. The best home security system will accommodate your lifestyle and the specific valuables you want protected. Review the sales contract closely to ensure you understand exactly what equipment and protection you will be provided and that it fulfills your wants and needs best. Contact at least three companies before selecting an installer. Research multiple companies and find out if they are properly licensed in Illinois and if they screen employees before hiring.

• Ask about all charges up front. Prices for home security systems will vary greatly, based on the level of protection and type of technology used, so be sure to know your budget and compare bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in the initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring charges. Talk to your insurance agent; some systems may qualify you for a discount on homeowner’s premiums. Ask for a complete inspection of your property and an itemized written estimate. Know the ins and outs of your contract. If your alarm system will be monitored, either by your installing company or by a third-party monitoring center, find out the length of the contract. Typically, monitoring contracts are between two to five years in length. Some questions to ask before you obligate yourself to a long term contract:

1. What is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided?

2. Can you cancel the contract?

3. What are your rights if your monitoring company is purchased or acquired by another alarm company?  

• Insist the installer “walks” you through your system until you fully understand how it works. This will prevent the most common problem: False alarms. False alarms are an indicator of the quality of the alarm installation and user education. Make sure that you are aware of how your system works and that all of you questions are answered.

For more information on finding businesses and consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org.

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