As we sat down to write this article it occurred to us there will be several people in the industry upset when they find out about this article. Our attempt is not to harm any legitimate security company but rather to educate the unsuspecting consumer about some of the shady secrets that go on today in the industry. We hope to give the consumer a fighting chance when selecting their next security provider. These are our top 7 items to look out for!
1. Security Cameras Can be Hacked or Remotely Turned On
Every day you read about “Russian Hackers” and the harm they are doing to our political system. Well, they are also frequently known to also be hacking into commercial & residential security cameras. They then post online your camera IP for the entire world to view. We were interviewed on a news station about the ongoing hacking and you can view it here. One of the best items of advice we can give to minimize your risk is to CHANGE THE DEFAULT PASSWORD and make it 10 or more characters. We also have another article here.
2. Inexperienced College Kids go out During the Summer Selling Security Systems
Every summer thousands of college kids on summer break hit the streets to peddle security systems by going door-to-door. A majority of these summer students have little or no training and are not even properly vetted in the community they are soliciting. Unsuspecting consumers get lied to about the services and products and in some cases are letting unlicensed people into their homes. If you didn’t request them to come out in the first place, it is wise to politely tell them you are not interested and shut the door. Many state agencies have started coming down on these companies and their salespeople by fining them. Here is one of the most recent articles.
3. Affiliate Marketing Review Sites
This is one of the newer scams in the industry to spring up. You will see professional looking websites who act like they are a “Consumer Reports” type of website for the security industry. They will claim they have properly vetted a company and give them a review or ranking. Most people are not aware these are just affiliate marketers. They list any company that will give them $$$$. They do not accurately review or inspect any company. You are just falling into their money trap. Never ever take advice from these type of websites.
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.
4. Hardware (panels, cameras, motion) is Frequently Purchased from China and have Exploits
A lot of startup companies try to find the cheapest hardware to peddle to their customers. Frequently this involves purchasing mass produced hardware from China. On the surface, this seems like a good business strategy. Unfortunately, some of the unregulated manufacturers have been known to hide exploitable software in the hardware they are selling. You end up with this equipment installed in your home or business and now your are an unknowing hackers target. This article explains how a lot of DVRs were brought over to the United States that had these type of vulnerabilities. It is wise to always shop with a vendor that has been around many years and participates in industry associations. They purchase hardware from reputable manufacturers and know what to look out for to protect the consumer.
5. Monitoring is Farmed out to 3rd party Centers. Possible Overseas
A majority of smaller companies are using 3rd party monitoring centers. These centers can specialize in alarm monitoring and frequently offer a quality service. Unfortunately many times the consumer is never made aware of this practice. If an unforeseen event happens you may be arguing with a company that has no financial interest in you as well as your selected alarm vendor. Additionally, some security companies have been known to forward your alarm signal overseas to a cheap monitoring center. This is never a good idea to have your security system monitored by someone in another “unregulated” country.
6. Companies Lie About Their Credentials
This is one of those items that is not specific to the alarm industry. Year after year you hear about some company selling a service or product with “XYZ” certification. The consumer thinks they are getting a bargain and never verify the credentials of the service or product. In the alarm industry, companies will say they are UL® Listed or they are an A+ member of the Local Better Business Bureau (BBB). Always verify a company claim.
7. Not Licensed to Operate in your Community
Several state and local communities have licensing and regulations regarding alarm companies and their personnel. If you deal with an out-of-state contractor it is highly unlikely they have gone through the proper vetting of licenses and procedures. Your local government sets these requirements up to protect you the consumer. Make sure the company you deal with has all the proper identification and paperwork. You can usually call your local business office or sometimes police department to find out what requirements an alarm contractor must have. Again verify all claims by a potential contractor before signing up with them.