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ADT sign secret police?
August 10, 2014 6:55 AM   Subscribe

The other day, I had a uniformed guy come to my door and identify himself as a representative of Honeywell/Lynx asking about the ADT sign I have in my front yard (bought from eBay about a month ago). He seemed to know (or presumed to know) that I don't have ADT service and asked me if the sign was there when I moved to the house or if I'd "done that myself." Has this ever happened to anyone else?

I was caught off-guard, and I told him the sign was there when I moved in before I collected my wits and told him I wasn't interested, and he left, got back in his white SUV, and drove after a few minutes. I watched from a window to see if he'd try to take the sign, but he didn't. Does anyone know if this is the end of it or if I'll have more of these guys to deal with in the future?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
this sounds like he was casing your house more than a sales pitch. That's what it generally is when it happens by me (suburban outside NYC).
posted by kellyblah at 7:13 AM on August 10 [21 favorites]


This does not sound good. Was he holding, and did he try to leave with you, brochures about Honeywell/Lynx's alarm system offerings?

If not, I would be very concerned that he was casing your house for a burglary attempt and now knows that you do not have a working security system (or a dog, I presume, if none barked when he was at the door). If I were in this situation, I would ask for assistance from my police's non-emergency number, notify my neighbors, local Neighborhood Watch and listserv, and ensure I did the best I could to make my house otherwise as "bad" a target as possible (examples). Please also ensure that your insurance is up to date.

I may be overly cautious about such things, but to this Internet stranger, the interaction you described would be a very big red flag.
posted by argonauta at 7:13 AM on August 10 [17 favorites]


In my neighborhood, which has its share of break-ins, I'd call 911 on this guy the minute I walked back through the door. Agreed with kellyblah that this sounds like casing.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:20 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Yeah you were probably getting cased. Call the cops and let them know.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:33 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Please don't call 911 unless it's an actual emergency. Call police non-emergency, tell them what happened and ask them to increase patrols around your neighborhood. Ask to speak with your district officer (or neighborhood liaison or similar). If you still don't feel you are getting enough of a response, ask for the district sergeant.
posted by Beti at 8:34 AM on August 10 [19 favorites]


Depending on your local set up, call 911 next time. Most suburban & urban police departments have non emergency numbers you can call instead, largely rural areas may have 911 only instead. Ymmv.

Also, your city or municipality may require a yearly alarm permit to be displayed; if you do not have one it indicates you've either not paid for a permit or you don't have an active system. This person may have been code enforcent but if that were the case he should have been driving a code enforcement vehicle & offered ID or shown if asked.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:52 AM on August 10


I agree that casing is possible, but I also wonder if this is some kind of scam to sell you an alarm system. The people who sold you the sign know you are nervous enough about break ins to want people to know you have an alarm, yet you don't have an alarm. Soon after, Intimidating Guy shows up and says "No alarm, eh? Sure would be a shame I'd someone broke into your house. By the way, I happen to represent a firm that can help you out..."

There's nothing like this described on the google. I would call Honeywell and ask them if they had people canvassing your area. They might not know, or might not be willing to tell you, or your sales person might be some shady subcontractor acting on their own. But if Honeywell tells you yes, at least you have a pretty good idea you weren't being cased.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:00 AM on August 10


Please don't call 911 unless it's an actual emergency. Call police non-emergency

Our neighborhood association was instructed (by the police) that casing houses was an emergency and that we should call 911 for those issues.

Dispatch can't triage what they don't know about.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:16 AM on August 10 [14 favorites]


This happened to me a few days ago, but the guy did have a handout with a name, phone number, and ADT information on it. It still made me uncomfortable.
posted by wintersweet at 9:40 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


There's nothing like this described on the google.

"Casing the joint" by walking up to the house in broad daylight and speaking to the owner sounds much more like a silly movie version of crime than something that happens in real life in America in 2014.

If it makes you feel more secure, mention it to the cops, but I'd go with the simplest assumption: He was a salesman.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


You are misrepresenting that you have ADT security service, when, in fact, you do not. Now you are worried that someone is trying to rip YOU off? Subterfuge can play tricks on you.

My guess is that he wasn't a salesman, or if he was, he wasn't there to sell you anything (yet) he was there because he is trying to figure out what to do about all the people free-loading on the ADT brand.

You might get a sales call, you might get a cease and desist, you might get served papers if they decide that they need to make an example of you. Or, maybe he really is a theif. Either way, you should have assumed that there was always the risk that someone calls your bluff.
posted by Good Brain at 10:17 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


This happened to me a few days ago, but the guy did have a handout with a name, phone number, and ADT information on it. It still made me uncomfortable.
posted by wintersweet at 9:40 AM on August 10


It's incredibly simple to collect a handful of a company's brochures, and from the sound of it this alone can make someone seem "legitimate" enough to avoid a call to the police. See also hardhats, reflective vests and clipboards.

"Casing the joint" by walking up to the house in broad daylight and speaking to the owner sounds much more like a silly movie version of crime than something that happens in real life in America in 2014.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 AM on August 10


This is the exact modus operandi of a group of smash-and-grab buglers that worked their way through 5-6 Seattle neighborhoods a few months ago. My house was one of the ones that was hit, and multiple neighbors confirmed getting a visitor to their door that same day with a half-assed home insurance pitch. It was odd enough for them to take notice but not suspicious enough to call it in. My house was vacant at the time with no car in the driveway, so it was an obvious easy target once night fell and no lights had come on. The responding SPD officer confirmed my suspicions of how the burglars were operating and apologized for the delay in getting there, as he had been finishing up another burglary call in my neighborhood and had 3 more in line after me. So yeah, this is a real home burglary tactic being used in 2014, and frankly a bit genius in it's simplicity.
posted by bizwank at 10:42 AM on August 10 [14 favorites]


The big point here is that you don't need to answer any questions asked by any stranger who comes to your door. I sure wouldn't.
posted by The Deej at 10:45 AM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Call Honeywell/Lynx's customer service line for their security system sales. Ask if they sent door-to-door salesmen to your neighborhood on the day you had this experience. If the answer is yes, try to get them to confirm the identity of the person you met. Escalate up the chain if you need to. A good security company would want to know if there were people impersonating their salespeople.

If they won't help you, or if they confirm that this person wasn't affiliated with them, call the police and make a report. I think it's also a good idea to talk to your neighbors and see if they were also approached by this person. At the very least, it would raise everyone's level of alertness about intruders over the next few days.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:49 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I find it REALLY hard to believe that an actual home security system salesman would use an unmarked car and carry no paperwork during cold call visits, considering how common this scam is. Nthing you got cased, and additionally gave all the wrong answers giving him the go-head to come back. Call the police ASAP.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:04 AM on August 10 [5 favorites]


If you REALLY want to raise eyebrows, now go out and get some stickers and a different Alarm Company sign!

It'll look like you got spooked and installed an alarm after all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:42 PM on August 10 [14 favorites]


I used to sell ADT systems. One of the guys I trained with was a former Protection One salesman. There is no way this guy was in sales.

If he was selling you something, he'd have had a solid pitch. He'd have gone into why whatever brand he was selling was better than rigging up the ADT system you don't have.

He'd have pointed out that if the former owner had ADT, all the equipment would still be wired inside the house, and all you'd have to do is hook it up to his company's dispatch, saving you a ton on equipment and install costs.

For the commenter who says the guy left literature - that *screams* of not being in sales. That literature is actually a pain in the ass to get (at least when I was doing it), and you don't just give it away to someone without even trying to close a deal.

I give this guys 0% odds at being legit. Call the cops.
posted by colin_l at 2:00 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


Update from the OP:
Thanks to everyone for their concern and insights into this. You all spooked me enough to call the non-emergency line and make a suspicious person report. Couldn't hurt, they said, and they talked to a bunch of my neighbors so, for better or worse, I probably freaked everybody out.

It's possible that I was being cased, but drjimmy11's comment rings true to me: initiating a suspicious conversation with a homeowner about security systems (during which I didn't confirm anything) is a pretty clumsy way to go about casing my house. I could easily identify this guy. I know this could be part of a larger conspiracy, but this seems like a lot of work for a relatively small pay-off: a slightly more-confirmed suspicion that I don't have ADT. I don't put much stock in the effectiveness of alarm systems in deterring anything but the most opportunistic thieves (which is why I'm willing to spend a few bucks on the sign but not sign up for usurious service packages with a sleazy company).

I've had people try to sell me ADT door-to-door before. I remain convinced that this guy was some kind of ADT goon with access to a list of who has service and who doesn't and was going to give me grief about my sign if I'd let him go on. According to the police officer who talked to my neighbors, he didn't visit anyone else on the block. He was not friendly like a salesperson and his questions all regarded the sign. Here's the whole conversation, as I remember it:

(doorbell)
me: yes?
guy: I'm from Honeywell/Lynx, we manufacture the equipment for ADT. About your sign, did you do that yourself or was this from the previous owners?
me: uh, previous owners
guy: uh huh, and how long ago did you move?
me: a while ago, okay, I'm not interested
(guy leaves, gets back in his SUV parked in front of my house, leaves after a few minutes.)

I was mostly hoping for confirmation that such goons existed, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So it seems like I either skirted a sales pitch or I'm being cased. If it's the latter, at least I, and the police, know one guy to keep an eye out for.
posted by mathowie at 3:12 PM on August 10


It's possible that I was being cased, but drjimmy11's comment rings true to me: initiating a suspicious conversation with a homeowner about security systems (during which I didn't confirm anything) is a pretty clumsy way to go about casing my house.

The assumption that someone casing your house is going to be a strategic or tactical genius seems faulty.

Initiating clumsy conversations with homeowners is how 90% of the casing happens in my neighborhood.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:33 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


You can get wifi security cameras for quite cheap these days. Your security doesn't have to be perfect, just better than that of your neighbor's.
posted by vapidave at 7:48 PM on August 10


By the way, let me just add to my "you don't need to answer questions from strangers" comment above.

Many people (me included) aren't fond of confrontation, and want to be polite, even to strangers / salespeople / whomever when they come to your door. It's easy to get roped into giving more information than you should because you don't want to just tell someone to get off your porch.

So, here's my go-to response. As soon as it's obvious they are selling / canvassing / whatever, I interrupt and say with a smile "Sorry, I don't conduct business on my doorstep. Have a good day!" Some people might try to continue to engage or ask a question they hope you will answer ("Why not?" "Well, this isn't business!" etc.) Just repeat and close the door.

For some reason, my block is a magnet for door-to-door people of all stripes. I finally put up a sign saying "No soliciting, canvassing, or literature, please." It seems to have worked so far.
posted by The Deej at 7:15 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I had this happen to me from someone who claimed to be from ADT. He said he noticed the sign, and asked if I subscribed to ADT. I do, and told him I did. He muttered something about trying to make sure people with the signs actually had service, and he left. It was only afterwards that I realized a representative of ADT should know ahead of time which houses subscribe to ADT.

I finally put up a sign saying "No soliciting, canvassing, or literature, please." It seems to have worked so far.

My "No Soliciting" sign is completely useless. I've discovered it's because the people on my doorstep do not know what "soliciting" means. So now when they come, not only do I get pissy and shut them down, I point to the sign and give them a vocabulary lesson.
posted by reverend cuttle at 9:47 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I live in Oakland, and this is a known casing tactic.
posted by waitangi at 11:33 AM on August 11


Rolling back in late but, as someone else said, casing doesn't always mean "checking for easy access to the house you are currently looking at". It may also mean that you are looking to see which houses answer the door at a time of day when many people are at work.
posted by kellyblah at 7:36 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


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