Could this be a scam?
July 10, 2010 9:39 PM   Subscribe

A couple of wannabe college students showed up at my door asking if I would be interested in a $1,500 home security system and lifetime service in exchange for posting a security company sign in my front yard. They left me a card to fill out that asked for all my crucial information, including social security number and date of birth, that had boxes to check for accepting, or rejecting, the promotional offer. The card they left didn't have the name of the alarm company on it, a website address, phone number, nada. What do the guys get out of it? The company pays them $500 toward their tuition for every customer they sign up. What does the company get out of it? Supposedly, free lawn signeage/advertising.
posted by zagyzebra to Grab Bag (28 answers total)
I smell a scam.
posted by xbeautychicx at 9:42 PM on July 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

At best, it's a scam. At worst, it's a really awful scam.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:45 PM on July 10, 2010 [10 favorites]

Honestly, I don't think there is any 'company' involved, they just want your info so they can so they can wreck your credit. Don't fall for it.
posted by xbeautychicx at 9:46 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

From googling "security system scam", there are a couple places talking about similar pitches where the contracts are very misleading: APX Alarm, Security Solutions door to door scam artists use lies to con you into signing a rediculous contract and Security scam should alarm homeowners (in other words, maybe not outright stealing your information, but not something good either).
posted by dreamyshade at 9:52 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, $1500 worth of merchandise for a sign. Sounds too good to be true. Ask them for cash in exchange for the advertising instead, no forms. :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:56 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Call up your local cops and tell them what happened. Offer to bring the card down to the station and talk to one of the detectives. Local cops keep an eye on possible con artists moving in.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:59 PM on July 10, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: well, they'd learn which houses don't have security systems, get a peek inside the house while they're describing the offer, and know that the person who agrees is dumb enough to believe that a company would fork out 2k for a sign in the yard. that seems like a pretty good way to case a house for later robbery.
posted by nadawi at 9:59 PM on July 10, 2010 [15 favorites]

and, yeah, this M.O. is just like the selling magazines, roofing, repaving driveways, storm damage, etc scams.
posted by nadawi at 10:02 PM on July 10, 2010

I would guess there is a contract involved with your "free security system". Probably cell phone like in length and early termination fees.
posted by bindasj at 10:07 PM on July 10, 2010

Don't most security companies charge a monthly monitoring fee? They probably make their money that way.
posted by Ostara at 10:07 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Identity theft. Plus they'll know if you have a security system and so on; that's handy for a B&E.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 PM on July 10, 2010

I've read about this exact same scam, but I can't recall the details. Let me ask Google.
Ah, thank you.

From the second link:
Richard of Detroit writes:
A sales representative came to my home as he was going fromm door to door. He told me that if I placed their company's sign in front of my house, that they would give my a home security system free of charge. All I had to do was to sign up for the service, and that if I didn't want the service later on, that I could cancel it at any time, and that the company may either take the system back out, or let me keep it.

What he didn't tell me is that after the three-day cancellation date if I decide to cancel the service, that theie contract says that I have to pay them 75% of the remaining service charge for a three-year contract.
So, basically you get a cheap alarm system; they get an expensive alarm monitoring contract.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:17 PM on July 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

What do the guys get out of it?

They get your personal information to use fraudulently.

The company pays them $500 toward their tuition for every customer they sign up. What does the company get out of it?

There is no company.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:18 PM on July 10, 2010

Joe in Australia nailed it.

It is, surprisingly, not as nefarious as an identity theft thing. They are trying to hook people into large contracts. We had the exact same thing (down to the cards with no real info for a company, and a huge amount of personal info requested) happening in my neighborhood all Summer long. I eventually had to stand on my porch and display a rifle to get one of the "sales" guys to stop walking up the steps after his pitch had been denied.

They are really pushy, and are basically hoping that if one person goes for it, the neighbors will see the sign and fall into it to. My neighborhood association ended up contacting the local and state police, and the BBB, and getting pretty active in keeping those guys out.

After the rifle incident, I never saw them again.
posted by broadway bill at 10:26 PM on July 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

i actually just remembered that an exboyfriend of mine worked at one of these "companies" - it was in a decrepit building, no signage, looked like a fly by night operation. he took calls, it was absolutely huge charges after cancellation. no one he talked to had the service for more than 2 months.

this is the same exboyfriend who sold speakers out of vans in parking lots.

he was always confused when i didn't consider him to be "gainfully employed".
posted by nadawi at 10:27 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Obviously identity thieves.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 PM on July 10, 2010

Not so much identity theft. It's a classic bait-and-switch. Joe in Australia has it.

This scam was dealt with on Watchdog: a consumer affairs show here in the UK. You can read the episode's synopsis here.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:37 AM on July 11, 2010

TheOtherGuy - it's also possible that they're making themselves look like the classic bait and switch scam to gain access to personal data for identity theft, or that both scams are being run concurrently.
posted by nadawi at 3:23 AM on July 11, 2010

We had the same thing going on in our neighborhood. Yours wasn't "Pinnacle Security", was it? When they came to the door, the young woman was a very talented salesperson, very personable and good at making connections. She even pointed out that as a corner lot we were an especially good place for them to put up their signs to advertise, so obviously that's why she was offering a free installation. She had me going, until I asked if she could leave the contract and some information about the package so we could discuss it. When she said she had no information except the single laminated card she was showing me and that we had to sign up right then to get the deal, I pretty much slammed the door in her face at that point.

The neighborhood listserv had a discussion and there was indeed the whole "if you try to cancel you owe us a ridiculous amount of money thing" which had been sprung upon some senior citizens who did sign up. Since we have a lot of renters who might not be here for more than a year, I can imagine them making a lot of money that way. Several folks managed to contact "Pinnacle Security" and complain. There was one young guy who identified himself to some neighbors as the "district manager" and said that a certain high pressure salesperson no longer worked for them. The same guy, when confronted by other people in the neighborhood, said folks who wanted to complain needed to contact the district manager. Yeah. Huge scam.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:56 AM on July 11, 2010

Oh, I forgot the other fun thing, which was they had presumably looked through crime reports and knew whose house had been broken into recently and used names of my neighbors as part of the spiel. One thing that raised my hackles was she kept telling me I lived in a high crime neighborhood. Since I love my neighborhood and feel very safe here I got suspicious right about then.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:59 AM on July 11, 2010

Best answer: I have one rule when it comes to this sort of thing: Anyone who comes to my door to try to sell me something that I didn't actually ask to come visit is always given a firm "no thank you." And yes, that includes Jehovah's Witnesses.
posted by crunchland at 5:01 AM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Indeed, why would you give them the time of day? Why open your door to them? What if they were in fact burglars casing your house to see if you already HAD a security system?

Anyone who buys anything from a door to door salesperson deserves to get ripped off.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:10 AM on July 11, 2010

If an email message appeared in your inbox with the same request, you'd have marked it as 'spam'.

There are a LOT of scams going around right now, with the economy.
posted by micawber at 6:57 AM on July 11, 2010

They don't need your SSN and DoB to sell you something, but they do need them to steal your identity. Massive, massive scam.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:36 AM on July 11, 2010

The question states two things that make it more than a simple bait and switch:

1. The $500 for college tuition bullshit.
2. The claim that the lifetime service is included free.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:01 AM on July 11, 2010

This is effectively a scam - it's happening all over the country. These security companies hire young college students to wall neighborhoods and door knock. They often scout out neighborhoods with older populations, as they are more likely to fall for the scam. Stay away, stay away, stay away.
posted by karizma at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2010

Response by poster: Interesting to see how many comments this post received. Right after the two door-to-door salespeople left, I called the police, who immediately dispatched a cruiser to look for them. Unfortunately, the police came up empty handed. The salespersons probably high-tailed it out of my neighborhood because they realized I suspected they were up to no good. I could have sent them away immediately, except in the back of my mind, as I was standing outside questioning them, I wanted to trap them somehow, then file a police report, BBB report, and maybe call the media. I live in a pretty small town, so if someone's doing something illegal, word travels quickly.

It was actually my neighbor/tenant who sent them over to my house in the first place. The salesguys approached him first, looking for the "homeowner." One of the salesguys actually bummed a cigarette from my tenant, and told him he was from a nearby town, which my neighbor believed. Afterward I called my tenant and told him under no uncertain terms was he to ever send someone to my house again. Ironically, this is the same tenant who got his $800 bicycle stolen in broad daylight because he left it on his front porch while away from his house. We have this illusion that nobody will mess will us because we live near the end of a small dirt road.
posted by zagyzebra at 4:56 PM on July 11, 2010

The APX people just came through my town. Total scam. One of these guys wouldn't take no for an answer and actually stuck his foot in the door at a friend's house and tried to come in uninvited. I doubt he would have done that if he had realized that, behind the woman with a toddler on her hip, was a big red-headed hulk of a man who likes to use his fists. Let's just say things went downhill fast.

APX scammed the old couple across the street. For that, I want to punch them, too.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2010

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