How home security system tricksters talk their way into your home: Internet Scambusters #640
The very thing you use to warn would-be crooks that you have home security installed could actually make you a potential target.
Unscrupulous sales people are on the lookout for security company signs in front yards so they can claim to be working for the company, as we reveal in this week's issue.
We also have an urgent warning about a dangerous email that sets out to steal details of your Apple account and credit card details.
Let's get started...
Are You "Signing" Up for a Home Security Scam?
Got a home security system? Got a sign in the front yard, to warn off would-be burglars?
Bad news. Both of those make you a potential target for unscrupulous alarm system sales people.
They patrol neighborhoods looking for those signs, which also usually mention the name of the security company.
Then they knock on the front door, claim to be from the firm and tell you it's time to upgrade your system.
Then when they get inside, they'll continue the lie and warn you that your old system is no longer reliable enough to counter modern theft techniques and they'll offer you an "upgrade" at an inflated price but tell you it's a bargain.
We've written about these shady characters and their tricks before in Watch Out for These Home Security Systems Scams.
But it seems their behavior has gotten worse since they hit on the idea of looking for signs of existing installations.
In fact, one security system owner is shown allegedly explaining how to use this technique in a presentation secretly filmed and shown by the investigative TV show 20/20: Investigation: Some Home Alarm Salesmen Accused of Underhanded Tactics.
Their targets are older-looking signs, which often have the date of the original installation printed on the back.
The program makers also installed hidden cameras in a potential buyer's home and subsequently confronted the sales person about his credentials.
The investigation revealed that thousands of subscribers to one of the major, legitimate alarm companies, ADT, had been conned into taking out new contracts with other companies, believing they were still working with ADT.
ADT says that the incidence of salespeople passing themselves off as employed by the company is worse than ever.
And it points out that ADT (and, we imagine, probably other security companies too) don't just turn up on the doorstep to discuss upgrades without first making an appointment.
But in our investigation we also discovered a whole bunch of new tactics other tricksters and even legitimate sales people are using to sell systems, in addition to the techniques reported in our previous issue.
- Following up local news reports about burglaries by canvassing affected neighborhoods and preying on residents' fears.
- Checking for external alarm casings and telling owners that the installer has gone out of business, so the system needs replacing.
- Spam, again using big names like ADT and GE, often offering free installations. They don't come from these firms. The names of anyone who responds to these emails is then sold as a hot lead to security firms who may or may not be legitimate.
- Offers of free installations concealing over-priced monthly monitoring and maintenance costs, with contracts for five years or longer. Victims who sign these deals usually find they can't get out of the contract without paying a penalty.
- Scammers posing as remote access technicians claiming they need access to your home network for security reasons.
This is a variation of a well-known scam we reported in an earlier issue, Latest Car Parts, Tech Support and Domain Name Scams.
In addition, thieves who aren't the slightest bit interested in selling you an alarm also go sign-spotting for the big names and then use that as a way of getting into your home and either stealing then and there or checking out the security system setup.
They may, for example, suggest something is wrong with the system and that it is no longer being properly monitored.
Once they get access to it, they may tamper with the device, rendering it ineffective so they can burglarize the property later.
Obviously, you should never allow access to your home or your security system without being 100% sure of the caller's identity.
For more information on how to avoid the home security tricksters, check out the guidance from the Federal Trade Commission we discussed in our earlier report, or visit the FTC page.
And remember: Anyone who knocks on your door without an appointment to discuss a home security system, installed or not, is a sales person. Period.
Alert of the Week
Do you have an Apple iCloud account? Then watch out for a very smart phishing trick that aims to steal your account and credit card details.
An email message that purports to come from an Apple-sounding address -- the one we saw claimed to be from "email@example.com" -- warns:
"...you have not yet updated your account information. Under 'Know your Customer' legislation Apple Inc is required to perform a validation of your account, failure to do so will result in account termination in less than 48 hours."
This is nonsense, so it's not surprising that the link you're supposed to click to "Validate your iCloud account" leads to a bogus page, which has nothing to do with Apple.
It asks you to key in all your Apple account details, including your credit card number.
Ditch this email straightaway if you get it -- and warn others you know who may have an iCloud account.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.