SPEEDWAY, Ind. (June 2, 2015)-- An alarm company has fired a salesman and launched an internal investigation after FOX59 informed them about a customer who claims to have been duped into buying a system she didn't need.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told us it all started in early May, when a salesman for NorthStar came to her door. She said he led her to believe that he was there to upgrade her current system, adding that her current security company had moved.
"They came to the door and said that the alarm system that we had, they were moving their offices from Utah to Fishers and they would have to update the alarm system to their system," she remembered. "It was just 'bang bang bang. We're getting this done.'"
She said he convinced her to sign a contract, removed her Monitronics system, and installed the NorthStar system.
She only realized what had happened when bills for both companies showed up.
"I thought 'Hmm, this shouldn't be right' because the new company is billing me also. So I call Monitronics and they said, no we're not moving," she recalled. "There I realized there was a problem and that was really upsetting me."
She said she tried to cancel her subscription, but a sales representative told her she'd need to cancel the contract with Monitronics. Unfortunately, that comes at a price.
FOX59 took her complaint to NorthStar. Vice President of Customer Experience Ben Billingsley told reporter Aishah Hasnie his company had "zero tolerance" for such sales tactics. He said the company had opened an internal investigation.
About an hour later, Billingsley sent Hasnie this statement:
"NorthStar does not tolerate deceptive sales practices by its representatives. We track any and all allegations and take appropriate actions based on our investigation and recommendation of a compliance committee. In this particular incident, the representative had worked for another security company and had only recently been hired by NorthStar. He was already on a written probation as of May 22 and at this point the decision was made to terminate the employment of the individual based on his failure to comply with company standards.
NorthStar will also not double bill a customer that is under an unfulfilled agreement with another company. It is policy for any new customer to participate in a recorded Quality Assurance call prior to a new installation and a 2nd call upon completion of the installation to ensure understanding of the terms of the agreement and that NorthStar is a competitor of any prior service provider (if applicable). On this account, a third quality assurance call was done 38 days following the install. The company did not have record of any reported concerns with the sale in this particular situation. However, upon notification of any deceptive sales practice by a customer, it is the company’s policy to discontinue service and coordinate the reconnection with the prior service provider. Any amounts billed will also be refunded to the customer. "
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is investigating consumer complaints against NorthStar and other alarm companies accused of using deceptive sales practices.
"If it's a legitimate business we can go after them for deceptive sales. When they target the seniors, we now have a new statute the senior protection act, that we can go after them for additional fines and penalties," he explained.
His office is warning homeowners to be wary of door-to-door salesman no matter what company they represent.
The office has several tips to follow to avoid getting scammed:
- Do not rush into a decision. Avoid making a purchase directly from the seller the first time you are approached. If the seller is pressuring you to make an immediate decision, this is a red flag that it might be a scam. If a legitimate company wants your business, they will allow you to take time before purchasing.
- Do your research. Ask the seller for the name, address and phone number of their company. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Indiana Attorney General’s Office to see if anyone has filed complaints against the company. If you think the seller might be posing as an established security company or the current security company used in your home or neighborhood, contact the security company yourself to see if the seller is legitimate. Get the phone number from the company’s website or the phone book, not from the seller.
- If you do make a purchase, be sure to get a written copy of the contract and read the fine print, looking for hidden fees and the cancellation/renewal policies.