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New reports of questionable sales tactics from alarm companies

by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on July 31, 2012 at 9:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 31 at 10:40 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Just before dinnertime on Monday evening, a clean-cut, college-age man showed up at Robin Castellano's south St. Louis home. He told her that teens were burglarizing homes in the neighborhood and cutting phone lines to disable alarm systems. Castellano had a sign in her yard, indicating she already had a security system. The man told her he could help her with an upgrade.

"It just didn't sound right to me. I knew better because I've had different security systems in the past and they always had a fail-safe," said Castellano.

News 4 found a handful of burglary reports, taken over the last month, within about an eight block radius of Castellano's home on Mt. Pleasant Street in south St. Louis. None of the burglars cut phone lines, according to a St Louis Police spokesman.

Castellano hesitates to accuse the young salesman of purposeful deception.

"Who knows what he had been told... and by whom?", said Castellano.

She said he was professional and polite. He told her he was selling alarm systems to pay for his college education. She felt sorry for him because he was walking through the neighborhood in the heat of the summer.

A block away, News 4 met Irene Savoldi, who says a salesman knocked on her door last week.  Savoldi's experience was much different. 

"He was pushing the door," said Savoldi after she cracked it open to speak to him.

He told her burglaries were on the rise and that crooks could cut her phone lines, disabling her alarm. She, too, had a prominent security system sign in her yard.

Savoldi says she was so concerned that she immediately called her own alarm company while the salesman waited outside.

"They told me that I was completely covered by a backup on battery."

Savoldi says she returned to the front door and asked the man to leave.

"He says, 'Well let me come in and check it'," Savoldi says she forced the door shut.

Neither of the women took a business card from the men. Castellano and Savoldi each described seeing a different logo on the men's shirts. Both men wore some sort of ID around their necks and neither seemed to have a car nearby.

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about some home alarm salespeople who use deceptive tactics, including talking about a supposed rash of burglaries in the area. 

Salespeople may imply that they are from your existing alarm company and are at your home to upgrade your system. Once inside, they may install a new system and ask you to sign a new contract - according to the FTC. 

In May, Florissant Police warned residents about complaints that a Utah-based security company was using aggressive sales tactics. Police said the salespeople were going door-to-door and some were implying that they knew the value of the home and the items inside the house. Police said some of the salespeople became argumentative when asked to leave. 

Pinnacle Security told News 4, in May, that this was a "simple misunderstanding".

Pinnacle was never accused of breaking the law. The salespeople obtained solicitors licenses from the city.  Police say the complaints have since died down.

The FTC recommends customers get references from friends and neighbors before buying an alarm system and get written estimates from several companies before signing up.

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