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Security company 'alarming' residents

Some residents felt scammed, while others signed on

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A security company new to Juneau has alarmed residents this week, just not in the way it had hoped.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

While some residents believed they were being scammed when approached by the company's sales associates, others have signed on to Pinnacle Security, based in Orem, Utah.

The company began marketing in Anchorage and Fairbanks last summer. Its marketing in Juneau started last week, with six systems installed in Juneau on Tuesday alone.

Initial concerns started Monday night when a woman called police after a man selling security systems door-to-door asked repeatedly to be allowed inside, according to police. The man said she had been chosen as the first to receive the system for $50 a month, which would then be monitored by the Juneau Police Department once installed. He provided a cell phone number but then told the woman she wouldn't be able to call the number in the future if she decided to buy a system at a later time.

JPD spokeswoman Cindee Brown-Mills said the department doesn't enter into such agreements regarding home security systems.

In a separate incident Monday, a Juneau resident reported a similar encounter where a man attempted to sell a Pinnacle security system for $44.95 a month, if the homeowner allowed a sign be placed in the yard advertising the system. The witness told police the salesman, wearing a Pinnacle baseball cap and blue jumpsuit, didn't have business cards and spent a long time standing near the mailbox taking notes prior to approaching the residence.

Pinnacle Security COO Steve Hafen said the company's sales associates are required to undergo training and certification, and review the company's code of conduct. Hafen was unable to confirm if his employees, about half a dozen working in Juneau, were the ones described in the police reports.

"Unless the individual went out prematurely, it certainly wouldn't be something our company would endorse," he said. "I would be surprised because we do have a training and certification process that our sales representatives go through.

Hafen said the salesmen in question may have been posing as Pinnacle employees.

"We can't stop a guy from wanting to go out and try to sell, but he wouldn't have his badge or have the ability to actually process a customer if they wanted a system," he said. "Those who do have badges, shirts, and uniforms that identify them as a Pinnacle sales representative would have gone through that process."

Need for alarm?

Pinnacle Security has a somewhat controversial history, receiving an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau due to contractors working without the proper licenses, deceptive sales tactics, improper conduct by workers and unlawfully selling of equipment and services.

Hafen, who has been with the company for 2 ½ years, said those problem are in the past. The complaints noted by the BBB, which came from Oregon, Utah and California, were resolved out of court.

"We have absolutely dealt with these and there really haven't been any that have ended up in any type of litigation," he said. "There was a lawsuit in Chicago and we cooperated fully with them to make sure we understood what the issues were and we believe we addressed those issues fully."

The BBB notes that the nature of complaints and a company's response are more important than the number. Of the 1,138 complaints on file about Pinnacle Security in the last 36 months, 686 were resolved in the last year.

"We take any infractions seriously," Hafen said. "And we are always trying to improve on them. We fully expect to have a better year in 2010. As with any organization, we have consumers who have issues but that represents less than half a percent."

Hafen said that if anyone has a concern or question they should go to the pinnaclesecurity.com Web site and contact customer service. The salesman's badge number can also be traced to a photo on the site.

Established in 2001, Pinnacle Security used to be a dealer for ADT, the nations largest home security company. It is now a direct competitor. Pinnacle Security has more than 1,700 sales representatives working in 80 locations, and more than 200,000 customers nationwide.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

Better Business Bureau tips concerning home security sales:

1. Some companies will offer a "free" alarm system. While the equipment and

installation may be free (make sure this is in writing), there is a monthly

monitoring fee. When you compare costs, make sure you compare all the costs.

2. Find out about local building codes and regulations regarding burglar

alarms (including costs for false alarms).

3. Check out the company that will be monitoring your system. Ask if it is

the same company you are signing a contract with. If not, make sure you

obtain the name, address and phone number of this company.

4. Consider advantages and disadvantages of each system and decide which

will be best for your particular situation.

a. Does the company call you first before notifying the police?

b. Does the company call the police first?

c. Does the company have a security patrol car that will check out the alarm

and if necessary call the police?

d. How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?

e. What happens if the alarm company is unable to reach you when the alarm

is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate

numbers called?

f. Ask for procedures in writing, so you are aware of the steps and can

anticipate how you can best handle the situation.

5. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company at the Better

Business Bureau's website, www.bbb.org.

6. Don't be pressured into buying something you don't want or need. A

reputable company will let you check out the offer and compare bids from

several installers.

7. Make sure it includes all promises made by the sales person. If the

promises are not in the contract do not sign the contract.

8. Study the contract carefully. Confirm information such as:

a. Installation price

b. Monthly price

c. Length of the contract (most contracts are for at least two years)

d. That any free or discount offers have been added

e. Cancellation time frame to cancel the contract. The Federal Trade

Commission requires that at least three days be provided (www.ftc.gov, three

day cooling off rule).

9. If you are planning on moving ask what happens with your contract, and

get that information in writing from the sales person.

10. After your purchase, make sure you check the system routinely to be sure

it is in working order.

11. If you are having problems with your alarm, make sure you document

dates, times, who you talked with, who came out and what was fixed.



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