The U.S. home security industry rakes in billions of dollars a year.  That’s a lot of money out of Americans’ pockets – and it’s often well-spent, as long as you’re not getting ripped off.  Here are a few fishy things to look out for when purchasing a home security system.

1.“Free” Systems. Sometimes consumers get sold a “free system” that is anything but. To get that “free” system, you have to sign a fine print-laden, three-year contract for alarm monitoring services, charging you perhaps $50 month.  That’s $1,800 in total – far from free.

2.Auto-Renewing Contracts. Many home security companies require you to sign a three-year alarm monitoring contract. But be sure to read the fine print, because that contract might contain an auto-renew clause. That means at the end of three years, if you don’t specifically instruct the company to cancel your contract, that contract will automatically renew – and you’re on the hook again for another three years. And often, companies require your cancellation instructions to be delivered in a very specific way (by registered mail, for example) and within a tiny window of time. If you attempt to cancel in any other way, those cancellation instructions won’t count. 

3. Paying the Middlemen. Some home security companies are made up of a long chain of middlemen between the product and the customer -- the manufacturer, the distributor, the dealer, the salespeople, and the installer -- and each of them makes money off of you.  Keep this in mind when comparing monthly fees.

4.Expensive Maintenance Plans. Many security companies offer a “quality assurance plan” for their equipment.  For an extra monthly fee, you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong with the equipment.  If you don’t pay that monthly fee, you could be out hundreds of dollars for costly repairs if your equipment fails...while still paying your monthly monitoring fee, even if the equipment isn’t working.Alt=home security systems scamsbeware of home security system rip-offs

5. Moving Expenses. The security equipment that’s installed in your home may not be portable.  So if you can’t take it with you when you move, you have three options:  1) Convince the folks moving in to take over your security contract; 2) Pay a hefty cancellation fee; or 3) Continue to pay for monitoring services in a home you no longer live in.  Consider your security company’s cancellation policy if you think you might relocate, or instead, opt for a security system that allows you to own the equipment outright, like SimpliSafe.

6. Installation Charges.  Some sophisticated security systems require a professional to install them.  It might sound reasonable for the customer to pay for that installation, but be wary of companies offering “low installation” offers merely as bait to tie you up in a long-term expensive contract.

Before investing in a home security system, make sure you read the fine print and take a long-term view of all costs involved.  Protect yourself from home security system rip-offs.  After all, home security is pointless if your security company drives you broke – you’ll end up without a home to secure.