By Angie Hicks

Indianapolis Star

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair.

They’ll show up at your door unannounced and unwelcome, often using strong-arm tactics — such as fast talking and false promises — to pique your interest.

Whatever they’re selling, you shouldn’t be buying. It’s never a good idea to conduct business at your front door.

As the weather warms, it also becomes the prime season for door-to-door scams. A major one involves the sale of home-security systems.

“I tell people, unless it’s a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout knocking at your door, keep the door shut,” said David Myers, vice president of regional business development for Indianapolis-based F.E. Moran Security Solutions. “A lot of these companies generally take college kids and go nationwide. They usually get bad ratings and will change the name of their company and start over again.”

Myers has seen instances in which the salespeople say they are with the local company the homeowner has a contract with and then claim they need to do upgrades.

“The people will end up signing their contract, and the people will throw away our equipment,” Myers said. “The customer may not even own the equipment. Now they have two monitoring contracts. A majority of the (homeowners) don’t tend to do their research.”

Gus Apple, with Indianapolis-based Nelson Alarm, said other scams include companies from out of state selling inferior equipment to homeowners.

“They come door-to-door selling free alarm systems or systems for $99,” Apple said. “Then, they lock you into a long-term contract for three to five years. The equipment is inferior. I’ve known people that have been burglarized with this equipment, and the burglars just yank the alarm off the wall and it doesn’t work.”

Most people are caught off guard by these scams, Myers said. Aside from owning two contracts, the monthly service fees are generally higher than local companies charge. And the prices often go up after a year with the service.

There are several ways to avoid being scammed. No. 1, don’t fall for door-to-door sales.

“Whether they’re door-to-door or not, (the homeowners) need to call and verify,” Myers said. “They need to know who they are speaking with. Our company is never going to send someone out unbeknownst to the homeowner. The other thing, read the paperwork. That is by far the most important thing they need to do. Read what they are about to sign. The kids sitting across from you can promise you the world.”

Because security systems can be expensive and include a contract, make sure to do your research when choosing a company. This is important, Apple said, because some states do not require licensing for such work.

“Don’t sign the paperwork,” Apple said. “Tell them to come back. Always get three bids; talk to three different companies to give you a quote.”

Apple said homeowners need to resist high-pressure tactics. “The good ones will (work hard to) get you to sign that paperwork,” he said.