Home security system company imposters a growing concern in Wichita

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- A man who knocked at Kelly Billups' south Wichita home Saturday claimed to be with Protection One security. He said the company had just bought out her security system provider, Vivint. Kelly says he wanted to come inside and check the system to make upgrades.

But his disheveled appearance along with that strange story made her uncomfortable.

"I didn't like it at all," Billups said. "That's why I wanted to call police."

He was already gone when police arrived.

Protection One told KAKE News it didn't have any representatives in that area at the time and that the man is no way affiliated with the company.

Officers say the man was most likely an imposter.

After our story aired Sunday night, we received numerous messages from people saying they had something similar happen to them and they wanted more information. KAKE News dug deeper into the story.

Local experts tell KAKE people posing as home security employees is something that happens more often than you'd think.

"It seems to be a growing problem with people claiming to be a representative from one company when in reality they are misrepresenting themselves," said Denise Groene, Kansas Plains BBB State Director.

Groene says that's in part because of the increasingly competitive nature of the home security business. It's estimated there are now about 13,000 home security companies across the nation.

Many of them will come into a town or state for just a short period of time.

"Unfortunately, some companies resort to what I would call a lack of integrity in terms of their sales tactics," said Jamie Haenggi, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Customer Experience Officer for Protection One Security.

Haenggi says Protection One has received several complaints from customers. She says it's upsetting for the company which has been in business in Wichita for 25 years and employs more than 700 people.

In the complaints, the customers have told Protection One that after buying Protection One service, someone has actually shown up at their doorstep in a Protection One shirt or Protection One colors. But in each case, Haenggi says, it was an imposter who was unable to present a badge with an identification number to confirm they were with the company.

"The try to get into the home saying they'd like to verify something about the alarm system," Haenggi said. "What we've learned is that it was actually a competitor."

Most of the complaints come during the summer when home security companies do most of their door-to-door sales.

Haenggi says it'll be an especially busy summer in the Wichita area for Protection One. The Wichita office will host training that will be attended by all the national representatives from across the country. Part of their experience in Wichita will include door-to-door sales.

Given that influx of representatives and with summer nearly here, companies like Protection One and Vivint have some tips for homeowners. They want people to understand how to know if the person at the door is a true representative from a reputable company.

"Our people are instructed very clearly that they need to have the right clothing and the right identification at all times," said Steve Dixon, Vice President of Customer Experience and Operations for Vivint.

Dixon says the right clothing includes a uniform.

For Vivint, sales representatives will have on a grey polo shirt and will have on a baseball style cap with the name "Arm" on it. Technicians will have on a Vivint orange polo shirt and a baseball hat.

For Protection One, representatives and technicians wear a red polo shirt with grey shorts.

Both Protection One and Vivint say they require representatives to be well-dressed and clean cut. But they say much more important than the clothing is the identification badge. The badge will include an identification number that consumers actually can look up on the internet to verify the representative's status.

They say the representative should be willing to hand you that badge so that you can inspect it.

"It's important to take the time to verify the person is really with the company they represent," Dixon said.

Dixon says the case from this weekend in Wichita is a good example of how being cautious and taking the time to verify someone's company affiliation can help protect against an imposter.

"I would tell (people) to do what Kelly Billups did," Dixon said. "She was cautious, she asked questions. When something didn't seem right, she pushed. She did a great job."

Both Vivint and Protection One provide a service to consumers that they can utilize to look up an employee's identification number.

For Vivint, please visit http://www.vivint.com/en/company/verify-rep. You can also call, 866-780-2268.

For Protection One, please visit http://www.protectionone.com/verify. You can also call, 877-PRO1-911.

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