Just like most other people taken in by this scam, someone came to my door asking me to "upgrade" my ADT security system in September 2007. The young salesman, Brandon, was from FirstLine Security. I get this quite often in my neighborhood and always say no to this kind of thing because I feel as if the people (usually young college kids) are coming to case my house more than anything else.
Brandon got lucky with me, because on that particular day I was had been considering upgrading my ADT panel since it was 7 years old and I was thinking about something new. Brandon told me that FirstLine was a subsidiary of General Electric (GE) and that the control panel he was going to give me was made by GE and would "save me money" by giving me a new system (all I had to pay for was the monthly monitoring service). He even had the GE logo on his polo shirt! He could offer me this "free upgrade/installation" deal only for two days (that was how long he would "be in the area") because I had to agree to be an advertising house, meaning they would put a sign in my yard.
The selling point for me was that Brandon gave me this big sell on how the "new" system would be wirelessly monitored. He played up the fact that this was a big deal because if an intruder cut the phone lines on my current system, the alarm would not be able to alert the monitoring system, and I could even set it up to send alerts to my cellphone. One caveat... I had to sign up for direct debit to pay for the monthly monitoring. A service that turned out to be double what my ADT monitoring service fees were.
One big concern I had was that I was about to start a major remodelling project and the last thing I wanted was to get into a contract and then have to shell out money to have the system replaced or have sensors moved. Brandon assured me that this would be no problem so against my better judgement I went ahead. The installer was at my house in 15 minutes replacing my ADT sensors with "new ones". The new ones look like they are lower quality and honestly don't even look real. I had a venting system (2 sensors on the windows so that you can have the alarm on and still have the windows open) and the installer only replaced the primary sensors.
He did nothing to my main ADT box in the garage (the actual box that sends the signals) and gave me a less than 5 minute demonstaration on how to work the new system. I immediately hated the new box. Its big and bulky and while it has voice prompts, its got this mechanical, annoying voice. I immediately shut it off. Once the system was installed, I never heard from Brandon or FirstLine again, until...
In March 2008 I received a random letter from Security Associates International, Inc. (SAI) stating "Thank you for entrusting your security needs to us." Blah blah blah, the letter went on. They are having trouble debiting my account for my security monitoring. Who are these people? I had no idea. I checked my bank account and found a charge in the amount of $44.99 dated the same date as the letter for SAI Fund. I did not complete the requested form attached to the letter authorizing them to charge my account. My system had been disabled since December 2007 due contruction and my remodel. I was never able to get ahold of anyone at FristLine to inform them that my system was being disconnected, and they never contacted me to say that there was suddenly no signal coming from my system. I never heard a peep out of anyone until this SAI (also a scam company) came on the scene.
I started doing some research and found that FirstLine ran a major scam (google search: FirstLine and "the Prodigy"), in which they told a bunch of college kids they were doing a reality TV show like the Apprentice. FirstLine has since filed bankruptcy (January 26, 2008) and SAI seems to have taken over the "monitoring" of their security systems.
I called SAI to get them to stop direct debiting my bank account and cancel my system. Good luck there. First you can only call them (1-866-239-0730) between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm central time (so much for 24 hour service). When you call, the "representative" will not give you their name. When I told her I had a system with FirstLine and I wanted to cancel it, she rudely informed me that in order to cancel, I would have to "buy out the contract". Um no. I told her that FristLine breached it contract with me and I would not be buying out a bogus contract. She informed me there was no breach of contract and that the contract states that they may assign or sell the service to another party. I informed her that this was a scam (its all over the internet and has been reported on news stations throughout Northern California), that my system had been disabled since December 2007 and I never received any contact or communication from FirstLine, SAI or anyone else telling me that my system was not sending a signal (something that difficult for even a wireless system to do when its been ripped out of the wall, is sitting on a shelf with no power to it whatsoever). The reps brilliant response: "Nevertheless, you will need to buy out the contract to terminate your service."
What?! Nevertheless? You are telling me that you are not monitoring my system, there is no breach of contract, and I haven't heard a peep from anyone regarding this system since the day it was installed except one letter from SAI saying they couldn't charge me? I couldn't believe it. I told her she'd be hearing from my attorney and hung up. I've since called my bank and issued a fraud investigation, cancelled my debit card so they can't charge me any more, and am posting my story here. They won't be getting another dime from me.
This is absolutely disgusting. I understand buyer beware and I'm at fault for falling for this scam, but there must be some protection out there for us against these people.