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Better Business Bureau: How to choose the right alarm company

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The installation of a home security system is much more common than in years past. In fact, many newer homes already come equipped with them.

Not only can a security system provide a line of defense against intruders, it can, in some cases, help lower insurance premiums as well as help ensure personal safety and the safety of family members. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some advice on things people should consider before signing an agreement with a home security company.

Before you choose a company you need to determine whether you are going to purchase the alarm or lease it. If you purchase the system, you'll own the equipment outright. A leased system may cost less initially, but it won't belong to you and could be removed from your home once you discontinue your service or switch companies.

Most alarm systems are linked to a central monitoring center. It's a good idea to see if the company installing the alarm will be the one monitoring your system. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of the company providing monitoring services. You'll want to research them as well at bbb.org.

Other things to consider:

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• Alarm companies frequently send sales teams to canvass neighborhoods in search of new customers. If you already have a home security system and the sales representative tells you that your service is about to expire, never take their word for it. Contact your alarm company and verify the expiration date on your contract. If the company claims they are acting on behalf of your current alarm company, verify that as well.

• It's a good idea to ask for identification. A reputable salesperson will provide you with all the information you request, including ID and a business card. It's always a good idea to contact the company directly to ensure the person on your doorstep is an employee.

• Does the sales person have a solicitor's license from the city you're in?

• Ask about false alarms -- will you be charged?

• Avoid snap decisions. Tell the salesperson you will consider the offer and get back to him or her after doing your research.

• Watch out for high-pressure sales pitches.

• Always research companies at bbb.org.

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