A couple in Kansas were left shaken Sunday after a man claiming to be from Protection One security services showed up at their home and asked to come inside. Kelly Billups and her live-in boyfriend said that the man arrived in sweatpants, sweatshirt, and jeans, but he did carry a folder and a badge. The story the fraudster spun to the couple was one of service.
Apparently, when asked what he needed to do at the house, the man explained that Protection One, his fictional security company, was taking over for Vivint, the company that had just installed a complete security system for Billups and her boyfriend a few days prior. He wanted to come inside the house and for the couple to sign some kind of agreement. Luckily, the couple knew enough to push the issue, calling the police and sending the man running. He was gone by the time police arrived.
Can Homeowners Defend Themselves from This Type of Fraud?
Unfortunately, this sort of situation is not exactly unique. Posing as security professionals is a great way to gain access to marks’ homes, after all. By taking simple steps and asking some key questions, homeowners can scare off any would be fraudsters, hopefully before they have a chance to do any damage.The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), based out of the United Kingdom, has been in the business of home security since 1958. Like many in the security sector, the MLA understands how difficult it can be to spot impostors, like the man the Kansan couple encountered. If someone shows up at your home unannounced and claims to be from your security agency, the MLA suggests, you can take three steps. First, look online to see if the alias the impostor is giving you has been flagged by other victims. Next, ask them for their ID, and if they’re from a locksmith or security firm, ask them for their certification. Lastly, ask the suspicious party for their office address and look it up in Google Earth or other web mapping program. These tricksters are often too stupid to give an address to a location that isn’t already occupied by another company.
“When hiring a company for home or business securities, it’s important to check all of their credentials for access,” explains Vlad, Owner of Direct Locksmith Inc. “Security companies should always have the required credentials to prove they are legitimate.”
Governments Ready to Help
Recognizing that this is a very serious problem, many government agencies are now making it their responsibility to warn consumers about scam artists and protect them through the power of law. Checking your local government webpage can give you clues as to what your locksmith or other security professional should have on their person to prove they are who they say they are. For example, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed the Locksmiths Licensing Act in 1996. The law requires a locksmith certification or license to be carried at all times while acting in a professional capacity. Any person failing to produce such a document should subsequently be turned away from your home, and the police should be notified.
Have you ever experienced fraud of this kind? If so, how did you handle the situation? Share your tips with us in the comments below.