Have a home security system? How about two? One North Texas man found out his parents had monitoring contracts with two different security companies. When he couldn't get it resolved, he emailed NBC 5 Responds and asked for help.
Ben Swinford found out about the issue almost by accident when his father's bank called him, concerned about fraud on his father's account. Swinford looked at his parent's monthly bank statements and noticed something unusual.
"We got these monitoring systems," he said of the security system charges that showed up on the bill. He saw two monitoring systems, not one.
Swinford's father, 89-year-old Jim Swinford, knew nothing about the two separate monthly charges, which had been deducted from his bank account for months, and didn't know he had two separate contracts.
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Jim Swinford had brain surgery around the time he signed up for the first system about a year ago. Four months later came security system number two.
"If you figure it out," said Ben, "That's $3,000 each contract."
Or a total of about $6,000 for both 5-year contracts. Jim Swinford has already paid a total of more than $1,000 to both companies.
Jim Swinford was able to make light of it when he talked to us. "I didn't realize that I was as far gone as I am," he said.
Ben Swinford contacted both companies, Alliance and Vivint, to stop the monthly payments.
"He really wasn't capable of understanding what was going on — so in that regard I thought that they should be able to get out of them (the contracts) and I tried to do that. So far no avail," said Ben Swinford.
Then he contacted the team at NBC 5 Responds.
"We're not asking for that back. We're just saying all right, our bad. They didn't understand. Just let them out," said Ben Swinford.
We contacted both companies and provided them proof that Ben Swinford has power of attorney for his father. That means he can make financial and other decisions for his father. Both companies agreed to let Jim Swinford out of both contracts.
Alliance did not comment.
Vivint sent us this statement:
"To our knowledge, Mr. Swinford did not know he had an existing, active contract .. when he agreed to an installation of a Vivint system. He signed a contract and completed a verbal, pre-install survey agreeing to the service terms. Once we were made aware of the dual contracts and received confirming documentation, we canceled his account."
If you're thinking about signing up for a home alarm system, get written estimates from several companies and ask questions like:
- Who will install the system?
- Who monitors it? Sometimes they're different companies.
- What happens if you move?
You can search for information about companies here where you can look up their license.
Once you've picked a company, read the fine print before you sign. Look for the installation price, whether there are monthly or quarterly monitoring fees and the exact contract length. Also, find an explanation of your right to cancel the deal. Don't be rushed into any agreement.
More information can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website. The state of California also has some good information for consumers. So does the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.