SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Home security companies are designed to protect you, but some clients who get locked into complicated contracts can end up with a major headache.

A Spartanburg woman was facing hundreds of dollars in false alarm fines and warns to watch out for those door-to-door, high-pressure sales tactics.

Out of all things, making a cup of coffee every morning is certainly not something that Sarah Pounds imagined would get her in trouble with the law.

“When I make my coffee, they’re calling me on this panel,” Pounds said. “When they call me on this panel, I come to it and I tell them there is not an emergency, please don’t send the police at my door and they still send police to my door.”

All those false alarms lead to a bombshell Pounds never expected, but before we get ahead of ourselves, Pounds explained it’s all because of a misplaced sensor in her kitchen.

Contract issues

She said she could not get Brinks Home, the security company, to fix the problem, so she said she asked them to remove the unit with no luck.

Pounds is not alone.  

Consumer advocates warn home security contracts can make it especially hard for customers to cancel, even if they aren’t happy with the service because they often extend beyond a year and have complicated auto-renewal policies.

“You are obligating yourself to a year, three years, sometimes five years. And these contracts auto-renew, and you don’t have the ability to cancel.  And what they often do is write in terms in there if you do cancel where you have to pay a fee to get out of it.  So, if you are not satisfied with their service, you can’t simply walk away from it,” Consumer Attorney Andrew Hart said.

He said these are common issues with many home security companies, so be sure to thoroughly read through any contract and have a paper copy. 

High-pressure sale tactics

Hart also warns to watch out for high-pressure sales tactics.  

“He knocks on my door, and he says we are going to put a doorbell camera in your house for free if you’ll allow us to put the sign in your yard, I said it sounds great, yes, you can do that,” according to Pounds.

However, she soon learned she was being charged $66 a month for the other cameras installed, which she said wasn’t made clear.  

Even though she admits to signing something on her phone, she said she never saw a contract.  

Still, that wasn’t the worst of it.

False alarm fines

Remember those false alarms?

“These are some of the bills I’m receiving at my door. Bills for $200 for the cops to come, $500 for them to come, another $200 bill coming,” Pounds said.

When Pounds reached out to “7NEWS Here to Help” her false alarm bills had already totaled $1,260 in the 3 months she had had the service.  

She told 7NEWS she was terrified when she saw how much she owed for the fines.  

“I got extremely scared and that’s when I decided to call Diane Lee with News Channel 7, and I needed help, and you were the one that gave me the help that I needed immediately,” said Pounds.  

Brinks home response

As for Brinks Home, the company sent us a statement:

“Brinks Home’s number one priority is providing the highest quality service and attention to all our customers. Upon receipt of the customer’s complaint, the Brinks Home team reached out to Ms. Pound to immediately address the issue. Following our discussions, we have canceled Ms. Pound’s account, per her request and waived any associated fees.”

Pounds has strong advice for anyone thinking of getting a home security system.  

“I have learned that if you don’t see a contract, don’t sign it.  And if you sign it, make sure you read it first,” said Pounds.  

Checklist before signing

Before signing a contract with a home security company, be sure to check reviews and compare quotes with other companies.

Also, check with the Electronic Security Association to make sure that company has pledged to uphold industry standards.