An ADT salesman had devised (or was at least using) a brilliant tactic: cold-call people and ask them how their ADT systems were working. If they said, “I don’t have ADT,” try to sell them one. What a great idea! How could it possibly go wrong? I mean, other than making people believe that they’ve just been cold-called by a burglar looking for alarm-less homes.
That’s what happened to J.’s family. They happened to receive another scammy call earlier that day, and were perhaps more alert than usual.
On Tuesday, my grandparents received a phony phone call from someone pretending to be me, saying he was stuck in Rome and needed money desperately to get out of legal trouble. My grandparents were aware that I had just moved from my mom’s house in Minneapolis to college in Pittsburgh, and had heard of this scam before, so declined the stranger’s request for funds and called my mother and I to tell us about it. Although we were thankful no real harm had been done, we were concerned how someone had gotten both my name, my relationship to my grandparents, and their phone number. We all moved on with our days ready to forget about this.
Later that evening, around 7 or 8pm, my mother received a phone call on her landline phone from “Bob” at ADT, asking how the security system was working. My mom began to reply “We don’t have a sec-” before she realized what she was saying. “Who is this?!” “Bob, from ADT. You know, the guys with the little blue signs.” My mom told him that the security system was working fine and hung up.
She was extremely frightened by this, because she had just told a stranger over the phone that she didn’t have a security system. She called to tell me about this second suspicious phone call, and both of us were extremely worried for the personal safety of her and my two younger siblings. I didn’t know how someone had gotten my family’s phone numbers, but I was nervous that they were coming after me, or them. Worse, I had just flown to a different city, so I felt like there was nothing I could do to protect them.
My mom noticed that the call had came from a number (it wasn’t blocked), so she looked it up online, and it was a wireless number not associated with ADT. I told her to call the police, which she did. An officer came out, listened to the stories about the phony calls, took down the number, and promised to investigate further to figure out who had called her. He said that they would do additional patrols around the house that night, so that if anyone was “watching the place”, they would know that the police were “on it”. I was nervous that if someone was watching, they would simply wait until the police drove by, and then break into my mom’s house while my family was sleeping.
Turns out, it actually was ADT. The officer called the number, and the man who answered claimed to be working for ADT, doing cold-call sales over the phone, using his own personal cell phone. If a potential customer replied that they didn’t have a security system, as my mom almost did, he then told them about the great deal ADT has to offer. The officer ran a background check on him, called his manager, and it turned out that everything was legitimate. He advised them that this probably wasn’t a smart sales method, and that they should expect to receive more calls like this if they continued.
The first phone call my grandparents received must have been an unrelated coincidence, but nevertheless it made the second phone call from “Bob” much scarier. I seriously thought someone was going to do something horrible to my mother that night for about an hour until the police had sorted everything out.
I feel like I can’t complain to ADT, since I’m not a customer of theirs, and neither is my mom (obviously). But I think more people need to hear this story – so they know to tell any strangers asking over the phone that they do have a security system – and so ADT receives a bit of bad publicity for allowing their employees to call customers from their personal cell phones late at night asking about their home security. I think ADT should provide my mom with free installation and a year of service to make up for this faux pas, but they definitely need to reform their sales policies so that they are calling from company phones at normal hours. Asking customers “Would you be interested in purchasing ADT home security?” is more straightforward and less threatening than “How is your security system working?”