An Alberta man who wanted to make his home safer by installing an alarm system was appalled to discover the security company sent a man with a lengthy criminal record. The alarm installer would later be investigated for allegedly stealing his credit card information and ID while in his home.
"It's unbelievable that somebody that's supposed to be there to make life more secure took advantage of their position and stole my identity," Gary Brenner told Go Public.
"It's not like somebody broke into my house or stole my wallet — they came into my house representing this security company — went through my personal stuff."
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Go Public's investigation found that only four provinces — B.C., Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador — require criminal record checks on employees or contractors in the home security industry.
Brenner lives in Cochrane, Alta., just outside Calgary. He hired Safety Alarm to install the alarm system in April, and it sent a contractor right away to do the installation.
In July, Brenner discovered fraudulent charges on his credit card totalling about $2,000 from purchases made by someone in British Columbia. He hadn't lost his wallet or credit card and had no idea how his card was compromised.
"It puzzled me," he said.
After his credit card company dismissed the charges, Brenner thought his problem was over, until he got a text message from a stranger.
"I was contacted by an acquaintance of the individual who installed my alarm, and she indicated she had seen copies of my credit card and my driver's licence … and she actually sent me pictures."
In those photos, Brenner's wallet is open and his credit card and ID are pulled out so the numbers are visible. The stranger also sent him a photo of the man she claimed was responsible — the same man who had installed Brenner's security alarm months earlier.
"Since I only met the person when he came to my house, we deduced that he had taken pictures — somehow opened my wallet while he was in here — and took pictures of my ID, my signature and my credit cards and their numbers," Brenner said.
Robert Michael McKay, 39, is now being investigated by RCMP in B.C. That's where Brenner's credit card was used for the fraudulent charges.
Go Public contacted the security company McKay was working for when he installed Brenner's alarm. Lior Leibovich is one of the owners of Calgary-based Safety Alarm. He said McKay only worked for his company for a few months as a contractor, not an employee.
When Safety Alarm hired McKay, Leibovich said, it checked his work history, and McKay had good references. But Leibovich said the company didn't do a criminal background check because it's not required in the areas McKay was working in.
"Mr. McKay came with recommendations, with experience working for different security companies.… He had three years of experience at different security companies before he come to work with us. He's not someone I picked up from the street or had no experience.… he worked in the security business for many years," Leibovich told Go Public.
Long list of convictions
Long before McKay worked as an alarm installer, he was breaking the law.
Go Public dug into McKay's background and found a long list of criminal convictions dating back to 1996, including for theft, forging documents and what's called "personation with intent," which span three provinces — B.C., Alberta and Ontario.
In November, McKay was charged by Calgary police for unrelated crimes including breaking and entering, theft over $5,000 and "unlawfully possessing an identity document."
No checks required in many provinces
The Canadian Security Association represents workers and companies in the electronic security service, including alarm installers.
"I think there is a huge misconception among the public," said association president Richard McMullen.
"The perception is anyone engaged in home security or commercial security would have a criminal records check and would be vetted."
Clearly, that's not the case. McMullen said the rules differ from province to province and often city to city. In some jurisdictions local police departments set the rules.
More victims suspected
The owner of Safety Alarm said McKay was fired in April, just days after he installed Brenner's alarm.
In June the company also filed a police report, which said McKay was fired for "liability reasons, poor quality of work and missing equipment provided by the company."
The police report also refers to another customer who claims McKay contacted him in June, after he was fired, saying he still worked for Safety Alarm, asking for the client's credit card information. That customer alleges he later found several fraudulent charges on his credit card.
Leibovich, the company's owner, said McKay didn't have access to alarm PIN codes, just credit card information. He said that since the McKay incident, he's started to do criminal checks on all employees.
Brenner doesn't blame Safety Alarm for McKay's actions, but said that when the company found out about the criminal allegations against its former contractor it should have contacted all the customers whose houses he entered.
"It's amazing that this could be allowed to happen and no one takes responsibility for it," Brenner said.
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