What Is Fake TV?
Using 12 LEDs to mimic the light emitted by a television, Fake TV promises to make it look like someone is home, thereby helping to protect your possessions and your peace of mind.
Specifically, when combined with its built-in computer and viewed from the exterior of your home, the device’s LEDs are said to “produce a cascade of varying intensity and color” that simulate the “scene changes, fades, flicks, and swells” produced by a real TV.
It also comes with useful features like a light sensor to automatically turn on at dusk, an adjustable timer, and a compact 3.2" x 2.7" x 2.5" and 4.5 oz size. And compared to your normal TV, you can run it as often as you want since it consumes the same amount of power as a nightlight.
Fake TV’s approach certainly seems unique, but will it really help prevent burglaries? Are there competing devices that might deliver greater value for the money? Let’s start by zooming in and quickly taking a look at the underlying problem.
Quick Facts About Burglary
According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, burglary is defined as “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a residence,” including other structures like garages or sheds, often with the intent of committing theft. In 2016 alone, the FBI reports that more than 1.5 million burglaries occurred, which accounted for approximately 19 percent of property crimes.
To help decrease the likelihood that you’ll fall victim, A Secure Life advises that one of the best things you can do is install a monitored home security system. Other options include:
- Installing deadbolt locks on all exterior doors
- Securing sliding doors
- Keeping valuables in a home safe
- Placing timing devices on lamps, which might include the use of devices like Fake TV
- Maintaining a well-lit property
- Avoiding mentioning vacation plans (especially specific dates) online, including social media sites
While some of these options could be considered pricey, let’s find out if it’s the same with Fake TV.
How Much Does Fake TV Cost?
One Fake TV device is priced at $19.95, plus free S&H. You can also purchase a second one at checkout for an additional $5.95 fee.
All Fake TV orders come from Telebrands (the largest ASOTV company in the industry) with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, less S&H. In order to request one, you’ll need to call customer support at 855-668-1655.
What Insight Can We Gain from Online Fake TV Customer Reviews?
We encountered more than 1,400 Amazon customer reviews for Fake TV at the time of our research, who had given the device an average rating of about 4.6 stars.
There, most compliments related to ease of use, that it provides solid value, and that it accurately simulates the appearance of a TV through blinds or shades. What relatively few complaints there were revolved around functionality (e.g., not bright enough) and quality (e.g., arrived broken, quit working after a short while, etc.) concerns.
In the Q&A section of the Amazon listing, customers provided some excellent insight not offered on the Fake TV website. For example, they emphasized that the device doesn’t actually simulate an image; it’s just a bunch of small lights that turn on and off randomly.
As such, you wouldn't want the device's front to be visible to a would-be intruder, so it works best when obscured from view through shades or blinds while aiming toward a wall.
Several customers also expressed concerns that unlike a traditional set, Fake TV doesn’t emit sound, although a company representative advised that you could tune a radio to a talk station to create the illusion of sound.
As far as specifications, we learned from these customer Q&As that Fake TV features a four-position switch, allowing you to choose the following options:
- Always on
- Remain on for four hours past dusk
- Remain on for seven hours past dusk
After choosing the appropriate switch position, more than one customer advised that Fake TV can plug into a light timer. When in operation, they advised it consumes about one watt of power, which—depending on where you live—probably won’t cost more than 10 to 20 cents per month to run full time.
From a safety perspective, Fake TV is said to be UL Listed (US and Canada),
tested for conformity to EU standards, CE Marked, and RoHS Compliant.
Are There Other Devices Like Fake TV?
While we didn’t test any of these devices firsthand, searching online marketplaces like Amazon for terms like ‘fake TV’ and ‘TV light simulator’ returned a couple of seemingly identical results as Fake TV, including:
- FakeTV FTV-10 Burglar Deterrent, $28
- Easyinsmile FakeTV 10, $23
Based on what we saw, we also encountered several that weren’t identical, but very similar:
- SODIAL(R) Home Security TV Fake TV, $19
- GXG-1987 LED TV Simulator, $23
Finally, a few were designed meaningfully different than Fake TV, but still constituted the same core functionality; i.e., a box with computer-controlled LEDs that flash in specific patterns to mimic the light output of a real TV, intended to deter burglars:
- FakeTV FTV-7 Burglar Deterrent, $23
- FakeTV FTV-11 Extra Bright Burglar Deterrent, $31
- SABRE Home Security Burglar Deterrent, $30
Outside of brightness (specifically related to the FTV-11 model) and price, we didn’t encounter any information during our research that paying more for a TV light simulator will necessarily deliver a greater level of value. What does all of this mean when it comes to Fake TV?
Our Bottom Line About Fake TV
Whether using traditional timers, devices like Fake TV, or more complex home automation systems, when it comes to using light to mimic activity and deter burglary, NPR’s Zhai Yun Tan emphasizes that it largely doesn’t come down to a single device.
For example, “outdoor lights should go on at night and turn off in the day, while lights indoors should go on and off in different rooms as if there is someone moving around.”
Even then, any lighting’s effectiveness also largely comes down your specific circumstances. Texas State University professor and criminal justice expert Marcus Felson, who was interviewed for the article, summarizes it this way:
“Lights can deter burglars from breaking in, but they often break in anyway after knocking on the door to see if anyone answers. Outdoor security lighting is effective if there are people — neighbors, pedestrians or police — to actually see suspicious activity.”
What does all of this have to do with the product at hand?
When discerning whether or not Fake TV could make it seem like you’re home and potentially thwart a burglary, based on what many online customers are saying, it certainly seems realistic (when properly set up). But if you’re looking to maximize its effectiveness, you might consider implementing it alongside traditional light timers, and perhaps even a monitored security system.
Ultimately, though, if you’re not satisfied with its performance, you might only lose a few dollars in S&H for giving Fake TV a try.