Common Moving Scams

Do your homework: learn about the various underhanded ways that unscrupulous moving companies do business that should raise red flags, and stay away from them.

An estimated 40 million Americans move each year, according to Melissa Data, and in 2013 alone, more than 10,000 complaints were filed against moving and storage companies. The complaints ranged from lost or missing properties, damaged furniture and other assets, damage to the homes that occurred during the move, rude customer service, overcharging, difficulty obtaining compensation for damaged and lost possessions, and goods that were held hostage until consumers paid additional fees.

While a great majority of moves happen without incident, there has been a steady increase in the number of complaints filed against moving companies over the years. You’ve heard the old adage “Knowledge is power”, and as consumers, arming ourselves with information can spell the difference between an uneventful move and a complete moving nightmare.

Moving is a stressful, hectic event and it can be tempting to settle for the first moving company you find in an effort to just get the whole thing over with. However, you might regret doing so – big time – if you happen to land a bad mover. Going the extra mile by doing a thorough background check on prospective relocation companies and learning about the things you should watch out for can save you a world of trouble down the line.

Multiple Business Names

Dodgy moving companies try to get around their shady reputation by changing their business names so they can continue ripping off unsuspecting clients. When checking companies online, make sure that the company declares a local address and phone number/s clearly on their website. When you call them, note if they answer with the full business name instead of something nonspecific, such as ‘moving company’ or ‘relocation service’.

Fake References

These days, it can be very easy for determined con artists to come up with a website highlighting fabricated testimonials from non-existent previous customers. Take whatever you read on their website with a grain of salt and ask for a number of references – actual people that you can talk to and obtain details from with regards their moving experience with the company. Better yet, do a background check through the Better Business Bureau or the American Moving & Storage Association. In addition, honest professional movers abide by the federal law that requires them to provide you with a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”, which should be given to you during the planning stages of your move. If a mover fails or declines to give you a copy of this booklet, choose another company.

Estimates Over the Phone

Estimates given to you over the phone are notoriously unreliable. It would be near impossible for anyone to guesstimate the size and bulk of your possessions sight-unseen. Furthermore, if a moving company sends personnel to conduct on-site inspection, make sure they do a thorough job instead of just perfunctorily scanning your assets.

Low Estimate

Moving can come at a price, and savvy consumers are always looking for ways to cut back on expenses, and scammers know this. Unscrupulous entities and individuals will offer you an unrealistic estimate to lure you in, and will inform you on the day of the move that the load is larger than the originally estimated and you will need to pay a much higher final price. What’s worse, these scammers will often refuse to deliver your possessions until you pay them in full.

Large Deposit

Only fraudsters will ask you for a large deposit before the actual date of the move. Generally, reputable moving companies may ask you to pay a small amount, such as $50, to reserve the particular date of your move, and will have you pay in full upon delivery of your belongings.

Incomplete Paperwork

Never sign a black or incomplete document, whether it’s a contract or inventory list. Get everything in writing. The estimates, all fees, pickup and delivery dates should be stated clearly in the contract, as well as any and all requirements, negotiated terms and conditions in the Bill of Lading, otherwise, the movers can just fill in the details to their liking. Similarly, make sure that all your goods are listed and specified in the inventory form and on their boxes/containers. Read all the documents from top to bottom and make sure you understand the content and agree with it 100%. Check to see if there is any fine print that includes a clause which indicates the price is subject to change under specific conditions.