This is an example of a moving scam. Common moving scams can force you to fork out extra cash, result in damage to your belongings or can even include the nightmare scenario described above. According to Moving Scam, a website dedicated to helping consumers avoid fraudulent companies, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has only nine investigators who handle complaints against moving businesses. This means that unfortunately, scams fall through the cracks. Here’s how to identify the most common moving scams:
The Moving Company Has a Sketchy Online Presence
If the mover’s website doesn’t have a lot of information, there’s no local address listed on Google and they have no social media pages, beware. Other red flags include fake reviews, bad reviews or no reviews.
They Aren’t Licensed and Insured
It’s moving day. You’ve packed up everything you own and now you’re sitting outside of your home waiting for the movers to arrive. They’re late, but you’ve already put down a deposit, so they’ll be here soon, right? It’s only after several hours pass that you realize that they’re not coming at all. They’ve disappeared with your hefty deposit.
How can you tell if they are? Just ask! And while you’re at it, search by company on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to confirm.
They Hold Your Items Ransom
This is the most common moving scam. A mover will give you a quote based on weight and then inform you that your items exceeded that weight and that you’ll need to hand over more money or you can’t have your stuff back. The reason isn’t always excess weight, but if a mover ever holds your belongings hostage in exchange for more money, they aren’t legit.
They Ask for A Lot of Money Up Front
Does the moving company want more than a quarter of the estimated cost up front? Even worse, do they want it in cash? Scam alert. They might be planning on taking your money and leaving you high and dry. You should never be shelling out stacks of hundred dollar bills prior to the movers actually even doing anything.
They’re Using Rented Trucks and Contracted Employees
If you call the moving company and they answer with “Hello?” instead of with the business name, they may be switching names often (a common tactic to avoid flack from the Better Business Bureau) and using rented trucks and contracted employees. Before using a moving service, confirm that they own their vehicles by checking USDOT numbers and verify that their employees are not contracted.
They Won’t Give You References
If you ask a moving company for references and they act like you’ve just asked them for a blood sample, run. Entrusting strangers to move your stuff is a big deal—of course it’s normal to ask for references! Any trusted mover will happily provide these.
Some of Your Belongings Go Missing
The move seemed fine but after unpacking you realize that you’re missing some jewelry...and that box that held your electronics feels a little light too. You’re not going crazy; you’ve been scammed. This may mean that it’s time to get the authorities involved.
The Price Seems Suspiciously Low
When comparison shopping for movers (What—you’re not comparison shopping for movers? You should be!), you might encounter a company with insanely low prices. Keep in mind the age old rule that if something seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
They Won’t Do a Home Estimate
An estimate over the phone leaves a lot of room for the moving company to jack up the price. Insist on a home estimate. If they won’t do one, don’t trust them.
They Make You Sign an Incomplete Contract
“Don’t worry,” the mover says, “We’ll fill in all of those blank spaces on the contract later!”
If all of those blank spaces leave room for fees that you didn’t agree to, you might be getting scammed.
There are Hidden Fees
Speaking of fees, look out for hidden ones. Does the moving company insist on unnecessarily wrapping your items in plastic wrap and then charging you for it? Did they tack on a fee because there was traffic on the way to your apartment? If a fee seems like it’s made up, it probably is.
They Don’t Ask for Details
A good moving company will be comprehensive when it comes to addressing your move. They should ask for an inventory list, information on flights of stairs, building access, parking restrictions and more. If you’re talking to movers who have zero interest in any of those details, they’re probably more invested in getting your money and getting the heck out.
So how do you avoid moving scams? It helps by keeping an eye out for the red flags mentioned above, but you can also take the time to read online reviews and check resources such as MovingScam.com and the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, don’t hesitate to touch base with the friendly staff at All Storage. As self storage operators, we see people move every single day and we’ve witnessed our fair share of both reputable movers and scammers, so if you need a recommendation or a second opinion, don’t be afraid to ask.