There’s no question that choosing a reputable moving company for your long-distance move is important. There are a lot of moving companies around, but moving scams are everywhere. The Better Business Bureau has more than 13,000 F-rated movers because those shyster companies have so many customer complaints that they never resolved.
It’s about more than money. Common moving scams include holding your belongings hostage until you pay some mysterious extra costs. Moving company scams are everywhere, and the smart consumer has to be careful to hire a reputable company.
You have to research companies, check the fine print, make sure they adhere to federal law, and check their reputation in the moving industry.
The internet has made it easier for scammers to scam, but it also makes it easier to do your research. Moving fraud and moving scams are everywhere.
Your research can uncover a mover’s complaint history from past customers, whether they have a physical address, whether they have liability insurance and all the other information that can help you judge if you are dealing with the right moving company or a moving scam.
Here’s how to tell if you’re hiring a reputable mover before you have fallen victim to moving scams, how to avoid moving scams and what do about it if you’ve been a victim of a scammer.
Moving Scams: Know the Red Flags
There are a lot of red flags that indicate moving company scams that, if spotted, can help you avoid the unfortunate circumstance of hiring a scam moving company. Before we go into the most common moving scams, it is important to know the warning sign. Take into account red flags such as:
Company information is hard to come by
You’ll probably use the internet to do your research. Look at the website of the moving services carefully. Do they have a physical address? What about proof of registration and insurance? If you call, it’s likely you’ll get a generic response with no brand name, just “moving company” or something similar.
Moving companies that only do phone and not an in-home estimate
A reputable mover will come to your home and see how much stuff you have before giving an estimate. If moving companies refuse to give in-home estimates, that’s a huge red flag.
Some shady moving companies will give you a rough phone estimate, take your deposit and then disappear. Reputable companies do an on-site inspection in a timely manner to accurately assess how much you have to move before giving an estimate.
Another red flag to watch for is if a moving company comes to your home to do an in-home estimate and just casually looks around and quickly leaves. The estimator for a reputable mover will ask questions and give you the opportunity to point out things will be getting rid of as well as additional items you plan to purchase that will need to be moved.
Requiring cash payment or a large deposit
A moving company usually requires a small down payment that’s usually less than 20%. Scam moving services, on the other hand, ask for a large down payment and often vanish. A rogue mover will hold your items hostage and demand more money to offload your items.
Their bid is suspiciously low
You should always get at least three different moving companies to bid on your move. A quote that is much lower than the rest of the long-distance movers should make you think. Another red flag is if the moving company refuses to give you a written estimate. A respectable moving company will always provide one.
They don’t provide a copy of the rights and responsibilities
Federal law requires that you receive a packet named “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” It outlines the responsibilities you and your moving company assume when you hire them, including required paperwork and information, estimate guidelines, and some good tips on how to choose a legitimate moving company.
Many name changes
The folks at consumer affairs warn that it’s a bad sign if, as you research, you find the company has changed names several times. Scam moving companies will often do this to get around negative reviews or the Better Business Bureau.
They tell you your quote is set in stone
I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how much my couch weighs. This means that the cost of your move can change if you have more stuff or a lot of heavy items. This points to the value of in-home estimates.
Any mover that says their estimate is ironclad is lying and is setting you up to hold your belongings hostage until you pay them more money.
One of two kinds of moving contracts is required by federal law:
- The non-binding estimate specifies that the moving company can’t require a payment that’s more than 10% above the original estimate, and this must be paid within 30 days.
- A binding estimate is a guaranteed not to exceed price for everything involved in your move, including extras and services. If you requested additional services along the way, those hidden fees are also due within 30 days after your belongings are delivered.
If you think you’re getting a binding contract, you need to read the fine print. You want to be guaranteed that you have the final price, but often shady moving company contracts will state that the price won’t be exceeded unless your stuff weighs more. How do you know? Again, do you know how much your couch weighs?
They make wild claims about moving insurance
Typically, insurance valuation coverage is at about 60 cents per pound, which is all the reimbursement you’ll get if something is damaged, lost, or destroyed. The truck never shows up or overturns or mysteriously disappears? The weight of an average four-bedroom home is about 6,000 lbs. Your total reimbursement will be $3,600. Can you replace everything you own for that?
If a mover claims that their insurance covers “everything,” it’s time to find another moving company. Moving companies must have liability insurance, as you’ll see in the rights and responsibilities information. You should ask your moving company for details of their particular plan.
And when it comes to insurance, you can accept the 60 cents per pound, or you can choose full value protection, which you should do if you are moving items that are of extraordinary value. You also might consider separate liability insurance. You can find more information here.
The movers arrive in an unmarked truck
A legitimate moving company will have its company logo on its trucks. If a mover shows up with a blank moving truck or a moving truck with some magnetic removable signage, it’s a red flag you shouldn’t ignore, as they are likely using rental trucks.
Sometimes, a truck will show up with the logo of a different company. Yet another red flag.
The moving company charges by volume or cubic feet
A reputable moving company charges by weight, not volume. And per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), it is illegal for interstate movers to charge by cubic feet or volume unless there’s also a weight conversion.
The moving company isn’t registered with the FMCSA
Each reputable moving company must have a US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. This number should be on the moving company’s website. When you have that number, you can use it to search the database of the motor carrier safety administration: FMCSA database.
Your search will come up with a chart with information about the moving company. You want to look at the “Operating Status.” It should say “Authorized.”
If it doesn’t, the moving company is not properly licensed, and you’ve encountered a moving scam. You should always hire a licensed mover. If you can’t find a USDOT number, you should take a hard pass on that shady moving company.
Common moving scams
Now that you know the red flags, the shared responsibilities between you and the moving company, and how to use the website for federal motor carrier safety, you are pretty well equipped to spot scams. But there’s still more to watch out for. Here are some of the typical moving scams you can encounter during the moving process.
The old bait and switch
Sadly, this is a common moving scam. The bait? A great, low estimate. The price is unbelievably good, but who doesn’t want to save money when they need to hire a long-distance moving company?
Everything seems fine until you reach your final destination. Here come the additional fees and costs, which you have to pay, or they won’t unload the truck. It doesn’t matter that you have a contract or what it says.
This creepy bait-and-switch tactic is used by scammers to fool you into thinking you got a wonderful deal, and then they raise the price substantially.
Ask about itemized fees that might occur outside your moving contract. Reputable moving companies will clue you in on what could be waiting at the end of the line instead of trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
The misleading moving contract
As they say, the devil is in the details. In this case, the devil is the scammy moving company, and the details are hard to find.
A shady moving company will give you a contract that leaves out important details so they can charge you more for your move. Your contract should contain your moving estimate, any extra fees, and information about your moving day, including pickup time, as well as the estimated date and time of delivery.
The abandoned shipment
This could be the most heartbreaking scam of all. It happens like this. A rogue mover takes your money, loads up your possessions, closes up shop, and flees into the night.
Your belongings end up either on the truck, which has been abandoned on the side of the road or in a parking lot, or in some storage facility somewhere.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find your belongings, but expect to pay huge amounts of money to get them back.
Avoiding moving scams
Even with the above tips, moving scams aren’t always easy to avoid, but the Better Business Bureau is a great place to start. If you can’t find the company there, it could be a red flag, although not all businesses belong.
Read online reviews
Google and Yelp reviews are also good sources to uncover moving company scams. Also, be suspicious if the moving company doesn’t have a website.
Many scammy companies will just have a Facebook page, and that’s no comparison to an actual website.
Read your packet
One of your best resources for hiring a reputable mover is that copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” This will give you information on all of your rights as a consumer.
And don’t forget to read all of the moving contract. Watch for hidden fees, make sure the amount of your possessions have been accurately assessed, and that delivery dates are specified.
Don’t pay a big deposit
If a moving company asks for a large deposit, the safe delivery of your belongings is not its main concern. Hand over your money at your peril; it’s likely a scam.
Never pay cash
If anything happens, you need evidence to recover your money. If you pay cash, you have nothing that proves you paid for your long-distance moves. And never, ever pay upfront.
Don’t sign what’s known as a skinny contract
Everything you are moving should be listed on the contract and should be more than two pages. Without a complete contract, you have no before and after proof that all of your goods were not delivered.
Ask about the claims process of the moving company
How does the moving company process claims? Will it be handled quickly? What proof is involved?
What to do if you’ve been scammed by a moving company
Remember the carrier safety administration FMCSA? You can report mover fraud can use the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database or call 888-368-7238.
You can also call the Office of the Inspector General’s fraud hotline by:
- Filling out the online complaint form
- Call 800-424-9071
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send a complaint via US mail to:
DOT Inspector General in Washington, DC
Delta Moving Systems, Your Reputable Moving Company
No scams here! Delta has 20 years of experience in the moving industry. Our trained, professional team is background checked, and we do everything we can to give you a smooth move.
We offer a wide range of services to meet your needs, whether you need our full suite of services or just loading and unloading assistance, we’re here to tailor your move to meet your requirements–not ours. We even offer expedited delivery!
Because we want to make sure that you are fully aware of the complete moving process and how much your move will cost, so contact us today at (800) 484-0085. One of our moving specialists will be happy to schedule a free in-home estimate.