|As long as people have been moving, there have been moving scams. These days, unfortunately, moving scams are more common than ever. With the Internet, anyone can create a phony website, buy or rent a couple trucks, and pass themselves off as a legitimate moving company. It is very important to know what these scams are and how to avoid them.
Most common moving scams
Increase in money demanded: Perhaps the most typical scam is the unexpected price increase. In this case, the moving company will offer you either a reasonably low or exceptionally low estimate for your move. Since this will likely be lower than any other estimate you receive, it can be very tempting to accept the offer. The movers will then pick up your goods and everything will appear to be running smoothly.
Upon arriving at your new home, however, the movers will assert that you owe them more money. They will cite extraneous charges, tariffs, hidden fees, or a number of other reasons for demanding more money. By falling for this scam, you could very well end up paying more than you would have by accepting a higher estimate from a more reputable company.
Holding goods hostage: If the movers use the price-increase scam above, they may threaten to hold your goods in the truck until you pay them the money they demand. Even if they don't give you a specific reason for why you owe them more money, they still may hold your items hostage until you fork over some more money. Alternately, the mover may offer you a reasonable estimate and seem like a legitimate company. However, at the last minute, they could try to extort some money from you, threatening to run away with your goods until you pay them.
Operating illegally: Many companies that pass themselves off as legitimate are really unregistered and operating illegally. Though these companies may not scam you directly, you can still fall victim to their illegal activities. Should the mover get caught in the middle of your move, the operation will be shut down. Unfortunately, if this happens, your goods may be taken and held as evidence. There would be no guarantee that you goods would ever make it to your new home at all.
Insurance fraud: Some illegal movers may entice you to use their services by offering a blanket insurance policy covering all of your goods. Even the most reputable moving companies only offer minimal coverage. Instead, you often have to buy insurance from a third party. Any company offering complete coverage is just looking to make some extra money. If something happens to the truck during the move or if any goods get damaged, your will be unlikely to receive compensation for your goods, despite the mover's promise of blanket insurance.
Though it may be easy to get taken advantage of by these moving scams, there are several ways to determine if a company is legit or not. If a company you consider using shows any of the following warning signs, find a different mover.
- The company asks for a large cash deposit up front.
- You do not receive a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" if undergoing a long-distance move.
- The company refuses to provide you with certain information, like the address of its office or its insurance information.
- You are persuaded to use the mover's services with promises of full insurance coverage.
- The movers arrive in a rental truck rather than one with a company logo.
Avoiding these scams
While the previous list highlights warning signs that your movers may be scamming you, there are several ways to avoid getting involved with an illegitimate company in the first place.
Talk with your real estate agent:
Since real estate agents are such an integral part of the moving process
for many people, they can be trusted to help you find a moving company.Check the company's track record:
Look up a company's profile on the Better Business Bureau
to see if there have been any complaints filed against it. You could also check http://www.movingscam.com to see the site's list of blacklisted moving companies.Get an in-home estimate:
You should always get an in-home estimate from any potential movers. This way, they can give you an accurate estimate for the cost of your move. If a company refuses to do so, they are likely to give you a low estimate and then charge you more on your moving day.
Make sure everything is documented: Any professional moving company will make sure every step of the moving process is well documented and that you have copies of all the paperwork. Should a company not provide you with these important details, then they are not operating according to industry standards.
Ask for registration numbers: You company should provide you with their FMCSA registration number. You can then look the number up on the website http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/ to find out if the registration is still active. If not, find another company.
Even if a company operates legally and checks out with any or all of the previous standards, you still might fall victim to scams. To protect yourself from scams by a seemingly reputable company, take the following precautions:
Keep in mind these moving scams and the ways to prevent them for your next move. Again, avoid rogue movers at all costs, and only use companies that have a proven good reputation. Of course, you can always find a reputable company at Movers.com.
- Go through the rates and estimates carefully. Since movers charge by weight for long-distance moves and by the time spent for local moves, avoid using companies that charge by the cubic feet taken up by your goods.
- Get a list of all the subcontractors the company will use, and check their reputations with the BBB.
- Thoroughly go over all documents to check for any hidden or additional fees, such as stair carries or shuttle service.
- Find out all you can about the claims process in case something gets damaged. It's much better to know this policy in advance than trying to understand the claims process after your items get damaged.
Photo by: Artur84 (freedigitalphotos.net)