Moving scams are becoming more common than ever. Anyone can create a website, buy or rent a couple trucks and pass themselves off as a legitimate moving company. Hiring a reliable moving company is an integral part of the moving process.
If you are considering moving soon, it's important to know what the most common scams are and how to avoid them.
- Asking for a large cash deposit
Security deposits are common during peak moving season or in areas of the country where there are high rates of households moving. However, you should always do your research before putting down a security deposit as this is one of the most common moving scams.
Always be wary of a moving company when they ask for a large cash deposit, because they can just take your money and pull a disappearing act.
How to avoid this scam: Talk with your real estate agent. They can be trusted to help you find a reliable moving company that won't ask for a deposit or a company that you feel safe paying.
2. Demanding an increase of money
Perhaps the most common scam is an unexpected price increase. In this case, the moving company will offer you a reasonably low estimate for your move. Because this rate will likely be lower than any other estimate you receive, it can be very tempting to accept.
Upon arriving at your new home, however, the movers will assert that you owe them more. They will cite extra charges, tariffs, hidden fees or several 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 reputable company.
How to avoid this scam: You should always get an in-home estimate from any potential movers, so they can provide you an accurate estimate for the cost of your move. If possible, ask for a binding or a binding not-to-exceed estimate to avoid any hidden fees.
3. 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 may still hold your items hostage.
Alternately, the movers can seem like a legitimate company, but at the last minute, threaten to run away with your goods until you pay them an additional sum.
How to avoid this scam: Check the company's track record. Look up the company's profile on the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints filed against them. You could also check www.movingscam.com to see a list of blacklisted moving companies.
4. Operating illegally
Some companies will try to pass themselves off as legitimate when they are actually unregistered and operating illegally. While these companies may not scam you directly, they are still not a legitimate business.
Should their operation be shut down in the middle of your move, your belongings may be taken and held as evidence. There is no guarantee that your belongings would ever make it to your new home at all.
How to avoid this scam: The company should provide you with their USDOT number. Check the FMCSA website to find out if the registration is still active.
5. Insurance fraud
Some illegal movers may entice you to use their services by offering a blanket insurance policy. Even the most reputable moving companies only offer minimal coverage. Instead, insurance is purchased from a third party.
Any company offering complete coverage should be an immediate red flag. If something happens to the truck during the move or if any goods get damaged, you're unlikely to receive compensation for your belongings, despite the mover's promise of blanket insurance.
How to avoid this scam: Confirm that everything is documented. Professional moving companies will document every step and give you copies of all the paperwork. If a company doesn't provide you with these important details, then they are not operating according to industry standards.
Watch out for these warning signs of a moving scam
Though it can be easy to get taken advantage of by these moving scams, there are several ways to determine whether a company is legit:
- The company refuses to provide you with certain information, like the address of their office or their insurance
- You are persuaded to use the mover's services with promises of full insurance coverage
- The movers arrive in an unmarked or rental truck rather than one with a company logo
- You do not receive a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Rights and Responsibilities
Avoid these scams by being cautious
Even if a company operates legally and under federal standards, you still might fall victim to scams. To further protect yourself from a seemingly reputable company, take the following precautions:
- Go through the rates and estimates carefully. Movers typically charge by weight for long-distance moves and hourly for local moves. Avoid using companies that charge by cubic feet.
- Get a list of all the subcontractors the company 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 afterwards.
Keep in mind these moving scams and the ways to prevent them for your next move. Take steps to avoid rogue movers at all costs, and only use companies that have a proven track record.