What are the red flags of moving fraud?

Many factors come into play when organizing and performing a residential move, but it is the moving partner you choose to work with that mostly defines your relocation experience – competent and trustworthy professionals mean a happy end, while bad movers usually stand for a relocation nightmare. Choosing the right movers for you, however, is much of a challenge – not only do you need to find quality services at an affordable price available at a convenient time but you also need to avoid moving scams.

While most moving companies do their best to offer competent and reliable relocation services, some unscrupulous movers out there are plotting fraudulent extortion schemes to rip off the unwary customers and get away with it. To avoid their traps and protect yourself from moving fraud, you need to be able to recognize the red flags of potential moving scams and steer clear of shady companies. Here are some warning signs to watch out for while shopping around for movers:

Lack of specificity

If you see an enticing ad promising cheap and efficient moving services, but can’t find any specific information about the movers – company name, licensing or insurance information, physical address, etc. – you should simply “skip the chance” and keep looking. If the movers prefer to stay anonymous and don’t provide any clear information, something is probably amiss.

Poor online profile

When you come across a moving company that seems to meet your requirements, your first job should be to check its online presence. Look for:

  • a professional website – if you can’t find one or if the existing website is very poorly built, there is no way you are dealing with reliable professionals;
  • social media profiles – the lack of social media activity is a tell-tale sign of shady business practices;
  • moving reviews – predominantly negative moving reviews warn of troubles. After all, if most of the company’s previous customers reported some kind of problems with the movers, then you are very unlikely to have a smooth moving experience either.

Use of generic terms

If you call the movers and hear the generic answer “moving services” or “moving company”, instead of an actual company name, you should raise your guard. The usage of generic terms, stock images, vague descriptions and other non-specific data is common trickery among scam artists.

Refusal of in-home survey

The only way to get an accurate estimate of your final moving costs is to have a representative of the moving company come over to your place and perform a visual survey of your items. If your chosen movers refuse to provide you with an on-site written estimate, then they will be able to charge whatever price they like for their services on Moving day. They may claim that your shipment turned out to be much heavier than initially estimated or that some unforeseen difficulties occurred during the moving process – just any preposterous excuse to soak more money out of your pocket.

Remember that online estimates, as well as estimates over the phone, can never be accurate – if you agree on such an estimate and don’t request an on-site inspection of your household items, you will end up paying much more money than you expected.

SEE ALSO: Types of moving estimates

Vagueness

The movers should be trying to get as much information about your move as possible in order to organize a smooth and trouble-free relocation process – not only the number, size, shape and weight of your items, but also any required extra services, possible hardships, special conditions, and various other relevant factors. Otherwise, there is something fishy about it. So, be extra careful if:

  • the moving company representative who comes to your home for an on-site estimate does only a quick walk-through of the place without asking questions or taking notes;
  • your questions are given elusive answers;
  • you get no specific information about the company – licensing number, contact details, available services, tariff, liability coverage, credentials, etc.;
  • the movers cannot guarantee pick-up and delivery time.

SEE ALSO: Questions to ask movers

Invalid USDOT number or federal Motor Carrier license

Check the company you consider hiring for your move with the FMCSA – if the company does not have a valid DOT number or if its MC license has expired, the movers are not legitimate and you are strongly recommended not to work with them. You should also be careful if a company’s license is less than 3 years old – this means that the movers haven’t been in business for long, so they may lack experience and the professional know-how required to perform a successful move.

Low-ball estimates

This is the oldest trick in the book – dishonest movers make very low offers to lure unwary customers. Once you get on the hook, the conditions of your move will start changing rapidly (extra fees will be added for all kinds of alleged accessorial services and unforeseen circumstances) until you find yourself in a dead end – it will be too late to book another moving company and you will be in the hands of the fraudulent movers.

Large deposits or advance payments

It is sharp practice for rogue movers to request an exorbitant deposit or up-front payments for certain “special services”. If you pay anything in advance (except for the regular deposit which amounts to about 10-15 % of the final moving cost), you risk never seeing your movers again – they will disappear with the money and you won’t be able to reach them in any way.

Complaints against the company

A large number of problems and complaints against a moving company should warn you off using their services – too many conflicts and disputes signify that the movers in question do not always play fair and square.

Company’s property is in poor condition

It is a good idea to pay your chosen movers an unexpected visit before signing a contract – find out if the company’s office and warehouse are well-kept and properly secured, if the moving trucks are in good condition, if the movers have specialized professional equipment, if their attitude is friendly and open, etc. If not so, the movers are not trustworthy enough.

Blank or incomplete documents

Reputable movers will never ask you to sign blank or incomplete documents – if your chosen movers do so, reconsider your choice before it has become too late.

Paperwork not in order

If your movers don’t provide all the required paperwork – licensing and insurance information, a written estimate, the federal booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”, a Bill of lading with a valuation addendum, an inventory list, etc., or if any of it seems to be inaccurate or incomplete, you should not be quick to hire their services. Research the company further, double-check everything, request all the missing documents, and make sure you understand and agree with all the provisions in the moving contract before signing it.

Insurance issues

Movers who claim that you don’t need any additional insurance and don’t offer full value replacement valuation are not to be trusted blindly – they may not be properly insured and will not assume liability for loss or damage to your belongings while in their custody.

SEE ALSO: Types of moving insurance

Rental trucks

If your chosen movers arrive in a rental truck on Moving day (instead of a company-owned or marked fleet truck), it is a clear sign of unprofessionalism (the company doesn’t have enough moving vehicles) or shady intents (the movers intend to disappear with your shipment and want to make sure you won’t be able to track them down). If you decide to proceed with your move, at least take a clear picture of the moving truck and its licensing plate – just in case.

Third party companies

If a third party company arrives to pick up your goods on moving day without an advance notice by your movers, you have every reason to send the truck away. Your chosen moving company has the obligation to inform you of any subcontractors they work with in advance, so that you can research them and make sure everything is all right.

Last-minute fraudulent attempts

The movers may come up with some last-minute tricks on Moving day in order to squeeze a few extra dollars out of your pocket – they claim that the company’s rates are higher for this particular day of the week or period of the month, that unexpected difficulties have occurred when handling your possessions, that certain extra services were necessitated, etc. Be careful not to fall into the trap – contact the company to demand an explanation and do not agree to anything that is not explicitly stated in your moving contract!

SEE ALSO: How to avoid moving scams

Now that you are aware of the red flags of moving fraud, you will be able to steer clear of rogue movers and protect your move. Safe and happy relocation!

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