If you hear the phrase “moving scam artists”, you might be bewildered as to where it comes from. Generally, the word “artists” refers to ingenious creators, insightful and imaginative people capable of beautiful designs, exquisite handiwork, revolutionary inventions or progressive ideas. However, you can often come across another kind of artists as well – ones that are adept at reprehensible activities involving trickery or deceit rather than at works of high aesthetic value. Dishonesty and fraud have indeed become quite common in various aspects of life and moving house makes no exception. Some rogue movers have even come up with so cunning ways to rip off their heedless customers that they have deserved the proud title “moving scam artists”. So, if you are planning a forthcoming relocation, you should be very careful in order to avoid such moving company extortion schemes and fraudulent techniques.
Get familiar with the most common types of moving scams explained below to know when to raise your guard so that you can successfully protect your money, your belongings and your nerves while moving house.
You may be prudent enough to ask for references when shopping around for movers, but many companies have come up with an easy way to provide fake references. They simply create a website with fictitious testimonials written by their own employees and use it to pull the wool over their potential customers’ eyes.
So, don’t be too trusting and ask for a number of references from actual people – call each of them in person to hear details about their moving experiences. You can also check the Yellow Pages, research the company through the BBB or AMSA, or read online moving reviews concerning the movers in question but found on different websites.
Unrealistically low estimate
Some movers will offer you an estimate that is too good to be true in order to lure you into choosing their services. Once they get the deposit, you may never again hear from them. Or if they do actually appear on the agreed pick-up date, they will certainly request a much larger amount than previously negotiated based on some overlooked conditions – extra services, unforeseen obstacles, etc. Therefore, it is advisable to carefully compare all the received estimates and to take all the other relevant information into account in order to make an informed decision and to find honest and competent movers.
Asking for a considerable up-front payment is one of the most common moving frauds. You may be promised a convenient timeframe for your move, or favorable conditions, or higher quality services in return. If you agree and pre-pay a large amount, you will either lose sight of the deceitful movers or they will come to take your household items but will handle them with no special care and will deliver them anytime they want to (if at all) and for whatever extra payment they require. So, never pay more than 20 % of the estimated final moving costs, use a credit card (not cash), and opt for a refundable deposit, if possible.
Be very alert when scheduling your move and read all the mover’s paperwork with meticulous attention. You will most certainly find out that the fine print includes a clause or two which say that the “guaranteed” price is subject to change under specific conditions. Many common moving company scams are based on this simple trick that allows the movers to charge you extra for a variety of additional services, complications, etc. Make sure all your requirements, as well as any negotiated terms and specific conditions are clearly stated in the Bill of lading before signing it and never sign a blank or incomplete document. If you do, the movers will just fill in a price to their liking.
Non-professional labor and equipment
Some companies don’t have the required license to operate legally. They may not deceive you directly but you will still fall victim to their incompetence and shady activities. Other movers may act as a “moving broker” – you will sign a contract with a reputable company but they will send over to your place temporary employees who have no experience, rented trucks that are not in good condition or unknown third party companies, leaving you in the dark about who will actually be handling and transporting your cherished possessions or where they will be stored. Make it a rule to check the USDOT number of your chosen movers and to request information about any subcontractors when hiring moving services.
The accesorial services a moving company offers are not automatically included in the estimate. Do not overlook this crucial factor – make sure that all the requested services are clearly stated in the Bill of lading and double-check not only their respective charges but also the conditions under which they will be performed. Rogue movers may deliberately perform a variety of unnecessary services to drain more money out of you or may come up with absurd reasons for outrageous extra charges.
Holding goods hostage
One of the top moving scams perpetrated by dishonest movers is demanding more money from you in order to release your belongings. Your household items are held hostage until you pay extra for whatever false reasons the rogue moving company comes up with (such as telling you that your belongings are loaded in the truck behind someone else’s and there will be an added fee if you don’t want to wait for the other items to be delivered first. Nervous to get your property back, you may agree). Even worse, the moving company may just disappear together with your belongings – the person in charge will explain that their warehouse got on fire or that there has been a delivery mistake. As you keep arranging the details more excuses will come up and finally you won’t be able to reach the movers neither by phone, nor by e-mail.
To avoid such a nightmarish scenario, call the FMCSA’s safety violation and consumer complaints hotline to ask about complaints against your chosen movers and research the database of movingscam.com, Yelp, etc. before hiring a company. Find out how often problems have been reported and how complaints and disputes have been resolved.
Lost/stolen or damaged items
Be mindful that some of your most expensive belongings may mysteriously disappear during the moving procedures unless you protect them properly. Make sure your valuables are safely locked in a separate room on Moving day and take them with you. If you need to use moving services for shipping some bulky expensive possessions of yours (electronics, antique furniture, etc.), at least insure them and declare them in the inventory. Don’t forget to check every item against the inventory upon delivery and immediately report any missing or damaged pieces. If you fail to do so, the moving company will deny liability.
House moving scams are difficult to avoid but if you are alert and well-informed, you have a fair chance to find a trustworthy moving company and secure a smooth and trouble-free relocation.