How To Avoid a Moving Scam
Posted May 20th 2020
How Can You Avoid Moving Scams by Illegitimate Moving Companies?
Moving scams can be hard to spot. Buying a move is a customized process, not a fast-food menu, and scammers count on it being a service you may not be familiar with. The more you know, the better prepared you can be.
Especially as more people use the internet to research moving services, flashy web pages can make bad movers appear to be trustworthy. You can avoid being the next victim of a bad mover by learning the tricks that these types of companies will likely use.
Here are a few examples of common moving scams:
- The Hostage
- The Bait and Switch
- The Extra Delivery Charges
- The Always Late Delivery
- The Abandon
Let's review each of the common scams in order to learn more about what they mean and why they can fool so many people.
The scam mover will start by giving you an estimate. Once they have your belongings in their possession though, extra fees begin to appear. The scammer uses a very vague contract which allows them to add on extra fees once you no longer have a choice. This will often double or triple the cost of your move. If you want your furniture back, you have to pay the additional cost.
What Good Companies Do Instead:
Most good moving companies will want to teach you how to avoid moving company scams. You will have a detailed, complete inventory of what you're going to move. If you have extra stops, storage, packing, or any extra services - you will see them listed on your contract so you know the price you'll pay, before you move. You'll also see potential charges for common things that can occur during a move that would change the price of your contract.
Depending on the time of move you choose, for example, a non-binding estimate, your price could change from what was quoted but it shouldn't be a surprise to you. Look for a company that focuses on customer service and is willing to teach and communicate upfront before you sign about what potential charges might come during the move.
The Bait and Switch:
The scammer will quote you the cost of your move. At the last minute before the move takes place, the company will try to arrange a new deal at the last minute. They sold you at a low price, but in the end, the cost of your move ends up being nothing close to what you agreed to.
It's a lot like the hostage. The key difference is that this is typically done before you load, but so close to the time of the move, that you feel pressured to accept the new terms.
It's not uncommon to have a scam mover call the day before and cancel your move unless you agree to a new contract, leaving you to fall victim to this scam.
What Good Companies Do Instead:
Once we agree to a date with you by contract, we will fulfill it with very few rare exceptions. If we can't fulfill it - we'll help you work through the options. We won't cancel your move. Pricing changes often throughout the year due to the demand and availability of moving services so if your move is likely to happen during times when pricing might change, you will know that before you sign.
Good moving companies communicate and inform you of the possibilities, like a trusted advisor. Good moving companies might have costs that change last minute as well, but the difference is that a good company will have explained these possibilities earlier so that you were aware they could occur.
The main difference between a scammer and a trusted moving company is how they teach you about their service, communicate the potential challenges that might arise, and the intention to provide you good service.
The Extra Delivery Charges:
A scam mover will find reasons to charge you additional fees that weren't discussed in the beginning. As an example, think about a mover that gives you an estimate based on weight. After your belongings are on their truck, these local or long-distance movers then charge you extra claiming the cubic feet have exceeded the weight estimate of your goods.
Are they charging you based on weight or cubic feet? Who can say, but you're stuck paying the fees or risk losing your belongings on moving day.
Other common charges include items like packing that was not included in your estimate, but they did it anyway without asking. Then, they charge more because your goods weren't totally packed and ready for the move.
What Good Companies Do Instead:
To start, good moving companies will charge based on weight or time. Something easily measured and verified. Cubic feet sounds easy enough, but how will you verify it? If they say your items are "so-many" cubic feet of space, is that verifiable? No. At least not as easy as a weight from a public, certified scale or a simple timesheet.
What's more, the packing will be clearly listed on a good contract with a reputable mover. If it's not, the mover won't be packing unless you agree to it later. If you are doing the packing, we'll tell you what we'll need in order to be able to load and ship it safely.
If we sound like a broken record, it's because the majority of these scams can be avoided by having good communication with a mover. If they seem to avoid talking to you or explaining your quote, be wary.
The Always Late Delivery:
This is a classic. The scam mover will come to pack and load your belongings. They'll promise to deliver your belongings on a specific date.
Then, they call saying your goods are in the back of a truck behind two other peoples' belongings, so you can't receive your furniture until theirs is delivered first. They won't be able to make the specified delivery date.
In another version, the mover ends up with a licensing violation, and their truck is impounded in transit by the Department of Transportation, all your valuables are stuck on board until the truck is released. Either of these situations results in your goods being delivered weeks late...or not at all.
What Good Companies Do Instead:
To start, a reputable moving company will give you a delivery spread, instead of a firm date. The reason being, logistics are complicated and delays can happen. Just like an airline that might not arrive on time due to various conditions, trucks can arrive late. To help you plan, a good moving company gives you a range of dates when the shipment will arrive.
If it still, due to various unforeseen circumstances can't arrive within that date spread, you will receive compensation in the form of a delay claim, which a good moving company can help you file. All of this will be outlined before you move, and left with you in a booklet called "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move".
This is the worst of the scams by a bad mover. Many moving companies only exist for a few months before disappearing and starting again under a new name. Hard to believe? Believe it. Anyone with a truck and a few dollars can register as a mover, even with no experience.
They will take your money, load your belongings, then close up shop and flee, abandoning your shipment either on the truck or in a private storage facility. This scam allows the mover to take off with your money or your belongings, or both. If you are lucky enough to find where your belongings ended up, expect to pay exorbitant amounts of money to retrieve them from the storage facility.
Don't Fall Into the Traps Set by a Bad Mover!
How can you avoid these common pitfalls many individuals and families fall into when moving? We've listed out in each scam some differences between the scams and good moving companies, but here are some tips for choosing a mover for the best possible moving experience.
Regardless of if you choose Bailey's Moving & Storage, we will want you to have a good moving experience. Call it a pride thing, we hate bad movers and we don't want you to have to go through it.
- Demand an On-Site Estimate: Seeing your belongings in person does two things: First, it creates an accurate inventory. Remember the "The Hostage"? A good inventory helps avoid that, as well as gets you the most accurate pricing details. It also allows you to ask as many questions, in person, to the moving company representative. Remember, good communication is key to avoiding a scam. In COVID times, some companies may not want to come on site, but if a company refuses to perform an in-home estimate, it's usually a red flag.
- Check the Company's Address: A real mover will have a real address. Once you get the address, it's worth verifying. Some do a google map listing view, or physically drive down to see the facility. Seeing a warehouse with an office and real people working is a good sign this isn't a scam company.
- Ask for Recommendations from Friends and Family or Reviews: One of the best ways to find a great mover? Word of mouth from people they have moved before. Check out reviews online too, because the number of reviews as well as the content written in them, can help you determine a new company from a trusted, reputable company.
- Ask your Real Estate Agent: Real estate agents help people move all the time. They are a great source for a good mover.
- Get Three Competitive In-Home Estimates: Does this sound counter-intuitive for a company trying to sell you moving services? Well, it's not. Get three estimates from three different moving companies. If there is a significant disparity, this will help you to easily identify a fraud. This is the most common way to spot a potential problem. You showed the moving company the same belongings each time, so their inventories should be identical. All that should vary is the pricing.
- Choose a Mover who Bases Price off Weight or Time, Not Cubic Feet: Time is more common for local moves, while weight is the standard for long-distance moves. Again, this is about being verifiable. With time, you can verify with a timesheet. With weight, a public scale can show you heavy and empty weights. Cubic feet? Grab a tape measure I suppose, but you'll have to get it inside the truck when it's loaded. It's almost impossible to accurately measure
A Few More Tips on How to Protect Yourself from a Mover Scam
There are some simple steps you can take to prevent falling into scams with a mover, and certain things you should never do when moving.
- Do Not Give a Deposit: A mover that demands a deposit upfront likely has an agenda other than securely moving your belongings - like taking your money and running. If a mover demands a deposit, move on to a different company. Paying by credit card can also help you avoid problems here.
- Avoid a Move Broker: Move brokers are companies that sell you a moving service, but actually, pay a different moving company to do the work. They keep the difference between whatever they charged you and what the moving company charges them. The problem with this arrangement is that they have an incentive to charge you as much as possible and/or hire as cheap a moving company as they can find: typically, an inexperienced or shady moving company. Companies with associations with van lines are not moving brokers, and are generally held to a higher standard than one-off companies.
- Do NOT Pay Cash: Paying cash is asking for trouble. When you pay cash, there is no evidence of a transaction. Therefore, if your things aren't moved, or even worse, you don't get them back, you have no evidence of ever having paid for service.
- Make Sure the Truck is Branded: Real moving companies have real moving trucks, complete with branding and logos.
- Do Not Sign a Partial Contract: You would never sign a loan agreement or binding contract of other sorts with blanks; the same rule applies for moving contracts. Make sure the contract is complete and all filled in before signing anything.
- Do Not Agree to a Vague Contract: Make sure you sign a complete moving contract or one that is more than two pages. All of your household goods should be listed on the contract.
- Buy Valuation You get to choose the level of liability a mover has over your belongings. A reputable mover will offer additional types of moving valuation (like insurance) to give you the best protection when you move. While this is important on all moves, if you're using interstate movers, this will help keep you protected. The longer the distance you're moving, the more likely something can break.
- Ask About the Claims Policy: Find out more about how the company processes claims in the event you should need to file one. Should you file a claim, you want to make sure it is handled quickly and properly. For local move claims, each state has its own regulations. You can find more about claims on interstate moves by referring to the Rights and Responsibilities When You Move document put out by the Federal motor carrier safety administration FMCSA (applies to American moving companies).
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