3 Big Moving Scams to Avoid
Don’t let an unscrupulous mover take you for a ride (or ride off with your belongings)
Even when everything goes according to plan, a household move can be stressful. But when you’re scammed in the bargain, the stress can be off the charts.
Fortunately, most movers are honest. While they may drop a lamp now and then, they aren’t out to rob you.
Unfortunately, the moving business attracts some bad guys too. All they need is a website, a phone and a truck (and sometimes not even the truck) to represent themselves as legitimate movers.
So if you’re planning a move anytime soon, it’s worth taking some precautions, especially since the stakes — possibly everything you own — are high. Here are three common moving scams to watch out for:
1. Disappearing deposits. A company that asks for a large deposit may have no intention of even showing up on moving day. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates interstate movers, says that’s one of the common red flags of moving fraud.
2. Lowball estimates. A favorite ploy of scamsters, according to the FMCSA’s Bill Quade, is to quote what seems like a bargain price for moving your goods, then double or triple the cost on moving day. Often such companies make their initial estimate over the phone or Internet, without even seeing how much stuff you have. That in itself should be a cause for alarm, Quade says.
Quade recommends having the estimator visit your home if at all possible. Most experts also suggest getting three estimates. If two of them are close and one is way off on the low side, consider that another warning.
3. Hostage horrors. A crooked mover who doesn’t scam you at the start of the journey may just be waiting until you reach your destination. An all-too-common trick is for the mover to claim your goods weighed more than expected, so you’ll have to pay extra — typically a lot extra — if you want to see them again. Since your worldly possessions are now in the mover’s possession, you may feel you have no choice but to pay up.
If you find yourself in this kind of hostage situation, you may be able to get some help from your state’s attorney general or consumer protection office, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or the local police. You can also file a complaint with the FMCSA.
Protect yourself and your stuff
Your best protection against a moving scam is to choose a reliable mover in the first place. Some tips from the experts:
Know your rights. If you’re planning an interstate move, your mover is required to give you a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” If the mover doesn’t provide a copy, that’s worrisome right there. The booklet, which is also available online, details the mover’s obligations to you during the move and offers advice on resolving any disputes afterwards.
Ask around. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a reliable mover, especially if you’re moving locally. So ask local real-estate agents and any recently moved neighbors for their suggestions. If your employer is relocating you, it may have a list of recommended movers too.
Check them out. You can investigate interstate movers on the FMCSA website. “Make sure they’re registered, look at their safety scores and see of there are any complaints,” Quade suggests. “If they don’t have a DOT number, that’s a red flag that you may be dealing with a disreputable mover.”
You can check local movers with the nearest Better Business Bureau. Also run a web search using the moving company’s name paired with words like “scam” and “ripoff” and see if anything comes up.
If you can’t find any information about the mover online, that could a bad sign as well; scam artists often operate under multiple aliases and change company names frequently. The feds have other advice for checking out movers at the ProtectYourMove.gov website.