Top 10 Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them
Can you spot a moving scam from a mile away? Most would answer no. Moving companies can have years of shady business practices before actually being shut down… only to open up in the next town over with a new name. We are going to outline the top 10 moving scams and how to avoid moving scams as well as providing moving help for local and long distance moves.
- A moving company that doesn’t answer the phone with the company name that is advertised. An example would be a moving company that is advertised “Nationwide Van Lines” but answers the phone “movers,” something mumbled “movers” or another generic company name. This usually means the moving company is hiding their true name from the government, IRS, unhappy customers, etc. It could also mean that the company has changed names which indicates they had to shut down and stop using their name to avoid – taxes, lawsuits, etc. MOVING HELP TIP: LOOK FOR ESTABLISHED MOVERS THAT HAVE USED THE SAME NAME FOR 10+ YEARS
- The low-ball quote. This occurs daily in every city in every state. There is no avoiding the moving scam- it’s up to you to do your due diligence in order to get an accurate moving quote. I suggest using a moving calculator. Now, most moving company moving calculators ask the number of rooms. This is highly inaccurate and often results in both parties arguing and moving prices increasing. MOVING HELP TIP: USE AN ACCURATE MOVING CALCULATOR THAT ADJUSTS YOUR MOVING QUOTE PIECE BY PIECE FIND ONE HERE.
- Moving companies that ask for any more than $100 for a local move or 10% for a long distance move should be avoided at all costs. Many long distance moving scams occur when long distance movers ask for 30-50% down. Simple you are thinking, you can just cancel your credit card if they don’t show up, are late, break things, etc. It’s not that simple. Moving company scammers are so crafty they have you sign to agree to the move. Then, when you go to cancel your credit card, they will say the deposit was non-refundable which is usually in the fine print for the move. Some moving documents are pages long and have multiple “outs” for movers to keep your deposit. This scam is frequently used by agents for van lines as they have the legal support to back up the paperwork. MOVING HELP TIP: NEVER PAY MORE THAN 10% FOR A LONG DISTANCE MOVING DEPOSIT OR $100 FOR A LOCAL MOVE – ANY MORE IS HIGHLY SUSPECT
- Additional moving fees are usually not included in a basic moving quote. For example, if you get a moving quote but did not indicate one of the following, many movers will take advantage and charge you more: multiple flights of stairs, elevator, long haul, shuttle fees, taxes, tolls, etc. Besides being up-front with your mover, you should get a guaranteed moving quote. MOVING HELP TIP: FIND MOVERS THAT DON’T CHARGE ADDITIONAL FEES, GET A LIST OF ANY FEES THAT THEY COULD POSSIBLY CHARGE
- Many moving companies have great websites. It would be normal to expect your moving company to show up uniformed, with a clean truck, clean moving blankets and provide a professional service. The fact is, most moving companies will show up with an unmarked truck with a crew with ripped jeans and dirty moving blankets. MOVING HELP TIP: LOOK ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO FIND MOVING COMPANIES THAT HAVE THIER OWN CLEAN TRUCKS AND CREW
- All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods that they transport. However, there are two different levels of liability that apply and you should be aware of the charges that apply and the amount of protection provided by each level. MOVING HELP TIP: FIND A MOVING COMPANY THAT OFFERS BOTH TYPES OF COVERAGE
- After your move is complete, you will have 15 days in order to file a claim. After that, the window of opportunity has passed. Many moving companies work with a claim company that will strictly adhere to the 15-day window. The problem is, most consumers are not aware of this window and it is usually written in fine print on the contract. MOVING HELP TIP: MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR CLAIMS IN WRITING TO YOUR MOVERS WITHIN THE 15 DAY TIME LIMIT
- Federal law requires one of two kinds of moving contracts. A non-binding estimate means the company cannot require payment of more than 10 percent above the original estimate, due at delivery. It also goes the other way – the moving company expects a certain amount going so your price will be only 10% lower at most. A binding estimate is supposed to be a guaranteed price for the move and all extras. Some moving companies will charge by the cubic foot. Well, essentially you can easily add hundreds of cubic feet on to a move by not packing tight. Moving companies, especially containerized movers are notorious for packing to add less weight and more cubic feet. MOVING HELP TIP: GET A QUOTE BASED ON WEIGHT
- Say no to low-ball bids. Watch out for rogue movers who get your business with bargain-price estimates. After filling the truck, they hold your possessions hostage until you pay thousands more. “Hostage load” movers tend to be smaller, unlicensed companies that may advertise on Craigslist or roadside signs. You’re safer checking listings on moving.org, a website run by the industry’s trade group. For moves between states, go to protectyourmove.gov, a federal watchdog website that verifies interstate moving companies’ licenses and complaint histories. One way to save is by moving midweek or in the middle of the month, in the fall or winter. Rogue movers are rampant in the summer and fall months. When moving the famous “you pay for what you get” advice is especially true. MOVING HELP TIP: GET ESTIMATES FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES AND CHECK WEIGHTS WITH AN ONLINE MOVING CALCULATOR TO MAKE SURE YOUR MOVERS ARE IN THE BALLPARK
- When hiring a van line, there are many dynamics involved. Your items will be picked up by one vendor, loaded, offloaded into storage, picked up by a truck, possibly swapped onto another truck or offloaded/reloaded at another storage facility, and eventually delivered by another vendor. The damage and loss that occurs with van lines is incredible. The first moving company could wrap and protect your furniture perfectly but no furniture can withstand constant loading and offloading. Many van lines have gone bankrupt or merged with other van lines. If you don’t purchase full replacement coverage, any loss will be valued at $.60/lb/article. Van lines offer full replacement coverage at a much higher ( approximately 80% higher) than a private moving company because they expect loss. MOVING HELP TIP: FIND A PRIVATE FULL SERVICE LONG DISTANCE MOVING COMPANY AND AVOID VAN LINES
If you’re among the 35 million Americans relocating this year, add the need to avoid cons to the other stressors that result from moving. About 3,600 complaints out of 800,000 moves were filed last year by people who hired interstate movers, you will need to heed some advice to make sure you are not a victim of a moving scam.
HOW TO AVOID MOVING SCAMS
Know your paperwork. Keep a copy of everything you sign — especially the “bill of lading,” which is a legal document that acknowledges the carrier is in possession of your cargo and serves as a receipt. An “order for service” lists what the mover will do, as well as pickup and delivery dates, and an inventory list shows each item you shipped and its condition (cross-check it after delivery). With nonbinding estimates, movers may be legally allowed to inflate charges about 10 percent. Binding estimates provide a fixed price but tend to be higher. Movers typically provide minimal insurance; before buying replacement-value coverage, check if your homeowners policy covers items lost or damaged during a move.
1. Ask your friends who they have used
You can research a mover online until the cows come home, but the fact is that websites are easy to put up and take down, online testimonials are easy to fake, and Internet credentials are just words. Talking to a friend or family member, or soliciting the advice of a trusted real estate agent, are better ways to obtain the names of reputable companies.
2. Check your movers out
There are several options for investigating movers, including government sites like ProtectYourMove.gov, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) site, FMCSA.gov. There are moving scam sites that are actually owned by moving companies. Xpress Movers owns mymovingreviews.com. MovingScam is owned by a van line. Be careful there are many moving scams out there. It is best to hire movers that your friends have hired, you have seen in action or have a third party moving company reviews site like customerlobby.com that does not alter reviews based on payments.
3. Ask about additional fees Your movers should be upfront with all additional fees and what your your moving fees should depend on. Here is a quick video for long distance moving costs which are more complicated than local moving costs
4. Get multiple estimates and use an online calculator to check
Shop around and get three estimates, in writing, after the aforementioned home visit. This is especially important for state to state moves, where the logistics are even more critical. Walter cautions against simply accepting the lowest bid. “It can be a red flag if one of your three bids is much lower than the others.”says Walters. “It’s not always a scam, but ask yourself why is it so low.”
5. Don’t pay your bill upfront
Some companies require long distance moving deposit as high as 50% percent of the total move, especially for a state-to-state relocation. Reputable companies should not require you to pay everything, or even half, upfront. Opt for 10% as a maximum deposit.
Moving scams are the worst. Usually movers will scam people out of a few hundred dollars. A significant amount but not enough to spend hours of time to report, hire a lawyer or even more time-consuming – go to court. They understand this so you must be prepared to use this knowledge so you don’t become a moving scam victim.