How to Avoid Moving Scams

If I had to narrow it down to 2 things that people look for when finding a moving company, they would be 1) Price and 2) Reliability. The reliability aspect of things can be broken down into multiple categories such as efficiency, care, customer service, flexibility, trustworthiness, so on and so forth. But the worst of all is the dreaded moving scam. A thoroughly devious moving scam can leave you without both your money and your belongings.

So you may be wondering, “How do I avoid being scammed?” While there is no tried and true method to avoid being scammed, there are warning signs that will help you spot potential threats. Here is a list of things to look out for:

Moving Scam-o-meter: 1 (don’t worry) – 5 (high alert)

  • Mover has no license: 5
    • No license could mean they are not qualified at all to move you. When a mover is licensed, they like to make you aware of it by including it in their emails to you and placing it somewhere on their website.
  • Mover’s price seems to be much lower than everyone else you speak to: 5
    • “Low-balling” is a common tactic of scam artists who raise the price once your stuff is in their trucks. They’ll even hold your belongings hostage until you pay the increased price.
  • Mover doesn’t always answer your calls: 2
    • This can be annoying, but it could just mean they are busy and can’t always answer your calls. Just make sure you can get through occasionally and have your questions answered in a timely manner.
  • Mover never answers your calls: 5
    • If you can never get your movers on the phone, or request to speak to a manager but can never get through, your mover is likely hiding something from you.
  • Mover doesn’t want to come to your home to give you an estimate: 5
    • Often this is done by scammers so they can later use the excuse once your stuff is in the truck that your stuff was “heavier/more than expected”.
  • Mover has a bad website or doesn’t have a website: 1/2
    • To be honest, a lot of businesses do not have websites and even more have bad websites. Yes, it is the 21st century and this would seem like a no-brainer, but it’s the truth.
  • Mover has a lot of bad reviews online: 3/4
    • Typically a lot of bad reviews is telling of something, just be careful you are reading a reputable review site. Fake reviews are rampant everywhere.
  • Mover doesn’t have a physical location: 5
    • This usually means they don’t want to be found. Put 2 and 2 together. You can typically find a company’s address somewhere on their site, either in the Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy pages. You should also watch out for virtual offices and PO Boxes.
  • Mover makes you pay them via an indirect method (like PayPal): 5
    • If you can’t pay them in person, this can also mean they don’t want you to see their faces. Kind of like thieves who wear ski masks to a bank robbery.
  • Mover doesn’t have any trucks with their names on them: 4
    • Maybe they are just a low budget operation, but typically, reputable movers have their names/logos on their trucks.
  • Mover doesn’t give you a contract: 5
    • No contract means no obligations. I think you can figure this one out.
  • Mover doesn’t offer you additional insurance coverage: 2
    • Not a total red flag, but offering additional insurance is a sign that they want to make sure your stuff is protected.
  • Mover keeps on changing already agreed upon details on you: 5
    • This is a classic sign of a scammer. From changing the price to changing the delivery date, a scammer will make you run around in circles.
  • Mover is not a mover but a broker: 2-4
    • While there are licensed brokers out there, some of these brokers may work with unlicensed moving companies. They may hire them on your behalf without you having any say. Your risk of working with a scamming mover is greatly increased when you don’t even get to pick your own mover.

There was an interesting article written in the New York Times in Sept 2015 about an investigation done on a moving company who was gaining notoriety across the country as being a moving scammer. This mover lured customers in with bargain basement prices only to increase them on moving day. It was not unusual for prices to be raised 2 times the original estimate. This company was also irresponsible with packing certain items (like surfboards) that arrived broken on arrival, despite the customer warning them of the improper packing. Others have seen items just vanish or were delivered items that didn’t belong to them. Most of these unfortunate consumers’ attempts to rectify the situation with the mover ended with hours of hold music and ignored claims and complaints.

Sometimes the signs of a moving scammer are obvious and sometimes they are more veiled, but when your gut is ringing the alarms while your brain tries to convince you that “the price is soooo low,” listen to your gut.

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