Are you nervous for your moving day? You’re not alone. Moving is cited as one of the most stressful activities in the United States. To make this day a bit easier, most of us turn to a moving company. It’s a good decision… but you need to be careful before hiring someone. Choosing the wrong mover could land you in the middle of a costly scam!
It’s difficult to find a good moving company without knowing what to look for. As a result, shady companies prey on people who might be overly trusting or unaware of what they’re walking into. This past year, the Better Business Bureau received over 7,700 reports of damaged property, hidden charges and unscheduled actions related to moving companies. Really, this means 7,700 frustrated people who didn’t get the convenience they expected when it came time to move!
If you’re going to be hiring movers, you need to know what to avoid. Below, we’ll detail some of the most common scams and poor practices commonly associated with less-than-reputable moving providers.
Get familiar with common moving scams
There are a whole slew of creative methods shady companies have come up with to scam people hiring movers. Many people assume they’re smart enough to escape being scammed, but these dodgy practices are more sophisticated than you think! Here are a few scams that are common and hard to spot because they seem like standard practice.
Fraudsters will ask you for a moving deposit—usually under the guise of “holding a truck” or “reserving a crew.” The problem is, this can actually be a legitimate ask for small moving companies and often, the deposit isn’t unreasonable—usually less than $100. The scam comes when that money isn’t subtracted from the total cost of the move!
To avoid it, pay with your credit card. If the deposit isn’t taken off the cost of the move or returned to you, you can file a dispute with your credit card company.
Many less-than-reputable companies take advantage of clients who don’t read the contract and sign it blindly. They sneak hidden costs and fees into the fine print, or trap you into hefty cancellation fees and penalties. This results in two things. First, you’re tied to a contract that’s far more expensive than the quote would indicate and second, you’ll be charged even more for backing out.
Beware “guaranteed contracts” and always take the time to read the fine print. Most reputable companies will have a moving contract that’s less than five pages, with expenses fully detailed.
Check the history of your moving company and see how long they’ve been in business. Fly-by-night movers tend to change their names a lot to avoid the heat of past scams. They might operate out of the same location and even employ the same people, only under a different name. If there’s more than one record of a moving company and different names associated with it, you’re likely in for a scam.
Avoid these types of companies and choose a moving expert that’s been in the business for many years under the same name.
Avoid scams by vetting responsible movers
The easiest way to steer clear of moving scams is to work with a reputable mover that has a track record of honest, transparent business practices. How do you find a reputable mover? Here are a few tips to avoid the fraudsters and find reputable help you can rely on.
- Frame of reference: Searching for a moving company online without knowing what exactly you should look for can lead to being scammed. Simplify the process by asking coworkers, family members and friends for recommendations. Recommendations go a long way toward finding a reputable moving provider.
- Be scrupulous: Don’t get one quote and make your decision! Go from one website to another and compare what’s offered, and at what rates. This will give you some idea of who’s expensive vs. cheap, or who provides what services. It’s not just about moving, it’s about trusting the company with your belongings and money.
- Red flag of illegitimacy: Keep an eye on the estimates and watch out for some of the common scams we mentioned above. Look to see that a company has an operating address, a website and multiple means of contact. Even look to see if they have pictures posted online, to show that they’re uniformed and have jobsite experience. If you can’t find any of these things, it’s a major red flag.
- Licensed and insured: Movers should be licensed, bonded and insured before handling your belongings. It’s protection for you and them! Beware of any company that can’t produce proof of license or insurance. Remember, it’s not unreasonable to ask for these things and often, a reputable mover will present them outright.
- Accurate estimates: When you call companies for an estimate at home, provide the sales representative with information about all the services you may need. Make sure that ALL services are enlisted in all estimates. Also, inquire about getting a binding price. If they’re willing to come out, survey and provide a binding quote, it’s a good sign they’re worth your business.
- On-time service: Reputable companies will book moves far out in advance and be diligent in maintaining their calendar. If the company you’re talking to doesn’t book very far out or seems to be unsure about their schedule, it’s a sign they’re unable to dedicate appropriate attention to your move. Look for a company that’ll give you the time of day.
Above all else, the best way to avoid getting scammed by a mover is to find a provider who will talk you through the entire process with transparency. It should never feel like your mover is hiding anything from you or rushing to get you to sign a contract. Take confidence in movers who take the time to do things the right way.
Know your rights when hiring moving companies
Another way to avoid common moving scams is to know your rights. You’re entrusting someone to handle your worldly possessions and to provide you with a professional service. You absolutely have rights! Here are a few things you’re entitled to when hiring movers.
- Estimates: You have every right to ask a moving company for an upfront estimate on service, and to request a formalized quote with a breakdown of costs and services. Reputable movers will have no problem providing both non-binding and binding quotes. Shady companies looking to scam you might provide obfuscated quotes or refuse to provide one at all.
- Bill of lading: When professional movers take possession of your household goods, they’ll issue a bill of lading. This bill acts as a receipt, identifying who owns the belongings stowed in the moving truck. You should make sure that your estimate is attached to the bill, which ensures the mover abides by the price you were quoted.
- Lost or damaged goods: Every moving company is responsible for the goods transported. Whenever you hire any company, make sure you know how your goods are covered in case of loss and/or damage. There are normally three options: weight-based liability; value-based liability; and a third-party insurance. Inquire with your mover which option is best for your move.
- Claims: If you notice any of your items are damaged during the move, you have the right to file a written claim with your moving company. Any reputable full-service mover you choose should provide at least 60 days to file a claim and acknowledge receipt of your claim within 10 days. You have the right to pursue damages in the event your belongings are damaged!
Use all these tips and a few ounces of good, common sense to avoid getting yourself entangled in a moving scam. While it’s true scam artists are getting more and more sophisticated as time goes on, all it takes is a little bit of questioning and scrutiny to dig up red flags. Likewise, when you find a reputable moving company it’ll be immediately evident in how they present themselves and how they conduct business.
Make sure you put your move in the hands of a trustworthy professional—not someone who’s out to scam you!