An agent in our office recently notified us that one of her clients had fallen victim to a popular new scam. Like many of us, this client did a search for movers on the internet, and followed-up by checking out a few movers’ websites. One company’s site looked promising and when contacted, they promptly offered a very reasonable quote. On moving day, the moving crew arrived with their truck, and packed the clients belongings—and according to authorities, took them right to Mexico. Which, unfortunately, was not where the client was moving. Apparently, some unscrupulous individuals created a fake moving company on the internet, complete with a company name and logo.
How Moving Scams Work
Moving scams have become the next big thing for those out to take you (and your belongings) for a ride. Like the above example, they can take the form of a sham company that steals your household out from under you while you watch and offer lemonade. Some scam movers even get a large deposit up front, then steal your items for resale, or never show up at all on moving day, pocketing the cash you’ve already paid out. An alternate version of the moving scam involves a company quoting an extra-low price based on the “anticipated” weight of your goods, usually without doing an in-home visit to see the items. On moving day, the company loads all the belongings and then says that they exceed the weight estimate. They then charge you more (sometimes double) while holding your items hostage until the additional payment is made. With scammers, the best defense is a good offense—be on the lookout for these red flags that signal someone is out to take you for a ride.
Six Signs of a Shady Mover
- The website doesn’t list an address, or has one that you can’t verify. Real movers want you to find them, and they will have a real local address. Use Google Maps’ satellite image feature or drive by or visit the office to make sure it’s legit.
- The moving company website does not offer information about licensing or insurance. Moving locally in Texas? All movers within Texas must be licensed with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and you can check their license at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website. Moving out of state? The US Department of Transportation requires all interstate movers to display their DOT# on their website. You can verify that it’s legitimate at the US Department of Transportation website.
- They don’t answer the phone with their business name, or only communicate via email. Scammers often use multiple business names to avoid detection, and they prefer to keep communication to a minimum. Requesting an in-home estimate will weed out many fraudulent companies.
- They don’t provide you with a complete written estimate. Shady movers don’t like to leave a paper trail, instead sending email quotes with scant detail. Get everything in writing, including a confirmation of insurance coverage. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, and understand the limits of liability and any disclaimers. If you don’t understand something—ask. And never sign a contract that hasn’t been filled out in its entirety.
- They request a large deposit prior to providing any services, or request a cash deposit. This should be a deal breaker, as most reputable companies won’t require a deposit at all, and certainly won’t ask for cash. Use a credit card when paying your mover, so that you can dispute fraudulent charges if necessary.
- They are offering a quote that is well under what other movers have quoted. The deal sound too good to be true? It probably is! Rogue movers entice stressed-out relocators with low prices, knowing they can send the price skyrocketing once they have your beloved possessions in their truck.
Find A Reputable Mover
Friends, relatives and neighbors are your first line of defense. Ask them for recommendations before blindly hitting the internet. Realtors are also a good resource, as they often have a list of companies their clients have successfully used in the past.
Check the Better Business Bureau website for any complaints about companies you are considering. They also have a database that will refer you to companies that have received an A+ or A rating in your area at the Better Business Bureau website.
Check Yelp to see if there are any negative reviews for the company you are considering. While a company can place fake positive reviews on the site, negative reviews are a definite red flag.
Consider hiring a mover certified by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Member companies are in compliance with state and federal guidelines, and do not have outstanding complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau. Consumers can get a referral to a professional moving comapny by entering some info at the AMSA website.