How to Spot A Moving Scam

You’re moving! There’s planning, packing and all sorts of preparation needed to get from your current house to your new home, and a major part of planning your move is choosing a reputable moving
company — like Mayflower.

But how do you know your moving company is the real deal? With all the demands that come with planning a move, it’s easy to get caught up in promises that fake moving companies or deceptive operators advertise. The most important thing to protect your moving experience from fraud is to do your homework; a well-informed, educated consumer is key.

How can you avoid being scammed by a fraudulent mover?

First and foremost, there are laws that legitimate moving companies abide by. Licensed interstate movers are required by law to adhere to certain regulations and standards of practice that make them more reliable and accountable. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) keeps tabs on criminal movers who seek to take advantage of vulnerable consumers.

If you have not scrutinized the moving contract (or signed one at all), you’ll likely have trouble getting your goods back from a rogue operation without an excessive ransom payment. Some will demand a full payment or large deposit before even pulling away from the curb. Others will wait to leverage your goods until they’ve arrived at your destination. Regardless of the tactic, one thing is certain; the price will change, and you are going to end up paying more than you expected to get your belongings back.

These fly-by-night operations and tricky bait and switch tactics scam consumers out of thousands of dollars every day and are an unfortunate part of the moving industry. To avoid moving companies that disregard these regulations, take the time to do some research and investigation. If you are critical of the details, you will spot a scan long before you fall victim to one.

Below are the top tips from Mayflower for recognizing common moving scams and identifying signs of fraudulent or disreputable activity in the moving process.

Common Moving Scams to Avoid

Hidden Moving Fees

Always insist on signing a completed moving contract before you let movers take possession of your belongings. Rogue movers are notorious for tacking on unplanned and/or undisclosed fees for packing, climbing stairs, heavy moving or additional weight at the last minute.

Deposits for Moving Services

Understand any and all fees associated with your move prior to signing a contract. A reputable moving company will not ask for a deposit to hold your move date. Also, they will not ask for a credit card or cash deposit at the time you are loading the truck. Generally, a credit card is requested closer to your load date.

Suspicious Moving Quotes

The Low-Ball Bid
A legitimate mover is not going to give you a low-ball, too good to be true moving quote. (Moving quotes are also known as bids or estimates in the moving industry.) A bid from a mover that is suspiciously low is likely missing some important detail. Be sure to go over the full scope of your final costs before choosing a low-cost moving agreement. Unexpected costs could be applied to the move after the company has your belongings. This type of scam escalates when the fraudulent company refuses to deliver your things until you pay up, thus doubling or even tripling the cost of your original price.

The One-Price-Fits-All Bid
The price of moving is far more complicated than simply calculating “start and stop” destinations involved in a move. Offering one price for every move is a huge red flag! A reputable mover will calculate your estimate not only with zip codes and number of rooms, but also weight of goods and the amount of space required on a truck to move your things. Be wary of suspicious moving quotes that leave out important detail in determining your moving costs.

The In-and-Out Bid
Like the One-Price-Fits-All Bid, the In-and-Out Bid does not gather enough information to accurately bid to a long-distance move. They will hurry the conversation past pricing and will likely neglect to discuss the complete terms of service until your entire household is neatly packed into their truck. This is when the price of the move usually changes. Your estimator should take adequate time to inspect every room in your home (including closets), as well as ask important questions about your moving plans.

The Volume-Based Bid
Be cautious of movers who quote your long-distance move by cubic footage of truck space and not by estimated weight. While this measure is acceptable for small moves, interstate moves based on volume are considered to be illegal without a weight conversion factor and should be reported to the FMCSA.

Protect Yourself from Moving Scams

With a little due diligence, you can avoid moving scams and rest assured that you have hired a reputable moving company.

  1. Ask Friends and Family
    Friends and family can recommend a moving company they have recently used and provide you with reviews based on their real-life experiences.
  2. Check with AMSA
    Start by checking with the American Moving and Storage Association (moving.org). This organization keeps an up-to-date list of Pro-Mover certified local and long-distance movers on file. Check with them to find a moving service or to screen a company you’ve already contacted.
  3. Research Companies Thoroughly
    Check online for reviews with the BBB and Google to be sure that they have a history of customer service success. Also, check with family and friends who have recently moved for their recommendations on a reputable mover.
  4. Document Everything
    After delivery, you have only nine months to report any problems to the moving company and file a written claim for loss or damage to your belongings. Note any problems on the mover’s copy of the inventory before signing it. Your mover has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim. Within 120 days of receiving it, they must make an offer to pay or deny your claim. It’s a lot easier for them to deny it if you don’t have before-and-after proof or if they don’t see the damage before leaving your home.
  5. Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
    Federal law requires that every licensed mover provide consumers with an informational packet titled, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” during the planning stage of your move. Most legitimate moving companies will direct you online to their website to access this information or possibly provide you with a 25-page booklet on fair practices, industry regulations and consumer rights.

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