Many consumers may be moving soon, either because of the COVID-19 pandemic or other reasons. Careful research before hiring a moving company is necessary to avoid falling victim to a moving scam. Scammers can turn relocating into an expensive nightmare. These scams run the gamut from missing items, massive price hikes, and in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payment.
How a Moving Scam Works:
There are several versions of moving scams. The simplest is getting a quote and leaving a deposit, but the “movers” never show. In another variation, the moving company quotes a price based on weight. After loading, they inform you that your belongings went over the weight estimate and the additional weight will be a lot more per pound (sometimes double).
With the most egregious scheme, everything seems to be fine. The movers quote a price, arrive on time, and load your belongings on a truck. But when the truck doesn’t show up at your new home, either your belongings are simply gone forever or are being held “hostage” and you have to pay another fee before scammers will deliver them.
Tips to Spot a Moving Scam:
- Watch out for signs of a fly-by-night company. Look out for company websites that have no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance. Another warning is if telephone calls are answered with a generic “mover” rather than a company name, or the mover uses rented trucks. Another tip-off is the moving company that doesn’t make an on-site inspection but does estimates over the phone.
- Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be a warning sign. And if a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
- Get everything in writing. Check licensing with the authorities (in the U.S., use this tool from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to check out interstate movers), confirm insurance coverage, and get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. Make sure pick-up and delivery dates are spelled out and understand how the rate is being calculated. Don’t pay cash and don’t prepay or make a large deposit. Understand the terms of the insurance coverage and consider purchasing full value protection.
- Keep an inventory of your belongings. Make a detailed inventory of your property and number the boxes they are packed in for tracking. Know that a mover is not liable for loss or damage of contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.
The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) has provided Guidance for Consumers Moving During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Among their tips are to follow CDC guidelines, ask how the movers will mitigate health risks of COVID-19, and provide cleaning products and/or hand sanitizer for your movers.
Infographic: Five Reasons Why TRUST Matters When Hiring a Mover
For more tips to help you find a trustworthy moving company, read BBB’s Tips on hiring a mover.
To report a moving scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
To learn how to protect yourself, go to 10 Steps to Avoid Scams.