How to Avoid Moving Service Scams
According to Mayflower, a major moving company, approximately 1.6 million Americans will hire movers this year. Unfortunately, nearly 3,000 of those consumers will be scammed by internet-based companies that offer low initial estimates, but then hold a victim’s possessions hostage until they receive thousands of dollars in additional payments.
“Consumers are often tempted to go with the cheapest mover instead of with a reputable company that offers the best service for a fair price,” said Melissa Sullivan, marketing communications manager, Mayflower Transit. “Just because someone has a website doesn’t mean they are a legitimate mover.”
Things homeowners can do to lessen the chance of being scammed by disreputable movers
- Ask for an in-home estimate. Since transportation charges are based on move distance and weight, the company should physically look at your belongings.
- Don’t be hooked by the lowest price. Get three estimates. If one quote is much lower than the other two, it could be a red flag that the company is not legitimate.
- Verify company affiliations. Some disreputable movers lure customers by using names similar to reputable companies, so check the reputable company’s website to see if the mover is affiliated.
- Don’t pay up front. Generally, reputable moving companies will not require a deposit.
- Get pickup and delivery dates in writing.
Scammers are like most people – when they find a method that works for them; they keep using it. Police call this a thief’s “MO” or “modus operandi.” The bad news is, this helps the crooks perfect their scam, but the good news is, it’s also how law enforcement can track the bad guys. Sometimes a homeowner reporting a scam is what tips the police or federal agents to a previously unknown, or suspicious operation, so report any problems you have with a moving company to the proper authorities. You can find out more by downloading a free government PDF on “mover’s rights”.
If cost is a concern there are alternatives to hiring a professional mover.
- Don’t hire a mover at all. You can use a moving container service from Mayflower or another company. You load and lock the container and the company moves it. Not only does this allow you to save money, you can also pack and unpack at your pace, not on the moving company or rental truck’s schedule.
- Separate the moving company from the moving labor. Many times homeowners use a moving company that provides its own laborers. Consider separating the people who load the truck and the people who drive the truck. Hire local movers at each end of the move and drive the truck yourself or hire someone just to drive the truck. Read the fine print. Well, read the entire contract, but especially the fine print. If you don’t understand the contract, pay a lawyer to help decipher it for you. Never sign a legal contract you don’t understand.
- Make sure the mover is registered with the federal government and is insured. Why? A U.S. DOT number is required by FMCSA for interstate moves (for moves within a state, requirements vary.) Check with your state, county or local consumer affairs agency or your state attorney general to understand the laws in your jurisdiction.
- Get references from friends who have moved and see who they used and were happy with. Check reviews on Yelp, Google, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other review sites. Ask friends on Facebook for their referrals as well. This won’t out many of the big fraudsters, but it can reveal the local, newer scammers who are operating in your area.
- Move yourself. If you’re young and healthy or have friends or family who are, rent a moving truck and move your own stuff. Rent trucks, cargo vans, or trailers from U-Haul, Penske, Enterprise, or Ryder.
- Get a written estimate from several movers and compare them. Any legitimate moving company will only give you a written estimate after physically viewing the things you want to be moved.
Report illegitimate or pirate movers
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCA) if you feel you have been a victim of fraud by a moving company, moving broker or auto transporter, you can file a complaint with the FMCSA with their online complaint tool or by calling 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm Monday through Friday Eastern Time. Your complaint may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover. The FMCA keeps track of complaints and uses their database to decide which criminals to pursue.
Read more at their website for information on how to protect yourself and your possessions.
Get Help Recovering Your Property Free
If you need or want help recovering your property, the Move Rescue program can help at no cost to the customer by calling the 800 number (800-832-1773) or heading to their website.