Blog June 14, 2021

How to Spot Moving Scams and Avoid Them

Posted in How-to
Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

The expenses of moving state-to-state can be too much to bear. That misfortune is a guiding idea for frauds who create moving scams. They count on your wish to find a company that accommodates all your needs and offers to do it for a very low price. If you don’t want to overpay or be left without your belongings, check out the following list and learn how to deal with fraud companies.

Common Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them

If you are relocating for the first time, it is not unusual to think that those frauds will never happen to you. If you’ve moved before, however, you probably know that it is highly possible. There is an average of 13,000 complaints about moving company scams each year in the US, with a very high number of those that remain unresolved. It all affects the gradation of depression after relocation.

Moreover, that number is still growing – the current situation with coronavirus only benefits frauds. That is why it is vital to protect yourself while moving interstate. You should do everything in your power to choose a long-distance relocation service that will provide a successful, stress-free relocation for you.

Investigate the Names of Companies

Some companies change their name frequently, so their customers don’t find out about their bad reputation. Fortunately, there is a way of finding out if they are trying to trick you – just ask for their business license. Pay attention to little details and look for the name first – if the name doesn’t match, that is a sign that it has been changed.

The next thing you should check is the date on the license – if it is new, inform yourself about their previous work. If they claim that the team has much experience, either they are lying, or they’ve changed the name and gotten a new license. Either way, that is not a good sign. Of course, if they don’t want to give you their license info at all, turn around and don’t look back.

Do Thorough Online Research on the Company’s Services

Make sure to look for reviews and recommendations. Don’t miss this step on your checklist for relocating to a new state because fraudulent companies often don’t have them at all. Although, you need to be careful – some professional scammers may build professional-looking websites with fake reviews pointing to their “quality service.”

Try to contact their previous customers – a personal conversation with (un)satisfied customers should give you the best insight into how they manage their business. In addition to that, check the firm’s phone number and address. Scammers often have just an online presence, but no physical address. Detailed research should be the first of many things to do when relocating, so make sure to organize your relocation with that in mind.

The Importance of the Estimate – Open the Doors of Your Home

You should never trust a mover that doesn’t send their representative to your home for an estimate. However, with the coronavirus isolation, things may get a little bit trickier than before. Now, every moving fraud can use the pandemic for their benefit and agree only to phone-call estimations, which can never be as precise. There is no right advice for this problem – just trust your instinct and follow other long-distance relocation tips we give you about avoiding scammers.

Always search for several different estimates – that way, you will get a better insight into the median cost of relocation service. If someone offers a much lower price than the others, it is highly possible that you are dealing with fraud. Also, be sure to demand that the cost is based on the estimated weight, not space – scammers can easily arrange objects so that they occupy more space than needed.

Be Familiar With the Law

If you don’t want to be tricked, you must know the legal obligations of your potential mover. Learn about various types of contracts you may be offered. According to federal law, they may provide you with either a binding or a non-binding contract, that is, a binding or non-binding estimation. You will be obliged to pay additional costs in both cases within 30 days from the delivery date if there are any.

In the first case, you should be offered a guaranteed quote that is unchangeable unless you demand extra services (that will help you relocate efficiently). On the other hand, when it comes to non-binding estimates, the required payment must not be more than 10% of the original deal. Scammers will count on your ignorance on this topic and try to charge you away, making you forget about all the good things and benefits of relocation.

Aim for Personal Contact (and Other Helpful Tips)

You should avoid working with brokers, too. They will probably hire a cheap but unreliable company to get a better percentage. It is always better to search and hire them by yourself. When hiring movers, you need to see whether they are thorough in their assessments, or if they just cast a glance around your home, if they are taking an interest in a relocation process, and so on.

A serious mover will want to have all of the information and offer the final cost of relocation based on the date, the mileage, the inventory weight, and so on. Make sure to follow the relocation hacks we showed you in order to avoid unnecessary troubles. If you want to summarize everything we talk about above and hear some more suggestions for hiring a relocation team, be sure to watch the following video.

Unexpected Costs and How to Escape Them

There is nothing worse than agreeing to one price, only to realize that the final cost will be much, much higher. However, frauds have developed several different tricks with this precise tactic in mind. Your first step should be to learn your rights and responsibilities from the booklet every relocation firm should give you.

Fraud firms will try to lure you to them, so their moving scam will always be based on offering a low-cost relocation, which is alluring if you are trying to find the cheapest way to move out of state. Afterward, however, they will add the cost for additional services and increase the final bill. The scam is simple – you refuse to pay, they refuse to give you your household goods back.

Because of that, it is imperative to get everything in writing. Make sure to always read the fine print of the contract. Be aware of contracts that are vague or difficult to understand, and make sure that all of the services you will use are part of it. Under no circumstances should you sign a blank document.

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Ask for the Capped Price

You can always insist on information about the highest possible cost of relocation, but make sure that it is documented. That way, you are secured, and you will know what the highest fee may be, which should lessen your anxiety about relocation. Be aware of all the little things concerning your household – how many floors your old home has, if you are going to need packing service, whether the movers will rent storage for your belongings and if they will charge it, and so on. All of that can and will affect the final cost.

If you decide to let the movers finish the packing process, be sure to determine its cost before the relocation. Ensure to get in writing the possible expenses for fuel, especially if you are relocating to a new state. Reliable state-to-state movers will notify you about all additional charges in advance and put them all in the bill of lading. Scammers, however, will trick you by offering you the low cost but, in the end, charge you all, maybe even more than other companies would.

A pile of 100 USD banknotes
If you choose a low cost quote, you may end up paying a lot more than you initially planned

Do Movers Steal Your Stuff?

In some extreme cases, people can get robbed. Robbers often use the previously described technique but, in the end, disappear into thin air. If that happens, you can lose your money or your belongings, or, in the worst-case scenario, both. Because of that, remember to never pay in cash – that kind of transaction is harder (read: impossible) to trace. Also, don’t work with teams that require very high deposits – they will most likely take your money and vanish, making you a victim of their relocation scam.

A person holding a credit card and a phone
Remember to use traceable payment methods, like credit cards

How Do I Know if a Moving Company Is Legit?

In order to answer the question of How do you avoid moving scams and protect your household goods, you need to find out which relocation firm is most trustworthy. There are several reliable methods you can use, including all of our suggestions above. However, before you decide to work with someone, it would be best if you could search for different online resources, both formal and informal, such as:

  • Databases created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the whole field of interstate moving,
  • Databases offered by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), who keep track of professional local and long-distance movers whose service is on the highest level,
  • Reviews from Better Business Bureau (BBB), which keeps track of customers’ experience with different companies.

In addition to that, make sure to check their DOT (Department of Transportation) number provided by FMCSA. Consider it a scam alert if they don’t have one, don’t want you to have it, or if that number doesn’t match the one on the relocation vehicle.

Display of electronics next to eyewear
Research different online databases to better protect yourself and your goods

What to Do if You Have Been Scammed by a Moving Company?

If your relocation, by some misfortune, ends up as a part of a more or less serious scam, be sure to file your complaint, which you can do:

The best advice we can give you is not to give up without a fight. Don’t make peace with your fate and don’t question your reasons to move – a complaint is your only chance to meet justice. Of course, it would always be better if the complaint process doesn’t become one of the steps on your relocation to another state checklist.

A person holding a
If something goes wrong, don't hesitate to ask relevant authorities for help

Lean Solely on the Quality of Service

We surely understand why a lower price could be tempting, especially considering the cost of an interstate relocation in general, which is exceptionally high if you want to move out of state on a budget. Just be sure that money is not the only criteria you take into consideration. The consequences of choosing a scamming relocation company may be very severe, and you may end up with less money in your pocket than you would if you had hired a trustworthy one.

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