How to Avoid a Moving Scam
We all can agree that moving is stressful and the last thing you need while in the midst of a crazy hectic move is a moving scam. Unfortunately… moving scams happen all the time to good, innocent people. If you’re not careful, they can happen to you too.
In this post, we promise to make you aware of a few red flags to look out for to avoid being caught in the nasty web of a moving scam. We will touch on everything from what is legal and what is not, unnecessary fees and charges and best practices to avoid a moving scam. If you’re dealing with a moving company right now and you’re asking yourself “Am I being scammed?”, we hope to answer that question for you by the end of this post.
- Red Flag #1: The scam movers charge you in cubic footage versus weight and mileage.
Back in August of 2015, the United States government passed a law making it illegal for moving companies to charge by cubic footage. So, if a moving company tries to give you a bid on a move based on the cubic footage of your home this should raise a few red flags and could mean there is a moving scam brewing on the horizon. While it’s completely normal for movers to inquire about the size of your residence (it helps them figure out how much stuff they’ll need to move and how long it will take), it’s fishy if they attempt to charge by cubic footage.
- Red Flag #2: The scam movers request a large deposit upfront (in cash).
While it is common practice for reputable moving companies to request a deposit up front, they rarely (if ever) request a large deposit in strictly cash. Reputable moving companies generally expect their clients to pay upon delivery not prior to. With that said, you should never pay a moving company in cash. Credit cards offer you proof of payment allowing you to confirm how much you paid and on what date. Plus, if you do find yourself in a moving scam, you can work with your credit card company to recover your money. If you pay cash, your money can’t be tracked and it’s your word against the rogue movers.
- Red Flag #3: The scam movers hesitate or have trouble coming up with past references.
Reputable moving companies should always have a list of references at their disposal for you to talk to. Or, at the very least, they should have a few client testimonials for you to take a glimpse at. In addition, you should never agree to do business with a moving company if they aren’t willing to get you in touch with past clients. Working with a moving company is expensive and you should feel certain you are making the right decision. If they don’t have past references for you to talk to, you should assume the worst and walk the other way.
- Red Flag #4: The scam movers frequently change their names.
A common way that rogue movers get around the Better Business Bureau is by constantly changing the names of their enterprises. Before agreeing to work with a local mover, be sure that they have a local address and information. If you are moving with a larger moving company, check their website to make sure they service your city, some moving companies will pose as big brands to build false trust with their victims and then strike. If you think something feels off, call the headquarters of the moving company.
- Red Flag #5: The scam movers change the moving bid drastically after moving your belongings on their trucks and pack on unnecessary additional charges.
We will be spending the most amount of time on this section because it is where rogue movers focus most of their moving scam.
A common moving scam is when rogue movers give you a moving estimate and then after moving all your belongings on their trucks, decide to increase the price substantially. Sometimes, they will even threaten to not move your belongings or even sell your belongings if you aren’t willing to cough up the money. To avoid this, you should have an upfront estimate in writing before agreeing to do business with a moving company.
In regards to additional moving charges, there are some that make sense. For example, let’s say you live on a narrow street that can’t fit a moving truck, it would make sense for a moving company to charge more.
Or, if you live on the 27th floor of a skyscraper with no elevator… a moving company is going to be more apt to increase their prices. There can also be unexpected events that can come up during a move that can pack on some additional fees –– like a massive grand piano that you forgot to tell the movers about.
With that said, if a moving company is drastically changing their moving fee after the move (like packing on a $1,000 or so), this could be a sign of a moving scam.
A few final pieces of advice on avoiding a moving scam.
The bottom line, trust your instincts. If something feels off about a moving company, check the Better Business Bureau, ask to talk to past clients and don’t be afraid to ask around. While moving scams to happen, they can be avoided if you are both proactive and skeptical. In addition, if you have extremely expensive belongings like jewelry, gold and electronics, don’t even take the risk. Have the movers focus on the big heavy items and you can take care of the small expensive stuff.