How to report a moving scam: Step-by-step guide

Article posted by on February 02, 2024

The rise in moving scams is a growing concern, leading to financial losses and added stress during what is already a stressful time. Recognizing and reporting these scams is essential for protecting yourself and helping others avoid similar pitfalls. Join MovingScam.com as we outline clear steps to spot and report a moving scam and steer clear of fraudulent movers. This way, you’ll be able to organize a safer moving process for you and your loved ones. By arming yourself with the knowledge to identify and act against moving fraud, you can safeguard your move and contribute to a community of informed consumers. Let’s explore actionable advice and resources to effectively deal with these scams.

Signs to help you identify a moving scam

In the United States, the moving industry is a vital service sector, but it’s also one where vigilance against scams is crucial. Here’s how to identify a moving scam:

  • Suspiciously low quotes – A major warning sign is receiving a quote that’s significantly lower than expected. While a low price might seem appealing, it’s crucial to be cautious. Genuine moving companies calculate their prices based on the required services, move distance, and your items’ weight. Quotes that are much lower than competitors’ may indicate hidden fees or incomplete services.
  • Absence of itemized estimates – Be alert if a moving quote lacks a comprehensive itemized list of services and fees. Trustworthy movers will itemize all costs associated with your move, including any extra charges. A general or unclear quote could suggest a lack of transparency about the company’s pricing structure.
  • Urgency to secure a contract – Exercise caution with any mover who insists on immediate contract signing. Ethical movers allow you the time to assess the quote and address any queries. Pressure to sign quickly often aims to prevent you from scrutinizing the quote or investigating the company further.
a table with a phone and documents that have "scam" written on them

By learning about different red flags and signs to help you identify fraudulent movers, you might avoid having to report a moving scam in the future.

 

When to report a moving scam

Filing a formal complaint against a moving company is a step you might need to consider under certain circumstances, beyond merely sharing your dissatisfaction on social media or with friends. This will not only potentially provide you with legal recourse and compensation, but also prevent scams from happening to others who come after you. If you report a moving scam, you will help protect future clients, hold scammers accountable, and empower consumer confidence.

5 situations where you should consider filing a formal complaint

  • Significant damage to your belongings: Minor wear and tear might be expected during a move, but if your items are significantly damaged or destroyed, you have grounds to file a complaint. Documenting the condition of your items before and after the move provides essential evidence for your claim. Moving companies are expected to handle your belongings with care to prevent such damage.
  • Loss or theft of items: It’s not unheard of for items to go missing or be stolen during a move. Preparing a detailed inventory of your belongings before the move can help you identify anything that’s missing afterward. If you discover that items are lost or stolen, reporting the incident is crucial.
  • Possessions held hostage: If a moving company refuses to deliver your possessions unless you pay more than the agreed price, it’s a clear violation of your agreement. This situation warrants immediate action and reporting of the moving fraud.
  • Being overcharged: Ensure you get multiple estimates before choosing a moving company to avoid being overcharged. If the final charge significantly exceeds the estimate or agreed price, especially if you’re charged by the hour, filing a complaint is a justified response.
  • Movers arriving late: While movers are providing a service, they are also fulfilling a contractual obligation that includes arriving at a specified time. If movers are unreasonably late, affecting your moving schedule, this is a valid reason to file a formal complaint.
a person sitting behind a table and typing on their laptop

Sometimes filing a complaint is the only way to deal with the situation you’re in.

Of course, you must always read any document you sign down to the fine print. This way, you’ll know your rights and be able to recognize situations that require you to report a moving scam. Note that these are not the only reasons to file a complaint. If you encounter other issues or red flags with your moving company, consider reporting them to protect yourself and others from potential scams.

Immediate steps to take if you suspect a scam

If you suspect you’re dealing with a moving scam, taking immediate and decisive action is crucial to protect yourself. You should:

1. Stop all communication

If you haven’t signed a contract yet, halt further discussions with the moving company. This prevents them from obtaining more of your personal information or pressuring you into a commitment.

2. Conduct in-depth research

  1. Verify licensing: For movers based in the U.S., check their license with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA requires all interstate movers to have a U.S. DOT number. This step is crucial because, according to FMCSA data, there were over 4,000 complaints about moving scams and fraud in a recent year.
  2. Check reviews and ratings: Visit the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to read reviews and check the company’s rating. The BBB tracks complaints and how they are resolved, offering a reliable gauge of a company’s reliability and customer service. A pattern of unresolved complaints can be a red flag.

These steps are not just precautionary measures but essential actions based on the prevalence of moving scams. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported numerous cases where individuals and families were victimized by fraudulent movers, highlighting the importance of due diligence before hiring a moving company. By verifying a mover’s credentials and researching their reputation, you significantly reduce the risk of becoming a scam victim.

A person doing in depth research about a moving company on their computer and writing down notes in their notebook to avoid having to report a moving scam

Doing detailed research before hiring movers will significantly increase your chances of making the right decision.

Ways to report a moving scam

Reporting a moving scam effectively can help prevent future fraud and potentially assist you in recouping losses. Here’s how to navigate the reporting process across various channels:

Local Law Enforcement

  • When to report: If the scam involves outright theft, extortion, or other criminal activities.
  • What information to provide: Provide detailed information about the moving company, including names, contact information, dates of service, and a description of the scam. Include any contracts, correspondence, and evidence of payments.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

  • How to file a complaint: You can file a complaint online through the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database or by calling their hotline.
  • Information required: You’ll need to provide the mover’s name, USDOT number, details of the scam, and any documentation to support your claim. The FMCSA oversees interstate moving companies and can take action against those violating regulations.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

  • Submitting a complaint: File a complaint on the BBB website for mediation and review.
  • How the process works: The BBB forwards your complaint to the company, and they have 14 days to respond. The process aims to facilitate a resolution between you and the mover. The BBB also records complaints, affecting the company’s rating.

State Consumer Protection Office

  • Finding your state’s office: Search online for your state’s consumer protection office or attorney general’s website.
  • Filing a state-level complaint: The process varies by state but generally involves submitting a detailed complaint form online or via mail, including evidence of the scam.

American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA)

  • For members: If the moving company is an AMSA member, report ethical violations directly to AMSA.
  • Role of AMSA: AMSA promotes industry standards and consumer protection. While AMSA cannot enforce laws, it can revoke membership for violations, impacting the company’s credibility.

Online Review Platforms

  • Sharing your experience: Post detailed reviews on platforms like Yelp, Google Reviews, and MovingScam.com.
  • Impact of public reviews: Public reviews raise awareness about fraudulent movers and can deter potential customers from using their services, thereby preventing future scams.

By reporting a moving scam through these channels, you contribute to a broader effort to combat fraud in the moving industry and protect other consumers from similar experiences.

A person typing on laptop leaving a review and getting ready to report a moving scam

Leaving reviews on multiple platforms can be of great help for anyone with an upcoming move.

Collecting and organizing evidence

To effectively report a moving scam, compiling and organizing evidence is crucial. Here’s a concise guide on what to gather:

  • Inventory of interactions: Keep a detailed list of all interactions with the moving company, including dates and summaries of conversations.
  • Documentation: Collect all agreements and transaction documents, such as contracts, quotes, and receipts.
  • Visual evidence: Take photographs of any damaged items or conditions relevant to your claim.
  • Communication records: Save all emails, text messages, and call logs that show communication with the movers.
  • Financial records: Gather bank statements, payment receipts, or any other records showing payments made to the moving service.

This organized evidence will strengthen your case when reporting the scam to authorities or review platforms.

Legal recourse

For legal recourse against a moving scam, follow these steps:

  1. Consult a consumer protection attorney: Seek advice from an attorney specializing in consumer rights to understand your legal options.
  2. Know your rights: An attorney can explain your rights and the specific laws that apply to moving scams.
  3. Small claims court: If the dispute remains unresolved, consider filing a case in small claims court for compensation.

This approach can help you navigate the legal system and pursue justice for the scam you experienced.

Preventative measures for future moves

To prevent falling victim to moving scams in future relocations, consider these preventative measures:

  • Vet moving companies: Research companies thoroughly, including their history and customer reviews.
  • In-home estimates: Insist on in-home estimates rather than online or over-the-phone quotes to get a more accurate assessment.
  • Verify licensing and insurance: Check the mover’s licensing through the FMCSA and confirm they have valid insurance.
  • Read contracts carefully: Understand all terms and conditions before signing any agreement.
  • Seek trusted recommendations: Prioritize recommendations from friends, family, or reliable online forums over unknown sources.

These steps can significantly reduce the risk of encountering moving scams.

a moving company worker doing an in-home estimate for a family

In-home estimates are a must if you want to be certain about the moving company you’re hiring.

Taking action will make all the difference

As you can see, it’s crucial to report a moving scam for many reasons, the most important ones being your own compensation and peace of mind, holding fraudulent movers accountable, and preventing others from becoming victims. It’s essential to diligently research and verify the credentials of moving companies. By taking proactive steps to protect yourself, you can navigate your moves safely and avoid the pitfalls of moving scams.

Resources:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/red-flags/
https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/consumer-protection/protect-your-move/are-you-moving/liability-protection/
https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/moving-fraud/
https://www.movingauthority.com/how-to-spot-rogue-movers/
https://consumer.ftc.gov/scams/