Most common moving scams and how to avoid them

Article posted by on January 20, 2024

When planning a move, awareness and vigilance are key to protection against scams. Unfortunately, among the many reputable moving companies, some engage in deceptive practices, leaving you vulnerable during what is already a stressful time. We’re here to shed light and provide knowledge on the most common moving scams and help you learn how to avoid them. We’ll explore various fraudulent tactics, including the bait-and-switch of lowball estimates and the nightmare of goods held hostage. Understanding these scams is the first step in protecting yourself. We’ll also look into practical strategies for enabling a safe and scam-free move. These include verifying a mover’s credentials, understanding insurance options, and recognizing red flags in mover interactions. Find out all you need to know about moving frauds with MovingScam, and your move will be nothing but smooth sailing.

Understanding the most common moving scams

Annually, about 35 million people in the United States relocate for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, 2023 has seen a rise of 12% in moving scam reports filed with Better Business Bureau compared to the year before. Learning about moving scams is crucial in organizing safe transportation of your belongings now more than ever. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which oversees interstate moves, has also noted a concerning rise in complaints against moving companies.

A graphic depiction of a laptop with money and information being stolen from it, signifying the most common moving scams.

A rise in fraudulent movers over the past year has made learning about the subject imperative.

Scams often start with offers that seem too good to be true, like significantly low estimates, only to later reveal hidden costs and fees. Other common tactics include demanding large deposits upfront, failing to provide a written estimate or contract, and using unmarked trucks. The FMCSA’s efforts to combat moving fraud include:

  • Educating people on spotting red flags
  • Understanding their rights and responsibilities
  • Providing resources for a successful move

By being aware of these scams and taking proactive steps to verify a mover’s legitimacy, you can protect yourself from potential fraud far more effectively.

Red flags and warning signs to look out for

Here are some of the most common moving scams and warning signs to watch for:

  • The lack of proper licensing – Legitimate moving companies are required to have a valid license for operation. You can usually verify this using their name or USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) number.
  • Receiving an estimate that is suspiciously low compared to standard market rates – This could be indicative of a bait-and-switch tactic, where the initial low cost is significantly increased once the belongings are loaded onto the truck.
  • Offering a quote sight unseen – This is a common tactic used by scammers. A legitimate moving company should always perform an in-person inspection or a detailed video survey of your items before providing an estimate.
  • Multiple negative reviews or a history of complaints – This can be a strong indicator of a company’s unreliability. Research customer reviews and check for any complaints filed with the FMCSA and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
A sketch of a stressed out and tired man leaning on his laptop.

Failing to spot the most common moving scams can result in serious consequences, all of which can be pretty pricy.

Paying attention to these red flags can help you avoid falling victim to moving scams and ensure a safer relocation process.

Your rights and responsibilities

Knowledge is power, and your relocation is no exception. Learning about your rights and responsibilities will make spotting the most common moving scams and avoiding them much easier.

Rights

  • Right to a written estimate: You have the right to receive a written estimate from your moving company. This should be a detailed document outlining all potential costs associated with your move. There are two types of estimates – binding and non-binding. A binding estimate guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services shown in the estimate. A non-binding estimate is based on the estimated weight of your belongings and the mover’s tariff, but the final cost can change.
  • Right to insurance and liability options: You have the right to understand the mover’s liability for loss or damage, and you can choose from several levels of protection. Movers generally offer two levels of liability: Full Value Protection (FVP), which is more comprehensive, and Released Value Protection, which is usually offered at no additional cost but provides minimal protection.
  • Right to timely delivery and filing claims: You have the right to expect your belongings to be delivered within the agreed-upon time frame. If there are delays or damages, you have the right to file a claim. Be aware of the mover’s policy on claims, including the time frame for filing and the process for resolution.

Responsibilities

  • Responsibility to provide accurate information: When obtaining an estimate, it’s your responsibility to provide accurate and complete information. This includes detailing the number and size of items being moved, access difficulties (like stairs or narrow streets), and any additional services you might need. Inaccurate information can lead to misunderstandings and additional charges.
  • Responsibility to read all documents carefully: Before signing any contract or agreement with the moving company, it’s your responsibility to read and understand all the terms and conditions. Pay special attention to the Bill of Lading, which is the legal contract between you and the mover. Ensure all services you expect are listed and that you understand the charges and liability options.
  • Responsibility to pay the agreed-upon amount: It’s your responsibility to pay the agreed-upon amount for the moving services. This includes understanding the terms of payment, such as deposit requirements, payment methods accepted, and when the final payment is due. Be cautious of movers who demand a large deposit upfront or only accept cash. It’s standard practice for reputable movers to require a reasonable deposit to secure the moving date, with the balance due upon delivery. Make sure you comply with these payment terms to avoid any complications or additional charges.

Choosing the right mover takes time and effort

Choosing the right mover can significantly impact the success and ease of your relocation. To be sure you’ve made the right choice, obtain detailed written estimates from multiple companies to compare services and prices. Additionally, ask for referrals from friends, family, or local real estate agents. Personal recommendations can be invaluable. Most importantly, don’t rush into a decision. Now that you’re aware of the most common moving scams, you have all the knowledge you need. Take your time to evaluate each mover’s credentials, transparency, and customer service approach. A reliable mover will be patient, informative, and clear about their services and fees, helping you feel confident and secure in your choice.

Resources:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/moving-fraud/
https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/red-flags/
https://www.hireahelper.com/moving-statistics/moving-scams/