Avoiding Moving Scams
Unfortunately, the moving business is full of scams. This is because people don’t move every month or even every year and when they do move, they often don’t understand the complexity of the industry. They are primed for being taken advantage of.
The most common moving scams involve brokers. The “movers” do not have trucks or men that work directly for them, instead they bid your move and then selling to the trucker thats willing to to do your move at cost they quoted.
A red flag that you are dealing with a broker is the deposit. A van line will not ask for a deposit when you are moving across state lines. Typically, the broker person portrays himself or herself as a moving company, asks for a deposit to “secure” the move date when in reality, this is his commission.
You also need to be aware of hidden charges. Shady moving companies might stay mum about additional fees, like packing fees, stairs fees, or shuttle fees. These fees can tack on hundreds of dollars onto a total bill, and you won’t learn about them until the very end. Worse, the moving company can hold onto your stuff until you pay it. Make sure you know what kinds of additional fees may occur and get them in writing.
Some moving companies will offer an estimate without really knowing anything about the job you need done. In most cases, these estimates are designed to get you in so they can hit you with hidden charges. You want to have at least two, if not three estimators come to your home prior to picking your mover. Do not go with a mover because they are the cheapest, there is a reason they are cheap. Thousands of people each year have their belongings held hostage by scam artists who low-ball your quote, then refuse to deliver your belongings until you’ve paid them hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Make sure you get everything in writing,
Some companies get around the PUC and BBB and other such scam busters by constantly doing business under new names. Be sure the company has a local address and information about licensing and insurance. They should answer the phone with the full name of the business, not just “moving services” or something else generic.
Moving companies need to be licensed. Never hire one that isn’t. It’s a sign that they aren’t playing by the rules. You can check that your mover is licensed by going to http://www.protectyourmove.gov
Moving companies are required to have insurance. Make sure your company does, but also make sure you know what it is. The basic liability amount is $0.60 per pound. This is given at no additional cost but it provides little actual coverage if something is damaged or lost during your move. If you want insurance, make sure you get it, and make sure you understand what its protections are.
Be careful and do not sign a blank contract. This should be common sense rather than a scam — but don’t ever, ever sign a blank contract, no matter how much you like the mover. Get absolutely everything in writing. Your estimate and all extra fees should be right there, as well as your pickup and delivery dates.
Read your contract from top to bottom and make sure that all your belongings are listed. Don’t be satisfied with a box that’s just inventoried as “Office supplies” unless you saw it packed up with just notepads and paperclips. If that laptop computer isn’t labeled on the inventory form you sign before the driver leaves, don’t expect it to be in the box when he arrives. You can’t file a claim for something that doesn’t appear on the inventory list.
When it comes down to it, make sure you get everything in writing and make sure you have copies of everything you sign.