Quick, think of three things that cause angst, dismay, and sleepless nights.
If you answered death, taxes, and moving scams you’re not alone.
In fact, the Better Business Bureau recently released a study that states that they receive an average of 13,000 complaints about movers each year!
Hence, if you’ve got a move looming on the horizon you’re probably dreading it.
If so, take a deep breath, because you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that getting scammed by nefarious movers isn’t as unavoidable as death and taxes.
In fact, with little guidance and research, it’s possible to take disreputable moving companies out of the equation entirely.
These are the most common moving scams you need to look out for:
- Name Changes
- Fly-By-Night Online Movers
- Lack of Attention to Detail
- Bait and Switch
- Weight Discrepencies
- Estimates by Cubic Feet
- The “Guaranteed” Quote
Want to know the easiest way to avoid a moving scam? Hire a Reputable Moving Company.
Use our Moving Cost Estimator and get a free quote instantly!
Now, these are the most prevalent moving scams that you can avoid:
1. Name Changes
One of the easiest ways to tell if a mover has a murky past is if it has a habit of changing its name frequently.
Sometimes legitimate moving companies do change their van line affiliations and names.
That’s OK, but if they’ve done it 5 times in as many years, it should be a huge red flag.
Insider’s Tip: Sometimes all a company needs to do to distance itself from its shady past is to change its name and repaint its trucks (if it has trucks at all!)
It’s also a good idea to ask for a copy of their business license.
Is it less than 6 months old?
Is the name different than the one on their website?
If so, ask why.
If you’re wary and satisfactory answers aren’t forthcoming, trust your instincts and run for the hills.
2. Fly-By-Night, Online Moving Brokers
There’s a huge distinction to be made between movers and brokers.
To make things simple, here’s a valuable rule of thumb—
Movers own trucks, and brokers don’t.
Moving companies also need warehouses and trained men and women to pack and move your items.
All brokers need are a post office box and a few phone lines and BANG!
They’re in business.
They often misrepresent themselves as actual moving companies to unwary consumers.
Once they’ve booked a move with a new customer, they shop that move around to real moving companies—usually ones that operate at the low end of the respectability spectrum.
And their criteria usually boils down to who’ll do it the cheapest, with little or no regard for meeting the customer’s expectations.
It’s a scam as old as the hills, and one you don’t have to fall for.
Let’s be clear, don’t dismiss a good company just because it’s a broker. Be wary of the online brokers that seem to have no footprint of being a reputable company.
Insider’s Tip: Find out if a moving company is reputable by running a background check.
3. Lack of Attention to Detail
After you’ve compiled a list of possible movers, you’ll want to give them a call.
If you’ve landed on their website and can’t find a phone number, you may want to move on.
Insider’s Tip: Scam movers want YOUR phone number, but they’d rather you don’t have THEIRS.
If you’ve chosen wisely and actually speak with a real person, they’ll want to know (or should want to know) the basics of your move.
Where you’re moving to and from.
The size of your home or apartment.
When you’ll be moving.
It’s important information.
Eventually, they should suggest sending a company representative to your home to provide an accurate estimate.
If they’re throwing numbers around and are unwilling to schedule an appointment, it’s a good sign that you’re getting set up.
4. Unexpected Costs at the End of your Move
It’s legal for movers to charge customers for some services that weren’t included in the original estimate.
Additional charges may be added for last-minute services like storage and truck inaccessibility issues requiring a shuttle.
That being said, most moves shouldn’t end with big surprises and bigger headaches.
Unscrupulous movers often add massive fuel surcharges, bloated insurance premiums, and jacked-up weights to the final bill in an attempt to line their pockets with unearned money.
And sadly, they often target vulnerable consumers like the elderly. How to Help Seniors Relocate.
Insider’s Tip: Know your rights before you move.
5. Estimated Weight Discrepancies
No moving scam is more prevalent than the ‘low-ball’ estimate.
It’s when companies intentionally give a potential customer an unreasonably low estimate with the express intent of increasing the cost later.
It’s more common than you might think, but there are ways to protect yourself.
First, get multiple in-home estimates from companies you’ve deemed to be reputable.
Though there’s no way even for an experienced consultant to determine the actual weight of your items, they should get close.
Compare the weights on each estimate.
Ideally, they should be within 10% of one another.
If one is much lower than the others, it may be a set-up.
Interstate movers are required to weigh each customer’s shipment individually.
And they should do it with nearly full fuel tanks.
Did you know that tractor-trailers can hold more than 400 gallons of diesel fuel?
At about 6 pounds per gallon, unscrupulous drivers may show up with less than full tanks, load your items, and refuel before weighing.
If they add 200 gallons, it could add 1,200 pounds to the weight of your shipment.
Insider’s Tip: Ask the driver to show you what’s inside his tanks if you’re worried about being scammed.
If you’re moving from one state to another, your estimate should be based on mileage, optional services requested, and the weight of your shipment.
If a moving company provides an estimate based on cubic feet instead of weight, it can mean that they’re up to no good.
They may justify it by saying that it’s only fair to charge based on the amount of van space used.
Sounds reasonable, right?
And here’s why…
If an experienced driver can load your items into 1,000 cubic feet of space, why should you be charged more for an inexperienced (or shady) driver who uses 1,300 cubic feet?
It makes no sense.
Insider’s Tip: If your estimate is in cubic feet, be sure you’re hiring a mover you trust.
7. The “Guaranteed” Quote
There are two kinds of moving contracts based on federal law.
A non-binding estimate states that the final cost of the move may be more or less than the original estimate.
This is perfectly acceptable because customers often add items and services at the last minute that legitimately increase the moving cost.
However, if the actual cost exceeds the estimate by more than 10%, movers cannot demand payment on the spot.
They’re entitled to the estimated cost at the time of delivery, but the rest is payable within 30 days.
A binding estimate is a guaranteed price, but it’s based on the exact weight, number of inventory items, and services requested on the original estimate.
Be warned, you still may be on the hook for additional charges if you move more items than agreed upon or need the mover to provide additional services.
Insider’s Tip: Before booking your move, ask for a sample contract—and read every word of it.
Our Top 5 Long Distance Movers of 2020
500 interstate moving companies, 3 months of research, cross-referenced reviews, license data, insurance data, and federal complaint records.
2020 Best Moving Containers & Storage Companies
We spent 260 hours researching moving container and storage companies to find the best prices, best customer service, and fastest deliveries so you don't have to.