I’m Being Scammed! What Should I do?

Movers cannot legally hold your items hostage. Here’s what you can do about it.

Despite their less than a lackluster reputation as a whole, most moving companies strive to provide their customers with the high level of service they expect.

Unfortunately, however, hundreds of families get duped by unscrupulous movers each year, and for many, there’s no happy ending.

In previous articles we’ve discussed common moving scams and what you can do to avoid them.

Now we’ll take a different approach.

We’ll assume that despite your best efforts you’ve hired a nefarious moving company and that their intentions were less than honorable from the get-go.

It’s a horrible position in which to find yourself, especially when they’ve got your household goods on their truck and are holding them hostage until you meet their exorbitant payment demands.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to get yourself out of this unenviable situation.

Let’s take a closer look.

Know your Rights

Interstate movers are required to give their customers a brochure called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.

It’s chockfull of relevant information, including references to a little known regulation called the 110% Rule.

The 110% Rule states that moving companies cannot demand payment greater than 110% of the cost of the original, written, non-binding estimate before delivering your household goods.

In other words, if their original written estimate was for $3,500, they can’t demand more than $3,850 (the original estimate + 10%) at the time of delivery.

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Of course, there are instances when your move cost may increase legitimately, but sometimes companies artificially inflate the price to pad their pockets at your expense.

Either way, if they attempt to hold your belongings hostage pending payment greater than 110% they’re breaking a regulation set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The FMCSA is a government agency tasked with regulating interstate transportation, so letting the movers know you’re familiar with their rules may persuade them to deliver your items to avoid unwanted scrutiny.

They can still bill you for the outstanding balance after delivery, so if you’re convinced the additional costs aren’t legit you’ll still have to address those issues somewhere down the road.

Though it doesn’t make for very engaging reading, Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move is a consumer’s best friend when it comes to navigating the murky world of moving.

On page 20 there’s a hotline number ((888) 368-7238) for customers whose mover is refusing to deliver their shipment.

If you’re at an impasse with your moving company, don’t hesitate to use it.

Start Dialing (or threaten to)

Like silverfish and other creepy-crawlers, scam movers shun the spotlight.

They primarily prey on uninformed consumers, many of which give in to their unlawful demands just to extract themselves from a stressful situation even if it means emptying their bank accounts in the process.

Though they’re often reluctant to get involved in civil matters like disputes between movers and customers, it’s worth calling the local police in an attempt to resolve a hostage moving situation quickly.

It’s a longshot, but some customers have had success filing reports of theft against movers refusing to deliver their goods in accordance with federal regulations.

If the police aren’t receptive, it’s also worth trying the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and The American Moving & Storage Association.

If your pleas fall on deaf ears, you may also want to consider reaching out to a local news station or two.

They may jump at the opportunity to sink their journalistic teeth into a tawdry tale of victims and victimizers on the country’s highways.

Admittedly these last few options rarely have any immediate effect, but occasionally they will increase the likelihood of an acceptable resolution.

Take a Look at the Weight Tickets and Inventory

Interstate movers are required to weigh their trucks on certified scales before and after loading each customer’s shipment.

The difference in the empty (tare) and loaded (gross) weight is how much your shipment weighs—or its net weight.

In some instances, movers hold stuff hostage claiming that the actual weight exceeded what was estimated.

They typically accuse customers of adding items on the sly, which they say entitles them to more money.

After doing a walk-through of your home, consultants with reputable moving companies will provide you with a copy of the inventory on which they’ll base their estimate.

Before signing it make sure it’s a relatively accurate list of the things you intend to move.

The weight of household goods shipments can vary based on a number of factors, but refusing to weigh each shipment and using fake scale tickets to bump a customer’s bill are serious offenses.

Though you may not recognize a real scale ticket from an imposter, you should always get copies from the driver as soon as he or she gets them.

They’ll help to determine the legitimacy of the company’s claims later if things end up in court or mediation.

If you moved locally and live in a state like California and Pennsylvania that regulate moving companies, you may also have recourse with the Public Utilities Commission.

If this is the case, familiarize yourself with their regulations, consumer protection programs, and phone numbers BEFORE you move.

Filing Claims for Damage and Loss

Compared to having your items held hostage by rogue movers, filing claims for items lost or damaged during a move is a walk in the park.

Sure, it may be one more annoying headache you’d rather not deal with after an already stressful move, but in most instances, reputable movers will take your claims seriously if they can be substantiated.

To verify the legitimacy of a claim, moving company staff will almost always refer to the inventory taken by the driver before your shipment was loaded.

During the inventory process, drivers or their helpers will (or should) put a small numbered tag on every item to be moved.

Then on their inventory form, they’ll describe what each item is, what room it came from, and its condition.

If a nightstand was listed as having only a small scratch on the top at the time your shipment was loaded, but it’s missing a drawer and has a big gouge down the front at the time of delivery you have a legitimate claim.

During delivery, you’ll be asked to check each item from the inventory as it’s brought into your home.

If there are missing numbers when the truck is empty and the corresponding items can’t be located, you’ll have to make a claim for loss.

Like everything else in the moving industry, it’s imperative that to familiarize yourself with each company’s claims processes during pre-move screening.

Be sure to read the fine print. Because many state that if a satisfactory resolution can’t be reached, both parties will agree to enter binding mediation to resolve the issue.

If you’re interviewing movers and they’re unable or unwilling to detail their claims procedures, you’d probably be better off crossing them off your list.

Takeaways

Though it’s the moves that end badly that usually get the most hype, most go smoothly with little more than a minor glitch or two.

Yes, there are bad moving companies out there intent on scamming customers, but they’re the exception to the rule.

They can largely be eliminated from the equation by following these rules:

  1. don’t cut corners when it comes to vetting the moving companies you’re considering
  2. before scheduling in-home estimates, familiarize yourself with the regulations that apply to movers
  3. during the screening process, address the 110% Rule and claims procedures with each representative
  4. prepare for the worst by making a plan of action if your items are held hostage by a rogue mover

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