Moving Scams Are on the Rise…Don’t Be a Victim

In a recent MYNorthwest article titled BBB warns of moving company, broker dishonesty in Washington, Nicole Jennings suggests that readers planning a move should –

“Make sure the moving company — and the broker — you pick is reputable.”

She’s referring to a regional problem, but you could substitute nearly any city or town for Washington.

Why?

Because shady brokers and nefarious movers are national problems.

Choosing a reputable company is key, but equally important are –

  • Knowing the differences between moving companies and brokers
  • Weighing the pros and cons of each
  • Asking for personal referrals
  • Vetting companies carefully

Why are moving scams increasing?

According to a recent Better Business Bureau Moving Industry Report, since last March, approximately ⅕ of the US population have moved or known someone who has.

Much of this mass migration is happening because of the Covid pandemic since many employees and contractors now have to work from home.

Nearly everyone assumed it was temporary, but for many, it’s the new norm.

And as a result, lots of families are choosing to relocate to cheaper areas with better schools.

Sadly, online brokers and shady movers are capitalizing on this new source of business, and horror stories are once again on the rise.

Moving soon? Here are some links that might help:

  • Hire Professional Movers: Don’t risk injury by moving heavy items yourself. Professional movers know what they’re doing and can save you the chance of hurting yourself and a loved one.
  • How much will your move cost?: This cost calculator will provide a free moving quote and calculation of what your move should cost. Just plug in your move dates, the size of your move, where you’re moving to/from, and let the calculator do the rest.
  • Consider moving containers: Need a more budget-friendly option? With these companies, you load, and they drive! These are the best moving container companies.

Be wary of what you read

I read a ton of articles on the moving industry.

I constantly notice many articles by well-intentioned people who don’t understand the ins and outs of the business.

It’d be like someone hiring me to write articles about investment banking and Peruvian architecture.

They’re topics I know next to nothing about, and no matter how much research I did, folks who did know about them would be able to tell that I didn’t.

Takeaway…

Always take what you read with a grain of salt.

Don’t assume that brokers will save you time

Lots of people think that using a moving broker will save them time.

In a perfect world, it might work that way.

But sadly, brokers often end up costing unsavvy customers way more time and hassle than if they’d just gone with a traditional mover.

The article states that –

“Using a moving broker may seem like the best way to expedite everything during a long and stressful move. But some brokers may not be doing their homework when choosing a company for the client.”

Some customers do have good experiences with moving brokers, but many brokers don’t do any “homework” at all.

Many couldn’t care less whether or not their customers have good experiences.

Using a moving broker could conceivably save you the time associated with finding and vetting your own movers, but it’s usually not the case.

Takeaway…

With something as important as moving your family, it’s best to set aside the time to do it yourself.

Lack of transparency is bad

Many moving brokers don’t give their customers the option of choosing which moving company they use.

In other words, there’s no telling who will show up to your home or apartment on move day.

With brokers, you just have to hope that a crew does show up as planned and that they’re reputable and experienced.

Honestly, it’s a horrible way to proceed with a life-changing event like a move.

Takeaway…

Cut out the middleman by asking friends, coworkers, and family members for referrals and choosing a top-quality mover on your own.

Just Say no to poor communication

Brokers are like firewalls between you and your mover.

In most cases, direct communication will be nonexistent because it’s the broker’s “job” to relay this information back and forth.

This can lead to all kinds of issues like poor service and additional stress, and you’re never really sure if your broker is conveying information accurately and in good faith.

Takeaway…

Dealing with your movers directly is much easier and more efficient.

Don’t settle for inaccurate estimates

Another huge drawback of brokers is that most won’t perform in-home estimates or even conduct video estimates.

In fact, their business models make it nearly impossible.

This means that you’ll likely have to settle for phone estimates which can be notoriously inaccurate.

Then, if your broker isn’t on the up-and-up, you can expect –

  • A lowball estimate
  • Significantly increased costs down the road
  • Huge headaches at your new home
  • The possibility of your household goods being held hostage until you pay up

But be warned, this scam isn’t only perpetrated by brokers.

Shady movers rely on it too.

Takeaway…

Getting in-home estimates from reputable moving companies will almost always eliminate the risk of getting scammed.

Most damage is avoidable

There’s always the risk of damage whenever workers move furniture, boxes, and other household goods into and out of homes, apartments, and trucks.

No matter how careful and experienced they are, minor scrapes, dings, dents, and gouges are common.

Sometimes things even get lost and destroyed.

But if nearly everything is damaged or missing, there’s something more going on.

The article above also states that –

“The people working at the moving companies are not very well-trained and end up damaging the items they move.”

It’s true, but when excessive loss or damage occurs, it’s generally an indication that the movers just don’t care.

Takeaway…

Finding an experienced mover through thorough vetting is key.

Additional tips for avoiding moving scams

1. Make sure movers and brokers are properly licensed

One of the best ways to do this is by checking whether they have a valid US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Number. Fear not. It’s quick, free, and easy. You can learn how here.

2. Take pictures of your most valuable items before they’re moved

Photographing your furniture and valuables is a great way to substantiate claims if things get damaged during your move. Just remember, it’s all for naught if you haven’t chosen a reputable moving company.

3. Get everything in writing

Moving estimates should clearly itemize charges for transportation, packing, and unpacking, and valuation, as well as pick-up and delivery dates. Never sign an estimate or an order-for-service that’s blank, and make sure you understand everything completely.

4. Understand your valuation options

Valuation (also known as moving insurance) dictates how the mover will reimburse you if they damage or lose your items. This article will tell you everything you need to know about what your valuation options are and which one makes the most sense for you.

5. Know your rights and responsibilities

Becoming an informed consumer is up to you. If you’re moving from one state to another, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

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