Each year nearly 4,000 complaints about fraud are filed against moving companies in the United States.
If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself caught in a moving scam it can seem like the end of the world.
But from a statistical standpoint, the incidence is very low.
Each year millions of Americans hire moving companies and nearly 90% of all relocations with professional movers go off without a hitch.
Carefully vetting the companies you’re considering will significantly increase the likelihood of having a positive experience.
In this article, we’ll focus on what to do if you’re being scammed.
Being a victim isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be a hopeless situation.
Jump to the section that most pertains to you:
We’ve already established that most moves have no major issues.
That being said, it’s normal to experience minor inconveniences that don’t warrant claims or legal action.
Before jumping in let’s look at each.
1. Minor Damage
During moves, it’s common for furniture, appliances, and boxes to shift, bump into walls, and get minor dents, gouges, and scrapes.
Though it’s rare, sometimes things get damaged beyond repair.
In both cases, you have the right to file a claim with the company.
It always helps to have proof like photographs or videos showing what condition items were in before they were loaded.
Making sure the driver’s inventory is accurate is important too, but damage rarely constitutes fraud.
In fact, it’s just par for the course when workers move heavy items into and out of homes and trucks.
2. Minor Loss
Especially on interstate moves where your household goods are just one of many shipments on a truck, having items mysteriously disappear is pretty common.
Usually, it’s just a box of dishtowels or an old shovel.
In other words, no big deal.
In such cases, it’s almost never theft.
Instead, it’s usually just shipments getting mixed up because the movers didn’t pay close enough attention to inventory stickers.
That’s why it’s so important to check off each item as it’s brought into your home.
At the end of the day, you should be able to see which things haven’t been accounted for.
Of course, if your big screen television, appliances, and collection of imported crystal go missing it’s almost certainly theft and should be dealt with accordingly.
3. Delivery Delays
Your movers are late. It happens (especially during the summer).
Maybe their truck broke down or an unexpected snowstorm swept across Arizona in June.
Either way, you may have a legitimate claim for compensation if they failed to meet delivery dates.
But again, delays don’t generally constitute fraud or a scam.
They’re just normal occurrences when transporting items long distances by truck.
Make sure you know your mover’s policies regarding delays before signing on the dotted line.
And don’t just take their word for it, get it in writing.
On the other hand, if they’re three weeks late, won’t take your calls, and their website has disappeared, you’re definitely being scammed.
4. Some Cost Increases
Negligible cost increases (less than 10%) are also part and parcel of the moving experience.
They’re often the result of inaccurate estimates.
Other times they’re caused by nefarious moving companies out to bilk unsuspecting customers.
But it’s not so well-known that there are a number of ways your move cost can increase legitimately.
Generally, most cost increases aren’t the result of scams or fraud.
But if movers are holding your items hostage and demanding payment two or three times the amount of the original estimate, you’re definitely being scammed—and you need to take action.
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Now that we’ve established what constitutes a moving scam, let’s take a look at ways to fight back and protect your rights.
1. File a Complaint with the Moving Company
If you’re the victim of moving fraud, lodging a complaint with the company that’s scamming you won’t help.
But remember, in some cases, the big ‘scam’ may just be a misunderstanding.
If so, reputable movers are usually more than willing to address issues and come to mutually agreeable compromises.
This is always the best way to approach the situation first.
If you’re moving out of state with a van line, you can also call their headquarters if you aren’t getting satisfactory help from the local agent.
If that doesn’t work, don’t be shy about politely stating your intentions.
Telling them you won’t take the situation lying down isn’t a threat.
It’s just letting them know you’re serious about standing up for yourself.
2. File Complaints with the Appropriate Organizations
Filing complaints against fraudulent moving companies can be a pain in the neck, but for those intent on fighting the good fight, there are plenty of options.
Better Business Bureau (BBB)— The BBB strives to create an environment in which consumers and service providers can interact with one another in good faith. If you’ve been the victim of criminal movers, filing a complaint with the BBB is a great place to start. You can get the ball rolling here.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)— The FMCSA is an agency within the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) tasked with regulating certain aspects of the trucking and moving and storage industries. Learn about how they help protect consumer’s rights.
American Trucking Association (ATA)— The ATA’s Moving & Storage Conference is an industry trade group representing movers all over the country. Though they’re advocates for their members in regard to regulation and legislation, they also hold them to high levels of service. Click here to submit a complaint to ATA.
3. Take them to Court
When all other options have been exhausted you may consider taking your mover to small claims court.
But before embarking on this course you’ll want to consider things like:
- the time you’ll need to invest
- additional stress
- the cost of legal fees and missed work
- how much you stand to gain if you win the case
Sadly, in some cases, it’s just not worth the effort.
Don’t let your emotions get you into a situation that’s more unpleasant than the one you’re already in.
4. Social Media and Online Reviews
Sharing experiences and exposing lousy companies has never been easier.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are great platforms to do just that, and these days many consumers use them to vet movers.
Many companies rely on referrals and online reviews to attract new customers, so a well-managed campaign could help bring bad movers to the bargaining table.
Though it may be tempting to make your experience sound worse than it really was, it’s best to maintain a professional tone.
Reviews that are fact-based and well-written tend to get more traction.
You can find a popular online moving company review site here.
Helpful Links to other Moving Fraud Resources
When you move out of state you should receive a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move from your mover. Or, you can download it here.
The FMCSA is a federal organization that deals with interstate commerce only, but it does provide a list of state-specific resources for those who need help on the local level. You can find them here.