Diehard moveBuddha followers probably don’t need any more proof that rogue movers and brokers are big problems.
They are, and we do our best to expose them whenever we can.
That said, tales of moving fraud continue to pour in from every state.
And sadly, many consumers miss multiple red flags during the vetting process…if there was a vetting process.
Either way, if there’s one important takeaway from this article, it’s this –
RED FLAGS ARE EVERYWHERE
But here’s the catch –
To see them, you’ve got to use your common sense, trust your instincts, and know where to look.
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The Story From South Carolina
An August 27, 2021 counton2.com articled titled Dorchester County deputies investigating two moving companies for fraud, breach of trust reported that –
“authorities are investigating two out-of-state moving companies for breach of trust and fraud.”
Notice that the article references “out-of-state moving companies.”
This is important.
The article also states that three victims contacted the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office to claim unscrupulous movers have scammed them in the past month.
Two separate incidents reported against Sirius Van Lines were being investigated by the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Unit, while the FBI was investigating another against Landmark Movers.
While writing this post on September 9, 2021, I did a quick Google search for ‘Sirius Van Lines.’
Here’s some of what I found –
You could spend hours online trying to figure out whether Sirius Van Lines LLC is a legitimate company and if they’re a van line or just a shady online broker masquerading as one.
But honestly, with results like this, why bother?
According to the above snippet from the Better Business Bureau –
- Sirius Van Lines LLC’s operating license was revoked by the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in July of 2021
- They’ve only been in business since late October of 2020
- They’re headquartered in Texas
There’s lots of sketchy stuff here, and remember, I got this information in about three seconds from the snippet alone.
In other words, I didn’t even open the report itself.
Again, why bother when I already know what I need to know?
- Some shady companies with big online presences are really brokers passing themselves off as actual movers.
- Many nefarious brokers and moving companies change their names frequently
- If an out-of-state company you’ve never heard of offers to provide interstate relocation services, it may be a sign that they’re a broker, not a mover
Just say no to down payments
According to the News2 article, the Landmark Movers customer who filed the complaint was “advised” by the company that a $1,810 down payment was required.
Again, down payments are huge red flags.
Few reputable moving companies require them on household goods moves, so why did Landmark Movers?
That’s open to interpretation, but it’s definitely suspicious.
Not surprisingly, once the customer gave them nearly $2,000, they cut off all communication with her, because let’s face it, they were in the driver’s seat.
She sent them a message through their website, threatening to use another company.
They may have had a good laugh reading it, but they did send three movers to the customer’s residence to their credit.
The crew could only move about half of her belongings, but they came back the following day and finished the job.
They don’t mention it, but it seems pretty unlikely that they provided an in-home estimate.
Which, you guessed it, is another big red flag.
In most cases, you should avoid companies that can’t (or won’t) conduct in-home estimates or at the very least do a virtual estimate with you on video or over the phone.
If they did an estimate, an honest and competent estimator would’ve known how many crewmembers were needed and about how long it’d take them to load the customer’s household goods.
When you read lots of articles like this, you find that many of them are nearly identical.
It’s as if there’s a giant scam mover’s playbook somewhere that they all follow.
Case in point…
Another victim hired Sirius Van Lines to move their household goods from South Carolina to Florida in the summer.
He claimed that –
- The company gave him multiple delivery dates, but that he never got his belongings
- Nobody from the company reached out to him to explain what was going on
- He tried to find out where his households goods were but was never told
These are all classic rogue mover tactics.
Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office officials said that the two companies had plenty of negative reviews posted on numerous websites.
In addition, the article states that –
“Each victim in these cases sustained a loss of $25,000 or more in charges and missing furniture.”
It’s unclear exactly what this means or how they calculated the figures.
What is clear however, is that these poor folks were duped.
And even worse, the likelihood of them ever getting compensated for their damage, loss, and mental anguish is pretty slim.
The article ends with anyone requesting information about these companies to contact the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office.
By all means, help if you can, but truth be told, there’s not much you or the local police can do.
Like most county sheriff’s offices, they’re probably underfunded and understaffed, and remember, federal authorities regulate interstate moves like the USDOT and FMCSA, not state law enforcement agencies.
Imagine how much time and effort these folks have already spent and will continue to spend getting this all sorted out – if they ever do.
Sadly, if they’d only spent a little more time vetting on the front end, there’s a good chance they could have avoided it all.
To prevent this from happening to you and your family, I suggest –
- Taking a deep breath
- Turning off the computer
- Asking friends and family members for moving company referrals
- Or, dust off the Yellow Pages and opening it to the “movers” section
The goal is to find between three and five independent local moving companies or agents for well-respected national van lines.
Ones that have been in business for 5, 10 or 40 years are great places to start.
Check each out with the –
- Moving & Storage Conference (formerly the American Moving & Storage Association)
- Better Business Bureau
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by making sure they have a valid and up-to-date USDOT number
Once you’re convinced that your prospective movers are on the up-and-up, it’ll be time to schedule in-home or virtual/video estimates.
But first, consider driving by their warehouse or office.
There’s really no need to stop in. Just take a look around.
Is it clean, orderly, and secure?
Whether it is or isn’t, remember to trust your instincts, use your common sense, and keep an eye out for those pesky RED FLAGS.