Every year, thousands of people in the United States are scammed by movers who present themselves as legitimate, but are anything but genuine. These fraudsters will use a number of tricks to sink people out of their money.
Known as “moving scams”, there are a number of different way these schemers work. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to what appears to be a legitimate business. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported in 2012 that the agency received more than 9,300 complaints against movers. For consumers, being a victim of a moving scam is often costly and disruptive.
Moving scams vary from outright fraud to others doing business with questionable practices. Some of the more commonly seen scams include:
Unexpected increase in fees
One of the more common scams is a scenario where a mover will give a low estimate, or at least a reasonable one. However, after the movers load stuff onto their trucks and do the move, they demand more money. Movers.com notes these can come in the form of extra charges for packing, taxes, hidden fees or other miscellaneous charges. While it is common the price may increase slightly at the other end of a move, it should not be excessive. Some of these schemers will also try the “bait and switch” as noted in an article published by NBC Today.
Belongings are held ‘hostage’
Often movers will hold belongings hostage and refuse to unload the truck if a customer refuses to pay the fees. This is a form of extortion illegitimate companies will use in their scheming tactics.
Another way personal possessions may be held hostage is when a mover does not deliver on the agreed upon terms. Since it is costly to travel long distances, some scheming companies will let your belongings sit on the truck or in a warehouse until they are ready to deliver and/or will be in the same area with another customer. Some victims may not see their possessions for a month or even longer if they ever see their belongings again at all.
Unlicensed illegal operators
Being an authorized mover requires more than personnel and a truck. There are several procedures and laws movers are required to follow. However, some shady individuals will rent a truck and try to pass themselves off as a legitimate mover. Know individual rights is helpful, licensed movers are required to be registered and are also supposed to provide customers with a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.”
Avoiding moving scams
The best way to find a mover is to check reputable listings – at BBB or other websites – designated to moving scams, such as Movingscam.com. Many of these sites have forums where users can share information about both good and bad experiences. However, the best way to find a good mover is probably through word of mouth. Ask family, friends or a trusted real estate agent. Many agents are highly knowledgeable about local businesses and can probably recommend a reliable mover.
Unfortunately, moving scams are a reality. But the good news is there are steps people can take to avoid being a victim. There are many red flags to look for that help identify moving scammers. By being armed with this information, consumers can hopefully avoid the frauds and the hassle associated with them and have a more pleasant move.