Summer is moving season. It’s the busiest time of year for moving companies and the time when scammers begin to come out of the woodwork. Most people’s concern when hiring movers is that their T.V. might get broken or arrive late, but the reality could be much worse. The best thing that you can do is educate yourself on the 3 most notorious moving scams and how you can avoid them.
Scam 1: Bait & Switch
This scam happens when a moving company takes inventory of your move and offers you a very low estimate. Shortly before the move is supposed to take place, when it’s too late to back out or find another moving company, they call and significantly raise the cost of their services. You will be forced to pay the inflated cost, move yourself, or risk not being moved out by your planned move-out date which can result in financial penalties
Scam 2: The Hostage Situation
With the hostage scam, a moving company packs and loads your belongings into a truck, leaves, and calls you before your delivery date to tell you that the price has doubled, or even tripled. If you want your things delivered you will be forced to pay this skyrocketed price. They will threaten to keep your things in the truck, or sell them off, unless you pay them what they demand.
Scam 3: The Disappearing Act
When a moving company asks you for a large deposit up-front you could be looking at a scam. Rogue movers will require a deposit for services and never show up to complete your move. If you pay a moving company ahead of time there is no telling what they will do with your belongings or if you will ever see them again.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
The best ways to avoid a moving scam are to know what to look out for and complete your due diligence before signing any paperwork or allowing anyone to begin loading your goods into their truck. Here are some bonus tips:
- Check Online Reviews. If they’re a quality firm they will have worked with other consumers in your area. There are several online review sites (Yelp, BBB, Google+) where people leave their opinions of a company’s services. Be wary of any moving company that doesn’t have any reviews, has very few reviews, or has a majority of negative reviews. You should be able to select a mover with several positive reviews to work with.
- Make Sure They Are Licensed. You need to make sure that your mover is licensed with your state’s Department of Transportation. Use the license number to pull up their records on the FMCSA website to get a better idea of how they do business.
- Get Everything in Writing and Understand It. You should receive a publication titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” along with a written estimate, an order for service, and the bill of lading. This information should be received, read, and understood by you. Ask your Move Coordinator any questions that you have during your in-home estimate and review any unfamiliar terminology in your paperwork in a Moving Terms Dictionary.
- Do Not Give a Deposit. No reputable moving company will require that you give an up-front deposit. There are some exceptions on busy holidays (such as Labor Day) when a mover may require a small deposit to reserve your move date.
- Get Multiple In-Home Estimates. Contact at least 3 of your top prospects and have them meet you for an in-house estimate. You will be able to feel them out, ask them questions, and compare their pricing. If one mover is significantly lower than the others you should figure out why before going with the lowest bidder. You could be looking at a bait and switch scenario or they may be excluding a service you requested.
Elijah White is a marketing evangelist and relocation specialist. He writes regularly for Olympic Moving & Storage and Bekins Northwest as well as being featured on several of the industry’s most authoritative blogs as a guest writer. You can follow Elijah @ElijahNWhite.