How to Spot a Moving Scam

Don't Fall Victim to "Rogue Movers"

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the primary agency charged with protecting interstate moving consumers. They keep tabs on criminal “rogue movers” who seek to take advantage of vulnerable consumers and practice on the fringe of federal law. These con artists use elusive, fly-by-night operations and tricky bait and switch tactics to scam consumers out of thousands of dollars every day.

 

The Set Up:

With the shuffle of planning, packing and preparation demanding your full attention, rogue operators will attempt to earn your trust with low pricing and inflated promises of professionalism.  They will hurry the conversation past pricing and will likely neglect to discuss the complete terms of service until your entire household is neatly packed onto their truck. This is when the price of the move usually changes.

If you’ve not scrutinized the moving contract (or signed one at all), you’ll likely have trouble getting your goods back from a rogue operation without an excessive ransom payment.

Some will demand a full payment or large deposit before even pulling away from the curb. Others will wait to leverage your goods until they’ve arrived at your destination. Regardless of the tactic, one thing is certain; the price will change and you are going to end up paying more than you expected to get your belongings back.

 

Beware Suspicious Bids:

Proper moving estimates are a key differentiator between rogue operators and legitimate long-distance movers. A legitimate interstate mover should take a full survey of all of your belongings and ask important questions about your planning, packing and delivery. Be critical of the details and perform some due diligence research and you’ll spot a scam long before you fall victim to one. 


1) The Low-Ball Bid

You should always be suspect of low-ball bids from long-distance movers. If their sales pitch may seems too good to be true it is likely missing some important detail. Always insist on understanding the full scope of your final costs before signing a suspiciously low-cost moving agreement.

 
2) The Volume-Based Bid

Be wary of movers who quote your long-distance move by cubic footage of truck space and not by estimated weight. While this measure is acceptable for small moves, interstate moves based on volume are considered to be illegal without a weight conversion factor and should be reported to the FMCSA.

 
3)  The Phone-Based Bid 
It is extremely difficult to quote a large move without visually inspecting the household and asking important questions about what you will be taking, where you will be moving and how you will be packing. Long-distance movers who insist that they can quote your move based on a remote, sight-unseen survey could discover hidden costs when they arrive on-site.
 
4) The In-and Out Bid

Like the phone bid, the in-and-out bid does not usually gather enough information to accurately bid a long-distance move. Your estimator should take adequate time to visually inspect every room in your home including closets, and ask important questions about your moving plans.

 
5) The Handshake Bid 
Always insist on signing a completed moving contract before you let movers take possession of your belongings. Rogue operators are notorious for tacking on unplanned fees for packing, climbing stairs, heavy moving or additional weight at the last minute.
 

More Warning Signs:

Licensed interstate movers are required by law to adhere to certain regulations and standards of practice that make them more reliable and accountable. Keep an eye out for these common violations to spot a rogue move in progress.

 
1) Rights and Responsibilities 
Federal Law requires that every licensed mover provide consumers with an informational packet titled, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”. This 25 page brochure provides you with information on fair practices, industry regulations and consumer rights.
 
 
2) Upfront Deposit

No reputable mover should ask for a cash or credit card deposit before they load the truck. If you are presented with such a demand, you may be dealing with a rogue mover. Be sure to clarify payment terms before you sign a contract.

 
 
3)  Suspicious Terms and Conditions

Some rogue operators attempt to skirt the law with documents that only protect their underhanded interests. Some will present vague agreements that don’t sufficiently protect your property or payments. Others will try to confuse you with complicated legal jargon like ‘choice of venue’ which appears to restrict your right to file legal claims.

When in doubt, insist on having an attorney review the unsigned agreement before contracting services.

Protect Yourself:

With a little due diligence you can be certain that you are hiring a reputable moving company and avoid many of the unfortunate consequences of dealing with a rogue operator.

1) Check with AMSA 
Start by checking with the American Moving and Storage Association [moving.org]. They keep an up-to-date list of Pro-Mover certified local and long-distance movers on file. Check with them to find a moving service or to screen a company you’ve already contacted.
 
 
2) Check with City, State and Federal Regulators 
To be absolutely sure that a business is legitimate, you can check with city officials to verify their business license and address info. Additionally, you can check with the State Secretary’s office to check for up-to-date registration details and "does business as" (dba) aliases.
 
 
3) Get References

Ask each moving company under consideration for three local references with recent moving experience. Further check online for reviews with the BBB, Google and Angie’s List to be sure that they have a history of customer service success.

 
 
4) Document Everything
After delivery, you have only nine months -- which goes by faster than you think -- to report any problems to the moving company and file a written claim for loss or damage to your belongings.

You should note any problems on the mover's copy of the inventory before signing it. Your mover then has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim. Within 120 days of receiving it, they must make an offer to pay deny or your claim. It's a lot easier for them to deny it if you don't have before-and-after proof, or if they didn't see the damage before leaving your home.

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