Moving Scams and how to avoid them

Descriptions of several Scams or misleading practices follow:

Moving Scams happen most often in the Summer when many movers are practically overbook as it’s their busiest time of year so be especially careful at that time of year.

Moving Company Scams

Predator Companies have many ways of cheating you into paying a higher than quoted price- some are described below:

The Hostage Scam

Polly held hostage in a Bullwinkle and Rocky Cartoon

Holding belongings Hostage generally start when you accept an enticing low estimate for your move. The moving company probably did not visually inspect your belongings. If they accepted a verbal inventory, given by you over the phone, it works to their advantage as they can blame you for not declaring all you had. Most Movers know people forget to say all they have, and use this as an opportunity to raise prices after they have all your belongings on the truck.

On Moving Day, a contract with dubious language describing additional charges will be presented. When you ask about additional charges, they’ll say something like extra charges seldom happen and not to worry. Because you’re in a bind on moving day, you sign it only to find out later that it was a set up. When all of your belongings are on the truck, ready to move to the new place, they demand more money, sometimes thousands more, giving the excuse that you had a lot more items than you detailed over the phone.

The Police can’t help you unless a law is broken which is hard for them to determine because of the signed contract. Unless you can go without your belongings for a long time, you’re stuck paying the ransom. Quite often, not all of your belongings show up at the new place. Usually electronics go missing or anything expensive, and you will probably never see those items again.

Statistics from the “Protect Your Move Campaign” show that out of the 36 million people who move every year, one in 10 reports that the moving company held furniture hostage until the customers forked over more money.

How to avoid becoming a victim? Make sure the company comes out and actually looks at everything your moving and gives you a firm price or a “not-to-exceed” ceiling. Do not sign a contract with ambiguous language or blank lines with to-be-determine pricing. You can also simply hire local, hourly moving laborers to load and unload a rental truck that you rented taking away the possibility of someone else driving away with your belongings during a disagreement over price.

Weight based Scam

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

After the loading of your belongings, the movers will drive the truck to the scale by themselves then report back a much higher weight then what they had estimated so your price has to go up. 

The movers could also show up with a weight ticket of the empty truck.  However, unbeknownst to you the gas tank is empty and no crew members are in the Truck. After the pickup, the movers will weigh the truck with your belongings as well as a full tank of gas, all the moving crew inside the truck, moving equipment, and perhaps even items from another move. Luckily federal law states customers have the right to be present at a reweigh.  FMCSA booklet about “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”  is required by federal law to be presented to you by the Moving Company- before you move.

Take the Money and Run

take the money and run

A moving company will show up at your door go through the motions of checking the move out for an estimate- present you with a low-ball offer, but request a large down-payment. After the Company gets your money, you’ll never see them again. They usually advertise in local papers or on internet sites like Craig’s List using false names and address’s, and require a cashier’s check or cash as payment. Sometimes they may even show up with an unbranded truck move some of your nicer belongings to the truck saying they’ll be back for the rest- of course now, your loss is not just money.

A former FMSCA special agent explains “Rogue moving companies can be based anywhere, but complaints tend to concentrate in California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Illinois. Frequently, the companies are run by Israelis, Russians, Egyptians or Moldovans. The firms tend to be modest in size, and a single entity can make as much as $2 million or more in gross revenue per year.” FMCSA is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration who has the oversight of the interstate moving industry though its central mission is to reduce truck and bus crashes, injuries and fatalities.