Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them

Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them

A large moving truck in front of a red brick house
How to avoid moving scams

The day after Memorial Day is “National Moving Day.” As a moving company, we can see why – summer is the season for moving! May is the perfect time of year to start a new life. Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the kids have escaped from school.

And moving is even better when you can hire someone else to take care of the hard work for you.

What most people don’t realize about hiring a moving company is that there is a danger that might occur. The could become victim to moving scams. Let’s shine some light on the subject.

What exactly is a moving scam?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A moving company schemes up a way to take your money while providing horrible service. Or no service. Or holding your belongings for ransom until you pay them even more money. These happen regularly, every single day. Their goal is to take your money without providing any of the services previously discussed or agreed upon.

There are as many different types of moving scams as there are moving scammers. We’re going to talk about the main types and what each scenario might look like.

Types of Moving Scams

Large deposit request

The first type of moving scam to watch out for is the large deposit request. With this scam, the moving company asks for a large deposit prior to the move, usually more than 20% of the estimate. This should be a huge red flag to customers as most companies only ask for a small deposit, if any at all. Deposits are typically made to lock in your move date and go toward the cost of moving. But not in this case. Once the scammer receives your money, they cut off all contact and disappear. They’ve got your hard-earned cash, and have moved on to the next victim.

Invented charges

The next scam is the “invented charges” scheme. This scenario looks like everything is going fine, until you get the bill for the service. Then you find there are added fees listed. The company does this to drive up the price, not just by a little bit, but by huge amounts. There could be a driver’s fee, or a stairs fee that weren’t mentioned in the estimate or contract. If these things weren’t discussed in the contract you signed, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a scam.

Weight estimate scam

Another simple way you could be scammed is by the weight estimate that the company provided. With this scam, the company arrives at your home and gives you an estimate based on the weight of your belongings. But once the service is over and they hand you the bill, the price jumps to two or three times the original estimate. 

Hostage situation

The last scam, and probably the worst one, is the hostage situation. This scam is all about providing proper estimates. Having wonderful loading times. Giving you amazing service. Until you show up at your new home and your belongings don’t. The movers either just stole everything you own, or they’re holding your belongings hostage until you pay them a huge amount of money. This situation is especially awful because you’re just trying to move into your new home, but don’t have so much as a couch or bed to lay down in. You feel like you have to pay the company what they ask, otherwise you won’t get your stuff back.

I know these situations sound horrible, and might make you wary about hiring a moving company – but never fear. There are steps you can take to avoid these scams.

A chock full moving truck
The Hostage Situation is possibly the worst moving scam.

I know these situations sound horrible, and might make you wary about hiring a moving company- but do not fear! There are steps you can take to avoid these scams and luckily we listed them below just for you!

How to avoid moving scams

  • Get estimates from at least three companies. This will give you an idea on how to judge whether or not you are dealing with a scam that reels in customers with their really low prices. These are too good to be true! They’ll either trick you into paying much more later, or walk away with your possessions. Don’t fall for it! Also, estimates should be free of charge, as they’re a standard part of the service.
  • Make sure your designated moving company visits your home to provide an estimate and does a thorough walk-through if it’s a long-distance move. Many local companies may provide over-the-phone estimates, but not long-distance. If a company tries to provide you an estimate over the phone for a long-distance move, this is a big red flag that a scam might be in progress.
  • Watch out for a big deposit request. Most moving companies only ask for $100-$500 for a deposit, if any at all. If your moving company demands a large deposit, drop them like a hot potato.
  • Get everything in writing. We cannot stress this enough. Don’t make a handshake deal or accept a blank contract. Otherwise, you have nothing to prove any wrongdoing has occurred.
  • Do your homework. Check reviews, ask for references from the company, make sure they have a website and address listed, check that they have insurance and are registered and licensed. You should absolutely see a DOT number listed on their website. If not – be wary of possible scamming going on.
A screenshot of our website showing out DOT# - all insurance companies should have one - checking credentials is crucial
Our DOT# in the footer of our website
  • Ask questions. If the company is legit and trustworthy, they will be able to answer you completely and honestly. If they try to avoid certain questions, it’s time to do some digging as to why.

To check whether or not a company has proper authority and insurance, please visit the Missouri Department of Transportation’s website. To check if a company is properly licensed, and to verify their safety rating and other useful information, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Company Snapshot page.

What to do if you are a target or victim of a moving scam

Here are some resources you can use to report a moving company due to a scam.

  • Visit the FMCSA’s Protect Your Move page. Scroll down until you see the header, “After Move Assistance.” Once you click on it, you’ll have the opportunity to file a complaint online or via the phone.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Click on the three lines in the top right corner, and click on “File a Complaint.” You can also leave a review from their website.
  • Call the local police. If you find yourself in a hostage situation, you can files a police report for stolen goods. Any other situation is considered a civil matter between you and the company, so the police can’t help in all scenarios.
  • Local and/or social media. Getting the press involved might shine a light on fraudulent movers, potentially preventing them from scamming anyone else. Social media might also be a good option. Posting about your experience on Facebook in a local “Swap Shop” or “Trading Post” group might prevent others from using that company in the future.

For more ideas on how to deal with a fraudulent moving company, you can read Moving Scam’s article, “I’ve Been Scammed! What Now?”

A moving truck parked on the street in front of a white house
Social media and press are a good way to shine some light on fraudulent movers.

Summing it all up

Moving scame can be incredibly frightening. Move It With M&S, LLC has noticed a recent rise in new moving “companies” trying to advertise here in Saint Joseph. We want as many people to be aware of the possible scams that could be popping up in your area, and to understand what to do if you see one going on. We also want to tell you that it’s okay to put your trust in legit moving companies. As long as you follow the necessary steps to ensure your safety and the company’s trustworthiness, you’ll be sure to find an honest moving company to help you start a new life in your beautiful new home.

The owners of Move It With M&S, LLC, Theresa Meyer and Louis Simental, have more than 14 years of experience in the moving industry. If you have any questions or need advice about hiring a moving company, even if it’s not ours, please feel free to reach out at 816-689-2627, or by email at [email protected].

Keep an eye out for our next blog post to learn more about moving estimates and pricing!

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