Scams, scammers, and bad actors can be found in every industry. As you’d imagine, moving companies are no different.
The U.S. experiences about 40 million moves each year, and the overwhelming majority of those moves are conducted by responsible and reputable companies.
We at Buehler Companies are part of that majority. We’re proudly listed on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as an A+ rated company, and we’re part of the American Moving & Storage Association (also known as ProMover certification). We’re also members of the Commercial Relocation Network, an organization made up of the most successful office and industrial relocation companies in the country.
Not every moving company out there is in this majority, however. There are scammers whose objective is to take advantage of you and steal your money, resources and valuables.
The best way to avoid any potential moving scam is to own your move. Don’t be passive! Research the company you want to hire. Ask these questions—is the company local? Do they have a real office? Do they use their own marked trucks? How long they have been in business? Do they have a good reputation with the local BBB?
In other words, due diligence is imperative. Do your research on the front end to avoid getting caught in a moving scam.
Here are five simple red alerts to avoid when it comes time to make that big move.
The low ball price move
If your prospective moving company gives you an incredibly low quote to haul your household goods from Denver to Ft. Worth, you’re likely about to fall victim to one of the most common moving scams out there.
Believe it or not, the low ball price move is one of the most common moving scams around. Given the expense, hassle and stress of any move, it’s easy to see why so many people get sucked into it.
Low ball scammers will quote a cheap fee to land a customer, but then suddenly discover extra fees or added expenses once the move is underway. By then, you’re stuck.
The best way to avoid this scam is to insist that the moving company provide you all agreements in writing—including all potential extra fees. If the company balks, it’s time to hang up the phone.
The furniture hostage scheme
Here’s another common moving scam to look out for. The moving company you hired has gathered all your stuff and are headed out to meet you at your new home. Instead of unloading your goods properly, though, the movers claim they need more money. Suddenly, your household items and valuables are being held hostage.
Yes, this does happen. It’s no fluke.
If this happens to you, the best thing to do is to stay calm, tell the scammers you need to get cash at an ATM, and then call the police. Taking your furniture hostage is theft, and it’s a crime.
Always make sure to get the full names of the people you’ve hired to move your items. Get the license place of the truck they use and never agree to pay “extra fees” at the end of the move.
Doing it all by phone
Few things are as stressful as packing up your life and moving across town, state or country. In the midst of such a hectic time, it’s easy to get lazy and make all the moving arrangements by phone. This is a major red flag. Any company that promises to handle your needs without inspecting your home first is setting you up for a potential scam.
Responsible companies should come to your home, assess the items that need to be moved, and give you a proper estimate for the job. Movers generally charge by weight, so think about it logically—how can they estimate the cost of moving a bedroom set without looking at the items?
Always insists on meeting a moving company representative at your home, and point out all the items to be moved in advance.
The pay in advance scam
This one should be rather obvious, but many people still sadly fall for this age-old rip off.
Let’s be clear: do not pay a mover in advance, and never deal with a company that demands “cash up front.” If you pay anything up front, you have placed yourself in a vulnerable position.
You’ve hired a company and given them cash, as well as all of your household goods. In this scenario, you have no leverage if anything goes wrong.
It’s important to remember that reputable companies don’t require any large deposits or cash payments. The good companies get paid when the job is done, and done right.
The company name change scam
It’s easy for any company to change its name—it’s actually a handy way to avoid being tagged as a scammer. Here’s how to spot these name shifters.
Find out if the company has a local address, and then pay them a visit. If the address is inside a home residence, it’s time to move on.
Is the company listed in the phone book? If the company operates via cell phone only, you’ll want to find a new one. Do they sound professional when you call? Does the office receptionist identify the company by name when you call? These are all signals of professionalism that are important to identify.
Look at the company’s trucks as well. If the company you want has no identification on its trucks, they are likely not as legitimate as you might think. No name on the truck is a major red flag.
The FMCSA checklist
One really valuable tool available to you is this checklist from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Be sure to complete the checklist before hiring any moving company!
The term “buyer beware” is a cliché for good reason. Approach any moving transaction with a healthy dose of skepticism.
To reiterate, the overwhelming number of movers are solid citizens with reputable companies. Moving scams are out there, though. It’s up to you to take charge of your move and avoid getting ripped off.