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Posted in Moving Essentials, Moving Preparation on March 30, 2021
Steven Rogers

Apart from sharing Captain America's name, our freelance writer Steven is also a big fan of moving, history, and geography.

6 Most Common Moving Scams

Relocations can get very pricey. In addition to it, these changes are often stressful since they represent a major shift in every person’s life. That is why choosing the most reliable company and avoiding common moving scams is paramount. If you don’t pick the most credible long-distance movers, the whole deal can fall into pieces, leaving you unsatisfied and cashless.

Luckily, there are some great tips you can follow to avoid hassles, skip the unnecessary drama, and preserve your budget. The first thing you must learn is how to spot any red flags. And once you do, move on to a more credible professional crew that will help you out.

Typical Moving Company Scams You Should Protect Yourself from

If you’re clear regarding your reasons to move and jumped on to the part where you’re creating a relocation to-do list, you are about to get into the stage where you must determine whether you’re going to pack and transport your belongings alone or deal with professional cross country moving services. If you choose to go for the second option, you must open your eyes wide. Surely, you will bump into some chilling stories about all sorts of frauds some relocation crews tend to perform. Don’t get too spooked. These negative experiences don’t have to happen to you. You can easily avoid them if you watch out for these suspicious factors:

  • Numerous name changes,
  • Missing phone number,
  • Hidden costs and unexpected fees,
  • Unreasonably low estimates,
  • The estimate is based on cubic feet,
  • Not having a sample contract.

Although these tricks and cons might seem elaborate, it’s not that hard to spot them timely. All you need to do is check out every company’s references and learn about your options. Be thorough and persistent. Don’t hire the first crew you bump into, and don’t base your decision on affordability alone.

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Is it Better to Move Yourself or Hire Movers?

Once you’ve read the list of possible trickery, you’re probably considering relocating by yourself. It’s not that uncommon – some people pick a DIY relocation. The majority of them do it to save some money. If your relocation budget is your main concern, you could explore hybrid services. That way, you’d get to save up a few bucks, and you’d still get the necessary help with some of the most critical aspects of your move. For instance, many seek professional packing services. If you must move a piano or you’re having a hard time packaging fragile items, finding a trustworthy team you can rely on is your best alternative.

Hiring a reputable long distance moving company is the prime choice if you’re relocating to another state. You’d be:

  • More relaxed and comfortable,
  • Less likely to damage or lose any of your belongings,
  • Saving yourself a lot of time.

Still, if you’ve just started to look for a job in the new city and you’re uncertain if your savings will cover everything you’d like, you should learn a few useful relocation hacks and do (most of) the work yourself.

person in rubber gloves giving thumbs up
Choosing rightly takes time, but it has numerous benefits

Avoid Companies That Change Their Name Frequently

This is one of the most apparent warning signs in the history of moving fraud. If an organization changes its name and rebrands a little too often, it’s obvious that they have a shady past they’re trying to keep from you. Of course, all long distance movers sometimes decide to change their van lines’ names. Nevertheless, if they do it once a year, then something’s fishy.

So, if your gut tells you that something’s not right, how can you be sure? You can ask them to show you their license. If it’s brand-new, expired, or contains data that doesn’t match the website information – take your business elsewhere.

FMCSA Licensed Long Distance Moving Companies

All companies must have a FMCSA license. FMCSA is short for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and they’re dedicated to keeping an eye on the trucking industry. They regulate their business and protect the customers from double-dealing. When choosing your associate, be sure to check out the FMCSA database.

In addition to it, all reputable movers must have a USDOT (US Department of Transportation) number, which should be listed at the bottom of their website. This number is precisely what you need to look up at your prospective helper in the base.

 long distance mover carrying a large box
Don't forget to check the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration before hiring a crew to help you relocate

No Phone Number on the Company’s Website

Sure, a website should be informative enough for a potential customer to know what they’re getting into. However, nothing beats the real conversation. If you can’t find a phone number anywhere on the site, that could be an alarm. Also, if they ask for your contact phone number instead of providing theirs, they’re most likely scammers.

Detailed Information About Your Home

Once you do get to speak to a person representing the organization, they should get deep and sketchy with you. If you feel like they lack interest or attention to detail, that is a cause for concern. A real rep must ask all the relevant questions, such as where are you relocating from (and to), and what is the size of your home. Ultimately, they should ask you to provide a list of your household items.

Before confirming a definitive price, you must book an on-site estimate. If that’s not an option, the provider you contacted is probably a scam.

person holding a smartphone
Not being able to to receive the accurate information over the phone is a sign that something is wrong

Hidden Costs and Unexpected Fees

This could be the trickiest moving scam to spot. And also, it is the most “popular” one, according to researchers. Many people don’t actually see it coming. They just receive an excessively large bill once the relocation process is complete. The amount they are required to pay doesn’t match the agreed price range, and they remain baffled upon learning about it.

Luckily, there are ways to avoid this unpleasant situation. Firstly, each customer should be well aware of their rights and responsibilities. Charging for the services that weren’t initially included in the estimate and contract is illegal. Still, some scammers out there will undoubtedly try to pull it off.

You could have an extra expense if you require storage service last minute. However, anything that seems out of the ordinary isn’t right. If you’re fully aware of the costs of the insurance, fuels, and other necessary fees, the chances of getting tricked are way smaller.

Additionally, you should ask your provider a series of important questions right from the start. If you see that they’re just mentioning some figures from the top of their minds, it’s a sign you should explore other options. The lack of transparency, dedication, and consistency point out to scammers.

a close up of a calculator
Hidden costs that pop up at the end of the process are the most frequently pulled fraud

Unreasonably Low Estimates

When the final price seems too good to be true, the odds are that it most likely is. Spotting this sort of hoax is easier than packaging your shoes with the help of some expert packing tips. Don’t just ask how much it will cost. If it seems unrealistic or unreasonable, feel free to ask why. When the assessment suggests an incredibly low relocation cost, scammers will use the opportunity to increase the charge later.

So, how can you be sure if the estimation is correct? Always look into other alternatives. See if other providers offer a similar solution within a similar price range. Never hire a crew without consulting at least three other professional long distance moving companies. If the prices vary by more than 10%, you should bail out before it’s too late.

How to Get a Correct Estimate?

Usually, having a team arriving at your home and assessing the costs of boxing up and transporting your goods is the best option. Still, if you’re relocating during Coronavirus, you should ask them to perform the estimation online. All you need is WiFi and a fully charged phone or laptop with a camera. That way, you can have a useful insight and plan your budget accordingly, while ensuring everyone’s safety.

small cardboard houses
Make sure to get an accurate estimate and plan your budget properly

Estimates Based on Cubic Feet

Do movers charge by weight or volume? This is one of the main questions people who plan to move to another city tend to ask. You must know that the amount you will pay should be based on mileage, optional services you wish to request, and the full weight of your shipment. If you hear them mentioning the cubic feet as a way to calculate the costs, hiring them is a bad idea.

It makes no sense to charge more if someones’ household items take more space in the truck. Packaging your bathroom items and your pots and pans, or even getting your glasses packed properly truly does impact their safety and influence the experience you’ll have when unpacking. Still, saying that space these goods take inside the truck determines the cost is plain and simple deceit.

person calculating
Your payment should incorporate the mileage, weight of your shipment, and services you ask for

Refusing to Provide a Sample Contract

According to Federal Law, there are two types of contracts you can expect to be offered. A non-binding agreement suggests that the final cost of the move could be a bit more or less than the original estimate. Nevertheless, if the estimate is off by more than 10%, companies can’t demand payment on the spot.

The guaranteed price is another option – and a safer one. It is based upon the exact weight of your belongings, the number of household inventory items, and services requested by the customer.

So, before you officially seal the deal, make sure to obtain and read the contract carefully. If they can’t or won’t provide you with a sample – you know the drill. Save yourself from probable fraud.

a folder with legal documents
There are two types of contracts - a non-binding one and the guaranteed price

What to Do if You Have Been Scammed by a Moving Company?

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), these tips of cons are on a rise. If you get scammed, you can (and should) report it. But first, here’s a list of things that don’t count as a scam:

  • Some minor damage,
  • Minor losses,
  • Delivery delays,
  • Added costs that are 10% (or less) higher than the original price.

However, if the cross country moving company overcharges significantly or holds your belongings “hostage”, you must react. In those cases, you must file a complaint with the proper authorities, such as BBB, FMCSA, or American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

The Better Business Bureau has published a video you should check out to learn more about the scammers and how to deal with them.

YouTube video

Learn About These Common Moving Scams and Protect Yourself from Them

If you didn’t get discouraged by these old tricks and familiar deceits, it’s time for the final piece of advice. You are most likely wondering – Who is the best moving company? The answer depends on several factors. Many of them are based on your personal needs, preferences, and available budget. Still, spotting reliable cross country movers begins with doing your homework rightly. You must research thoroughly. In addition to looking them up in the databases, you must check out reviews and testimonials. And, another valid reason to run for the hills is finding that they have none. Every credible crew must have some satisfied customers who chose to share their positive experiences with the world. If not, you should move on as well.

If you’re in need of professional assistance, but your budget doesn’t allow you to pay for full service, you should pick up on a few useful relocation hacks yourself. However, if you can afford convenience and comfort all the way, be sure to explore their relocation options, packing services, boxes and supplies they provide, and car shipping.

And if your relocation runs smoothly, make sure to let everyone know. You will help someone else who’s also looking for ways to skip the scammers and move for love, work, family – or whichever their reason might be.

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