Finding a mover can be tricky, which is why it’s useful to compare moving companies before choosing one to help you relocate. And though moving is hard enough as it is, the moving industry is plagued by predatory businesses and scammers who take advantage of you.
These moving companies lure in unsuspecting customers with cut-rate prices that are hard to resist, and then hold your belongings hostage for more money.
Moving scams garner a lot of negative reviews that are bad for business. Because of this, moving scams aren’t built to last. Scammers will usually only run their moving scam long enough to cash in on a few customers, then change the business’ name and website to wipe the slate clean and start the process all over again.
Fortunately, there are a small handful of business practices that are dead giveaways for moving scams. Watch out for these types of companies to avoid getting scammed on moving day.
- The unauthorized company: Legit moving companies have to get authorized for their operations with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a government agency that keeps tabs on trucking companies. This process isn’t easy and it involves some government scrutiny, so most moving scams skip this step.
If a company isn’t authorized by the FMCSA, you shouldn’t trust it.
To check on a company’s authorization, search for the company using the FMCSA’s Company Snapshot tool. On a moving company’s snapshot page, you’ll see a spreadsheet where you can check if the company is authorized in a field called “Operating Status.”
If the company is authorized, you’re good to go. If the company isn’t authorized or you can’t even find a page for it on the FMCSA website, hire a different company, even if it means paying a higher price.
- The last-minute price gouge: This is the most common type of moving scam. It usually involves giving customers misleading quotes over the phone or online, then increasing the price when the moving crew shows up. These last-minute price increases can take the form of hidden fees for things like stairs and heavy items, both of which are things that legit companies charge for, but not without telling you before they show
Luckily, there’s one foolproof place to check for this type of scam: customer reviews. If companies use dishonest pricing practices and hit their customers with hidden fees on moving day, you better believe that’s
going to show up in their customer reviews. What if a company doesn’t have any customer reviews? This is a huge red flag.
- The unreviewed company: Scammy companies don’t keep the same names or websites very long. This short lifespan means that most of these movers aren’t around long enough to get reviewed by customers. If you find a company that has no reviews online, it’s highly possible that it’s a moving scam.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. An unreviewed company could always just be a nice little mom-and-pop moving company that recently set up shop. If that’s the case, though, it will usually still have the proper authorization from the FMCSA.
- The company that charges by the cubic foot: Most moving companies charge by weight. They might also add things like fuel surcharges, hourly rates and add-on service prices. Moving scams, on the other hand, sometimes charge by cubic foot. This means that instead of charging you per pound, they’ll charge you for every cubic foot your stuff will take up in the moving truck.
While this practice isn’t necessarily dishonest in itself, it is typical among scammy companies. You should take it as a signal to look deeper into the company’s third-party reviews and authorization before hiring it.
- The company that gives non-binding estimates: One of the most important parts of any moving estimate is the inspection that happens beforehand. Most legit companies will send someone to your house to conduct an in-home appraisal before asking you to sign anything. This guarantees that the company knows what you’re hiring them to move, and it allows the company to give you the most accurate quote. After the in-home estimate, the company will ask you to sign a “binding estimate” that locks your price in as long as you don’t add anything to your move, like an extra bed or an add-on service.
If a company asks you to sign something before doing an appraisal, it might be a moving scam. Don’t sign anything until you look into the company’s history and customer reviews a little more, even if it means walking away from a stellar price.
There are exceptions to this rule, though. Some companies will send you binding estimates if you submit an online inventory or do a thorough estimate over the phone. If the estimate that the company asks you to sign doesn’t say “binding estimate” on it, though, your price could change, even if you don’t change anything about your move. Keep your eyes open.
There are a lot of scammy companies in the moving industry, but there are plenty of honest companies as well. It can be hard to tell the difference at first glance, but if you watch out for these signs of a moving scam, you can keep you and your belongings safe from companies that might try to take advantage of your situation.
If you need assistance with understanding any aspects of moving scams, contact the nearest Seniors Vs. Crime office in The Villages for advice or assistance. Seniors Vs. Crime also has a Speakers Bureau that will gladly come to your club, church, or group to speak about scams. To schedule a presentation, contact any of the offices. There is never a charge for their services. Seniors Vs. Crime can be reached at:
- The Fruitland Park Police Department Annex in the Moyer Recreation Center in The Villages – (352) 674-1882
- The Marion County Sheriff’s Office in The Villages – (352) 753-7775
- The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office in The Villages – (352) 689-4600, Extension 4606
- The Wildwood Police Department Annex at Brownwood in The Villages – (352) 753-0727
During this pandemic, our offices are closed for walk-in complaints. Please call before you come to our offices. Hours may vary or may require appointments. You can also file online, or by calling 1-(800)-203-3099. Our staff will call you back and you can file your complaint over the phone.
Volunteers at all four offices are ready, willing and able to assist you. To keep up with the latest scams, LIKE ‘Seniors vs. Crime Region 4’ on Facebook. Hablamos Español. Por favor pregunte por Yolanda. Martes a Viernes: 10:00 A.M. a 2:00 P.M., (352) 689 4606.