You have probably heard stories about companies that give low moving estimates, only to mark them up later with hidden fees that rarely make sense. Or, worse, movers that take household goods hostage for more money. Some may say you get what you pay for – cheap service for a cheap price. I subscribe to a different philosophy: well done is always better than well said.
If you are being sold a full-service move for the lowest possible price, something may be amiss. Please be diligent to ensure that what is being well said, will also be well done. Here are my tips on how to avoid a moving scam:
Investigate. Before choosing a mover, make sure you check on complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). There are consumer advocate sites that have outted scam movers. The most notable is Movingscam.com, which has a black list of rogue movers and a super list of movers in every state with customer reviews and, in some cases, endorsements. Remember, it’s reasonable that a good mover will have some complaints. Make sure you consider the number of complaints and the nature of the complaints. Also, check to see if the mover has insurance and is licensed by the proper authority. You can use the FMCSA’s ProtectYourMove.gov to see if a mover’s license is current and if they have ever received a federal complaint.
Get an in-home estimate. There is no way for a mover to get accurate weight estimate without visiting your home. It may happen in the future, but the technology isn’t there yet. If someone is telling you that they can give you an accurate final weight estimate without seeing your home, they aren’t being honest.
The request an estimate buttons on moving sites do not send you a dollar estimate right away. Instead, they send your information to a moving company representative who will call you to set up an appointment to come to your home. We ask information about the size of your home so that we are better prepared for the conversation – not so that we can guess the cost of your move.
Speak up. Make sure the weight of the load looks right. If you are being quoted a price for a 5,000 pound move but you know you have closer to 8,000 pounds, say something. Some companies will knowingly give you a low-ball price to book your move and then raise that price upon delivery.
Get multiple estimates. That way, if you have one price that is substantially lower than the others, you will know something is not right with that mover.
Your contract should cover everything. A moving contract should include all of the details about your move and there should not be any hidden charges. Scammers want to get in and get out as quickly as possible with the sale. If you are being rushed, or it sounds too easy, beware – this is a red flag.
There is a lot of paperwork involved in moving, including a booklet and full explanation of your rights and responsibilities (read more about moving rights and responsibilities). In fact, it is against the law to not provide this information if you are moving from one state to another. Some good movers have simplified contracts, but they will still contain all the necessary information about fees, supplies, packing, etc. The sales representative will also walk you through each charge listed on the contract and discuss the differences between a binding and non-binding contract.
Gratuity is never mandatory. Some movers will demand gratuity before they unload the truck, even if it’s not in the contract. This is foul play. Tipping is customary, but should be left to the customer’s discretion.
Ask about claims. Even the best movers break things from time to time. Your mover should have an internal claims process. Good movers will have an internal counselor to work with you to recoup your losses.
Ask about the workers. Are they drug-tested? Have they gone through background checks? Your movers will be in your home, handling your valuable possessions. Make sure you ask these questions and request verification from your moving company.
Look at the trucks. Look at the trucks to make sure that they are clean, well-kept and marked with the company name. The name of the moving company on the truck should match the name of the company you are hiring. Major van lines, including United, work with a network of agents so it is possible that a different agent name will be on the truck. However, the van line name United will be prominent on the truck. Mayflower is also part of United so, in some cases, you may see a Mayflower truck instead.
Be wary of internet movers. For example, if you Google “cheap movers” you will find a lot deals that sound great and look legitimate. It’s easy to set up landing pages that look professional – a lot easier than managing a fleet of trucks, building a warehouse, training staff, etc. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Be especially wary of movers with names that are similar to major van line names (some of the major, reputable van lines include United, Mayflower, Allied and Atlas). Scammers copy these names on purpose to piggyback on legitimate businesses and confuse consumers.
Upfront charges. Reputable movers do not require that you pay for the move upfront unless you are paying with a credit card. If you are paying with a credit card, there will be a hold placed on your card upfront to protect the mover. If you are paying with cash or check, you will be asked to pay upon the delivery of your goods.
Be realistic. These are your worldly, valuable and sentimental possessions. It costs money to move them. If you hire a mover based solely on the cheapest price, you will sacrifice service quality, delivery time and more. On that note, movers are required to deliver goods for no more than 10 percent more than the price of a non-binding estimate, with the balance to be billed and paid within 30 days.
Moving is hard enough without having to worry about rogue movers taking advantage of you. If you do find yourself in trouble, visit www.moverescue.com or go to www.protectyourmove.gov to get the help you need.
Do you have any questions about avoiding a moving scam? Tips to share? Let us know below.