We all hope that our moving experience will go smoothly, and 99% of the time reputable moving companies will ensure that it is so. But there is the odd case that a less-than-honest company or person will try to take advantage of you in your moving adventures. To keep your relocation safe, smooth, and free of these moving mistakes, here are three of the most common moving scams movers try to pull off — and five tried-and-true ways to avoid them.
Common Moving Scams to Beware of
A Change in Charges
If a moving company offers you a suspiciously sweet deal- watch out. You might get an enticingly low estimate from some movers, but once they’ve loaded all of your worldly belongings on their truck they might increase the charges, sometimes doubling or tripling their original quote without solid or traceable reasons. If you refuse to pay the new rate, they simply refuse to give you your belongings until you surrender to their new bill. But you didn’t get a hard-copy, guaranteed quote ahead of time, so you find yourself hostage to their demands.
The Bait and Switch
The original estimate is based on one measurement or inventory of your belongings, but when the bill arrives you’re told that your goods exceeded the estimate in some other way — which was never a part of the original estimate. Again, the movers hold your belongings until you agree to pay the inflated price, and you’re left scratching your head at how they came up with the new fees.
New clauses are added to your original contract after you’ve already agreed to the move for reasons unbeknownst to you and completely unexplained by the company. It may be charged for a driver’s fee, or for the extra time required, or any other happenings that are a normal part of moving. Any time a clause is added to your contract after the fact, without proper notification in writing — like in the estimate and/or contract — that such an occurrence could be the reason for additional charges, you’re dealing with a scam.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams
There are a few simple but pretty crucial things to be aware of before you hire a moving company. Here is how to avoid moving scams, in five easy steps:
Don’t Sign a Partial or “Skinny” Contract
Don’t ever sign a blank or incomplete contract with the assurance that they’ll “fill out the details later”. Your moving contract should spell out all the details of the transaction from the get-go, including a guaranteed price, delivery date, necessary supplies on your end, and a complete list of what is being shipped. It should clearly explain there are no additional costs or state under what circumstances additional charges may be incurred.
If there are any parts of the contract that you have questions about or feel uncomfortable with, ask questions and address them ahead of time — and be prepared to walk away if the company doesn’t give you satisfactory answers or alter the contract as requested.
Don’t Put Your Furniture in an Unmarked Truck
Reputable moving companies have clearly labeled trucks with commercial plates, not U-Haul rentals or unmarked vans. Likewise, the contract paperwork should have a company logo and the movers should be professional, identifying themselves as employees of the moving company you’ve hired. Everything should be traceable to the company so that you can keep tabs on your belongings — and your payments.
Don’t Pay Cash
If there are any cash exchanging hands be sure it is just for tipping your movers. If you pay for the move itself in cash only, you’ll have no record of the paid transaction — and the company can disappear with your cash or worse, your belongings, pretending that you never even paid. Again, be sure everything is traceable and that receipts or transactions are attached to the moving company’s name.
Do Your Background Research
It may seem incredibly basic, but make sure your moving company, whether for a local move or long distance, has a physical address that you can locate on Google or another mapping provider. Make sure they’re recognized online as currently operating and in good standing and read moving companies reviews to rest assured you’re dealing with reliable, reputable movers.
Book Your Move Through Unpakt to Avoid Scams
Unpakt has already done all of the background research on all their local movers and long distance movers so that you don’t have to, so you’ll be sure to work with a moving company that is reliable, well-organized, and comes highly recommended.
In an effort to help families on the move protect themselves from moving scams, the US Department of Transportation launched a campaign aptly named ‘Protect Your Move’, designed to help customers spot the red flags of moving fraud, check moving companies’ backgrounds and look into their road safety records.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) also allows victims of fraudulent movers to file a complaint using its online tool or by telephone. Complaints are entered into the FMCSA’s database and could lead to an investigation of the accused moving company.