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How to Avoid Moving Company Fraud

May 28, 2021
A family unpacks boxes on living room floor after moving

Moving day is exciting, but finding the right moving company can be nerve-racking. You want to make sure your move goes according to plan, and the last thing you want is unexpected fees, delays or damaged belongings.

Unfortunately, there are disreputable moving companies out there. Don’t fall victim to moving company scams. In this article, we cover some of the most common types of moving scams, and what you can do to avoid moving fraud.

How common are moving scams?

While most moves are carried out smoothly, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of fraud before hiring a mover.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 16.1 million households in the U.S. move each year. In 2018, the FMCSA handled claims of moving fraud from 5,900 consumers. This suggests that your chances of getting scammed by a moving company are very low, but keep in mind that not all instances of moving fraud end up getting reported.

In 2020, the most common type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission was imposter scams. This type of scam—which covers fraudulent business claims such as moving company fraud—resulted in a median loss of $850. The more expensive your move is, the more moving fraud may end up costing you. 

Types of moving company fraud

Moving company scandals come in a variety of forms, with some being easier to spot than others. Here are some common moving scams to watch out for:

Upfront payments. Requiring a deposit is normal. It's standard for moving companies to request about 20% of the estimated moving costs upfront. Companies that ask for large payments in advance may disappear by the time moving day rolls around.

Extra fees. Some moving companies will try to spring extra fees on the consumer when it’s too late to back out of the contract. For example, they may charge you a fee for moving to or from an apartment on a high floor, or for having belongings that exceed a certain weight. This is often due to the company intentionally low-balling your estimate.

Lost or stolen items. It’s natural for items to get mixed up during a move. However, if any of your items appear to be missing entirely, be sure to report this right away. It’s possible that your moving company is stealing belongings.

Holding belongings hostage. In some rare cases, fraudulent moving companies will wait until they already have your belongings in their possession before letting you know about additional charges. They may refuse to deliver your belongings until you agree to pay the extra fees.

Tips to avoid fraudulent moving companies

Moving fraud can result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars of unexpected charges on your moving day. In some cases, you may need to end up delaying your move altogether if the company you’re working with does not show up.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re working with a legitimate company who will complete your move quickly and efficiently.

1. Verify your moving company

Make sure the moving company you’re working with is established and trustworthy. There are a few ways to go about this:

●See if the company has a ProMover Certification through the American Moving & Storage Association

●Make sure the company is registered with the Better Business Bureau

●If you’re moving across state lines, look for the company’s USDOT Number to ensure that they are licensed with the FMCSA

●Check that the company’s address and phone number are correct

●Read through their reviews on sites like Google or Yelp

As you research the moving company, keep a lookout for anything that seems suspicious, such as company listings that don’t match up with one another or a lack of online reviews. This could indicate that the company isn’t established or reputable. 

2. Request a thorough estimate

A legitimate mover will provide a detailed estimate of how much it will cost to move your belongings. They will ask questions about the square footage of your home, which types of furniture you have, and where you are moving. They may do a visual inspection of your home as well.

Many long-distance moving companies base their prices on weight and distance, whereas local moving companies are more likely to charge by the hour. Either way, the company will give you an estimated price range for the cost of your move well in advance of your moving day. If an estimate seems rushed or too good to be true, it’s likely that you’ll end up paying additional costs later down the line.

3. Read the contract carefully

Your moving company should provide you with a contract that includes your estimate along with a list of any potential additional charges that you might incur during your move. While your end price might not exactly match the estimate that was given to you, a reputable moving company will be transparent about what factors could cause a price change.

Be aware that if you’re moving across states, movers in the U.S. are federally required to provide a copy of the FMCSA’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet. If you don’t receive this booklet before signing a contract, this could be a red flag.

4. Ask for recommendations

If you’re having trouble finding a moving company you can trust, ask around to see if your family or friends have any recommendations. Chances are you know someone in the area who’s moved within the last few years. Your real estate agent can also be a good source of information when it comes to local or long-distance moving companies, so don’t be afraid to ask them for a referral.

Find more homebuyer resources

A smooth moving day is just a small part of ensuring a stress-free homebuying experience. For additional resources to help guide your homebuying process, check out the Brookfield Residential blog. If you’re still looking for the perfect home for you and your family, contact us today to learn about what our communities have to offer.