The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) says thousands of consumers fall victim each year to moving scammers, some of whom pose as employees of a legitimate company, or are with an actual business that loads your belongings on a truck, only to demand more money to deliver them.
AMSA describes one moving scam in which a network of Florida-based moving companies misappropriated the name of a real company called Able Moving & Storage in Virginia. The Florida scammers, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), typically provided a low estimate, and once all your possessions are in the truck, the mover will demand far more than estimated to complete the job.
“They may say it while the truck is sitting in your old driveway or, worse, you may get to your new house and they say, ‘We’re not delivering your stuff until you give us more money,’” says Katherine Hutt, of the Council of BBBs. In other cases, “They’ll ask for a deposit–a third [of the cost] or whatever–and then they’ll just take your money,” says Hutt, “and you’ll never hear from them again.”
But if movers are physically holding your goods, “you should definitely go to the police, because that is blatantly illegal,” Hutt says.
7 Steps to hiring a reputable moving company:
1) Get three estimates: Interview a representative from each, and do thorough research. “Those should be in-home estimates,” Hutt says. A moving company that doesn’t want to visit your home is more likely to argue that you didn’t accurately describe your belongings, and demand more money once the truck is loaded.
2) Check with the BBB and other reporting organizations. Organizations like the BBB can reveal if a company has received complaints from previous customers. Check out sites like Yelp and others that specialize in reviewing moving companies, but be careful what sources you look at, says Mike Glanz, co-founder and CEO of HireAHelper.com: “There’s certain websites out there that make money off moving company advertisements.”
3) Follow up with out-of-state headquarters. To avoid falling prey to scams like the one above, do some online research to find the headquarters, call the main company line and confirm the information on the local affiliate.
4) Check out the address. A genuine moving company is going to have an office and place to keep the moving trucks when they’re not in use. If it’s local, drive past the company’s address to verify it’s valid. If you can’t get to the property, Google Street View can be a good substitute, but be mindful of how long ago the image was taken.
5) Consider changing your moving plan, because there are options.
You can go with a hybrid move, where you rent the truck and hire laborers separately, then drive the truck yourself to your new home. Then you hire another set of movers to help you unload the truck. HireAHelper.com provides the service of vetting and connecting consumers with the movers for a hybrid move, but Glanz says he finds many individuals are looking for a more cost-effective alternative to the pricey, sometimes treacherous world of moving.
“People are starting to realize there is just a little too much risk associated with hiring a company with control of all your possessions.”
6) Check for replacement insurance. While additional insurance isn’t necessarily the difference between a rogue mover and legitimate business, it can help ensure you’re satisfied with the quality of the move.
All moving companies are required by the federal government to carry insurance, but minimal coverage, or released value protection, assumes liability for a maximum of 60 cents per pound. So if a 100-pound TV gets damaged during the move and doesn’t work anymore, you’ll receive just $60 from the mover.
While it will add more to the total cost of your move, full value protection will ensure the mover repairs any damaged item to the same condition and working order or replaces it with a like product. You can learn more about coverage for a move through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
7) Ask about truck suspension for long-distance moves. You can also minimize the chances of incurring damage to your belongings by inquiring about the type of truck that will be moving your goods from one state to another.
Glanz notes a truck with air-ride suspension is the safer option over steel spring suspension, keeping your possessions from knocking around during the trip. If the truck does not have air-ride suspension, “you’re five to 10 times more likely to incur damage across the country,” he says.