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5 Most Common Moving Scams & How to Avoid Falling Victim

5 Most Common Moving Scams & How to Avoid Falling Victim

Moving is stressful enough without considering whether or not the company you hire will rip you off. Unfortunately, for a growing number of people in recent years, moving scams are easy to fall victim to.

The following is an explanation of how untrustworthy moving companies came to be, the tactics they’re using to exploit customers, and what you can do to avoid falling for these swindler’s tricks.

Complaints and negative reviews registered at BBB about movers overcharging in U.S. and Canada
Year Complaints Reviews Total
2017 3,318 968 4,286
2018 4,716 1,279 5,995
2019 4,274 1,218 5,492
SOURCE: BBB.org
Complaints and negative reviews registered at BBB about movers in U.S. and Canada
Year Complaints Reviews Total
2017 3,318 968 4,286
2018 4,716 1,279 5,995
2019 4,274 1,218 5,492
SOURCE: BBB.org

The Law that Paved the Way

The Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980 resulted in the United States’ moving industry being deregulated.

For the first time, this act authorized interstate movers to issue binding or set estimates. Doing so opened the door to the industry for hundreds of new moving firms to join the marketplace.

This, of course, resulted in a rise in competition and soon, movers were no longer competing for services but for whoever could offer the best rates.

As competition pushed rates lower and narrowed what were already thin profit margins, as part of a new scam, “rogue” movers started hijacking personal property – holding it for ransom.

Moving Scams to Watch Out For

The “moving scam” has several variations, but the most common scam starts with a prospective customer calling a supposedly licensed moving company and asking for an estimate for their move.

This interaction often occurs online through moving company websites or over the phone. Then, if it’s a scam, one or more of the following scenarios will play out.

#1 Bait & Switch Pricing

The first sign that something may be off with the mover you’ve contacted is an unusually low quote.

When a moving company has secured a move by offering a non-binding or binding estimate, a legitimate moving company representative conducts a visual assessment and provides a quote based on the workload. 

The mover scammer will provide an advanced quote, site unseen, and purposefully wait until the items are packed and in transport before alerting the customer of the “extra fees.”

Scam movers use misleading weight or space numbers, which isn’t based on actual weight or cubic footage figures and often includes rates based on the moving vehicle’s gross weight.

After packing, the scam occurs when the customer is told that their items have surpassed the estimated weight or allotted cubic footage and the excess load will be an additional fee.

The new price is typically higher than the original estimate by four or five times. The scammers know that, based on their customer’s need for their furnishings and personal effects, most people can be strong-armed into paying these exorbitant prices.

How to Protect Yourself

1. Search the FMCSA database to ensure the company exists, they have a good safety record, and don’t have any existing complaints.

2. Search popular review websites, such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. If they have multiple bad reviews and no good ones to speak of, try a different company. Similarly, if there are no reviews for them online, they may be a fly-by-night operation you want to avoid.

#2 Upfront Pricing

Trustworthy movers won’t demand cash or a big deposit until your items safely arrive at their final destination. Most reputable movers have you pay with a small deposit upfront and the remainder upon delivery.

If you pay upfront, you have lost any leverage you may have had when it comes to negotiating with a fraudster. 

How to Protect Yourself

1. We recommend using a credit card when you pay, as this helps you combat any fraudulent behavior with the card issuer’s backing.

2. Don’t pay for anything before a thorough in-home walk-through and visual inspection of all the items being moved.

#3 Cubic-Foot Pricing

Reputable moving companies, especially those that perform interstate moves, will charge by the weight and not the number of cubic feet your belongings take up.

The reason for this is because an experienced packer can, and often will, fill the truck with more items than a novice one (or someone trying to charge more based on “space” used).

How to Protect Yourself

1. Ask the moving company how they charge and specifically for what services they will be charging you. Ask about any hidden fees. Avoid those that charge by cubic feet.

#4 Guaranteed Pricing

Legally speaking, moving companies have two ways they can bill customers. With a non-binding estimate, in which the final price the company charges may not exceed 10% of, and a binding contract – a fixed, guaranteed price.

Non-binding estimates are the most popular. It’s not uncommon for the customer to add-on services, such as extra packing, assembly or disassembly of furniture, and last minute items to be moved.

Binding estimates are given when the moving company knows precisely what’s being moved and what it will take to move it – staffing, truck size, and any necessary specialized equipment. 

The red flag is raised when a company offers a binding agreement site unseen or very loosely assesses the load.

How to Protect Yourself

1. If the pricing seems too good to be true, it probably is. You may be dealing with a shady company that is merely waiting to get your goods onto their truck to hold ransom until the “surprise” fees are paid.

2. Ask for a sample contract before actually booking with the company. If everything seems on the up-and-up, make sure the actual agreement reflects that of the sample contract.

#5 The Moving Broker

While not necessarily a scam, there are brokers looking to take advantage of people and moving scammers utilize these brokers to secure customers (aka victims).

Scandalous brokers will often represent themselves as the moving company on platforms like Craigslist to attract unsuspecting victims. They then charge an upfront fee and sell the customer info to a local moving company.

As you may have guessed, that local moving company is in on the scam and they have every intention of squeezing every penny they can get out of you.

How to Protect Yourself

1. A broker will often ask for an upfront fee and provide a quote on an unseen load. As we’ve learned, this is a red flag in itself. However, to determine whether you’re working with a broker versus the moving company directly, read your contract very carefully. Watch for language that states that they “do not handle or otherwise participate in a move as a carrier.”

2. Check the contract for “first available” date with a 21-day window to deliver verbiage. This, often overlooked section of the scammer’s contract, almost always leads to late pickups, deliveries, and, for many victims, sleepless nights.

Conclusion

Do your due diligence when it comes to hiring a moving company. That means utilizing the tools available to you – government agencies, review websites, and have a buyer beware mentality. 

Start by asking friends for a recommendation. Move on to doing your own research and trust your gut – if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Federal consumer protection legislation relating to the interstate shipping of household products are applied by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) (i.e., household moves that cross state lines) and designed to better protect unsuspecting people hiring movers.

FMCSA offers an online National Consumer Complaint Database for victims to make a formal complaint and wary consumers to avoid hiring the wrong movers.

Check with your state’s corporation commission to ensure the company is registered.

Organize Your Move in Advance to Avoid Stress

The key to a stress-free move is to plan everything in advance so that you’re organized and totally prepared for moving day.  By following the schedule outlined below you should be able to cover all of your bases:

One Month Prior to Moving Day
– Contact Get Your Move On, LLC to schedule them for moving day and the day before if you want them to come out and pack you up.
– Check to see whether this move might be covered under your homeowner’s insurance.
– Arrange to have your children’s school records transferred.
– Call your family doctors and dentists for them to recommend others located in the area where you’re moving.
– Obtain copies of refillable prescriptions.
– Go room by room through your house sorting out which items to take with you, which items to sell at a garage sale, what should be donated and what you’ll just toss out.
– Contact your insurance agent to make sure your new home will be adequately covered with personal property insurance for fire, theft and any other appropriate coverage.  Have your health, auto and any other policies transferred to the new address.
– Get the necessary change of address forms for your driver’s license.

Three Weeks Prior to Moving
– Check to make sure all tax assessments are cleared.
– Slow down on grocery shopping because you’ll need to clear out the cupboards and refrigerator before the move. Eat what you already have on hand.
– Certain items cannot be organized and loaded onto the moving truck, which include: aerosol cans, ammunition, corrosives and anything flammable like propane tanks. Use them up or plan on giving them to a friend or neighbor before the move.
– Have someone come out to service all major appliances before moving day.

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GYMO Newsletter August 2017

 

Keep in Touch:

Get Your Move On LLC.
1430 East Hadley Street – Suite 110
Phoenix, Arizona 85034
http://getyourmoveonllc.com/

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Five Tips To Minimize the Stress of a Summer Move

Packing up your home and moving is stressful any time of year, but it is especially hard on the nerves during the hot and humid summer months.  Here are some tips to help you stay cool, calm and collected if you’re planning to pack up and move this summer:

1. Line Up a Moving Company
As soon as you have a moving date, make an appointment with a reputable moving company like Get Your Move On, LLC to come out and give you estimates on the cost.  This will help you determine your budget while paring down the number of items you actually need to move to the new residence. Once you decide which mover to hire, schedule a date for them to come out and pack things up and set the moving date as well. The summer months are the busiest for movers, especially the last and beginning few days of each month.

2. Get Rid of Unwanted Items
Start sorting through your belongings to determine what you will be taking with you, what you can sell at a garage or yard sale, and what you should donate or toss out.  Make sure you get any necessary permits if you’re holding a garage sale.  Put up flyers around the neighborhood advertising your sale and attach prices to each item you’re selling.  For items that don’t sell, donate them to Goodwill or a local thrift store.

3. Make Arrangements for the Elderly, Children and Pets
If you have seniors, small children and/or pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for during the move.  You can book an air-conditioned hotel room or ask a friend or family member to watch them for you at their home.  You can take your dog/cat to an animal daycare or to your friend’s house in a secure carrier. This keeps all family members safe and secure and out of the hot summer sun during the move.

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When Preparing for a Corporate Relocation

Find out what your employer’s corporate relocation package looks like
Large companies often provide employees with a pre-determined relocation package that spells out what they will offer you and what you will be responsible for.  We recommend that you look into this first so you have a basis before asking about the details.  They will most likely handle moving all you’ll need from your office, but will this include paying for the moving company to pack everything up?  How soon will you be required to complete the move?  How much information will they give you ahead of time about your new home?  Will they pay your travel expenses so you can visit the new city before you move?  You need to know all these details and they may all be outlined in your employer’s relocation package.  You might want to ask your HR Manager for a copy of your relocation package.

Determine how your employer plans on compensating you for the relocation
Moving can be very costly, especially when it involves a whole family.  Is your employer planning on paying up front for your move?
Will your company be reimbursing you up to a certain point according to specific guidelines, or don’t they have a ceiling on this?
Are they willing to cover temporary housing so you have time to find a new home?  Some companies have a policy of reimbursing employees for this in a lump sum.  In this case it would be up to you to decide how the money should be spent, knowing there won’t be more coming your way if you lose money on the sale of your house or are responsible for additional closing costs you hadn’t expected.  There may be a chance for you to negotiate with your employer on these matters, especially if you are being required to relocate for their benefit.  Find out exactly how your moving costs will be handled before you begin spending your own money on the move.

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Tips For Protecting Your Belongings During A Move

Moving is a major undertaking and in the process your belongings can easily become damaged.  But, there are ways to avoid that.  If you’re worried about your expensive crystal champagne flutes or your grandmother’s antique clock surviving intact, here are some tips to help you get your belongings through the move unscathed:

1. Start with proper boxes.
Before packing anything, make sure you have the right boxes for the type of items you’re packing.  If your moving company is packing up everything for you, it won’t be a problem.  But if you’re doing the packing yourself, you should carefully consider which boxes to get.  Start with the size of your boxes. You might think, “big is better” but when you have a lot of small, fragile things it’s not safe to pack them up in a big box.  Doing this could cause them to break if large heavier items are packed on top of them.  You need to pack small items in separate smaller boxes and large heavier items in larger boxes. Get boxes in several different sizes.  Also, pack things in the appropriate type of box. If you need to pack up your TV, it should be packed into the box it came in, so I hope you saved it.  On the other hand, for a very delicate set of china, buy a sturdy box that has been specifically designed for protecting dishes.  If you’ve got some old boxes in your garage you’re thinking about using, think again.  If they’re boxes from grocery or liquor stores they may have gotten damp or wet, and in that case they’ll likely fall apart during the move, damaging your items. You need strong solid boxes.

2. Use padding.
You are definitely going to need padding for your breakable items.  Padding is a must if the box isn’t completely filled up.  You don’t want your fragile items shifting around in the box because this could cause them to break.  Foam peanuts and bubble wrap are commonly used for breakable items. For packing plates, platters, bowls, and other dishes you can use plain newsprint or tissue paper.  If you’re on a tight budget, you can simply use comforters, blankets, pillows, T-shirts and/or stuffed animals.  These can definitely provide the cushioning you need.

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We are still open through the Covid-19 health crisis. Governor Ducey deems moving as an essential service, click here for more details.