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Last updated Mar 20, 2024

5 Common Moving Company Scams Unveiled: Expert Guidance on How to Protect Your Move and Avoid Potential Pitfalls

Moving is often considered one of the most stressful events in life. A good moving company can ease some of this stress. Unfortunately, the moving industry also has a dark side, with many operators willing to take you for all your worth.

5 Common Moving Company Scams Unveiled: Expert Guidance on How to Protect Your Move and Avoid Potential Pitfalls SVL

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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), thousands of complaints against moving companies are lodged each year. With this in mind, the first item to check off your moving checklist is to arm yourself with knowledge about common moving scams. This way, you can avoid falling victim to these fraudulent practices. In this article, we educate you on five prevalent moving company scams and how to protect yourself.

Lowball Estimates

One of the most common moving scams involves lowball estimates. Here, a moving service may provide you with a significantly lower estimate than other removalists in your area, making their offer seem too good to be true. But beware - this is often a tactic used by scam movers to entice unsuspecting customers.

Here's how it works: the moving service provides an attractive, yet suspiciously low estimate without a thorough inspection of your household goods. Once you're on the hook, they may claim the actual cost of your move is much higher than originally quoted. This scam often leaves customers feeling trapped and burdened with unexpected costs on moving day.

  1. Always get quotes from at least three different services to understand the ballpark range.
  2. Beware of estimates given over the phone or internet without a detailed inspection of your household goods.
  3. Ask questions about the estimate. How was it calculated? What factors could increase the cost? Is it a binding moving estimate?
  4. Check the company's reputation with the Better Business Bureau and other consumer protection organizations. A reputable business has likely been around long enough to get reviewed by third-party moving websites.

Remember, if an estimate sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Holding Belongings Hostage

Another notorious moving scam is when a mover holds your belongings hostage. In this scam, a mover may load your household goods onto the moving truck, then demand a large deposit or additional fees before they deliver your items.

Here's how it works: After loading your belongings onto their truck, the moving company suddenly increases the price of the move. If you refuse to pay, they may keep your belongings "hostage" in the truck or in a storage facility until you comply. This can turn your moving process into a nightmare.

  1. Never pay a large deposit before the move. Reputable moving companies typically do not demand full payment or a hefty deposit before the delivery.
  2. Thoroughly understand your rights as a consumer. The FMCSA offers resources about your rights during interstate moves.
  3. Check if the moving company is registered with the Department of Transportation. Legitimate, reputable moving companies are required to have a US Department of Transportation number.
  4. Read your moving contract or Bill of Lading carefully. This legal document outlines all the terms and conditions of your move, including delivery date and cost. Ensure you fully understand it before signing.

Remember, if you end up in a situation where your mover is holding your goods hostage, you can file a complaint with the FMCSA or the Better Business Bureau.

Hidden Fees

Hidden fees are another scam disreputable moving companies like to spring on their customers. This scheme involves the moving company providing an estimate that seems reasonable but doesn't include all costs. The result? You end up getting a lump sum invoice that is more than you originally agreed to.

In a hidden fees scam, the moving company doesn't fully explain all charges in the moving contract or quote. These hidden charges may include packing materials, long carry charges, or even extra costs for moving heavy items.

  1. Understand every item in your moving quote. If there's something you don't understand, don't hesitate to ask.
  2. Ask for a comprehensive breakdown of costs. A reputable moving company should be able to provide this without hesitation.
  3. Beware of vague language in the moving contract. Terms like "additional services as required" can sometimes hide extra fees.
  4. Confirm if the estimate is binding or non-binding. A binding estimate means the mover may not charge more than the agreed amount unless you request additional services.

Understand your moving contract and get a clear explanation of the costs involved to protect yourself from hidden fee scams.

Packing Scams

Packing scams are another common way unscrupulous moving companies use to empty your wallet. The way it works is the moving company charges excessive fees for packing materials and services, sometimes for items that don't require special handling or packaging.

First, they insist on packing your items, citing insurance reasons or claiming that only their packing meets the required standards. They then use an excessive amount of packing materials or unnecessarily pack items individually to inflate the cost of the move.

  1. Check if packing costs are included in your estimate. If not, ask how much it will cost.
  2. If possible, consider packing your items yourself. This could significantly reduce the cost of your move.
  3. If you prefer the moving company to pack for you, monitor the packing process. Be wary if they're using an unreasonable amount of packing material.
  4. Understand the packing costs for special items. If a company charges a high fee for packing a standard item, it might be a red flag.

Stay vigilant so you can avoid packing scams and ensure a smooth moving experience.

Fake Reviews

We've become accustomed to relying on online reviews to make purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, fake reviews have become one of the common moving scams to watch out for. Fraudulent moving services often manipulate online ratings seem reputable when they are anything but.

Here's how it works: The scam moving company posts fabricated positive reviews about their services to attract customers. The reviews make the company seem reliable and highly rated at first glance.

  1. Be skeptical of a company with only glowing reviews. Real moving companies will likely have a mix of positive and negative reviews.
  2. Look for detailed reviews. Generic praising reviews or those lacking specifics can sometimes be a sign of fakery.
  3. Use third-party websites to verify reviews. Besides the company's website, check other sources like the Better Business Bureau or other trusted review sites.
  4. If possible, get word-of-mouth referrals. People you know won't have any reason to lie about their moving experience.

By critically examining reviews and seeking information from multiple sources, you can protect yourself from moving scams by avoiding dodgy operators.

Remember, the key to avoiding scams is research. Look for reputable moving companies, check their ratings with the Better Business Bureau, ask for recommendations, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Read all contracts and estimates carefully and remember to never pay a large deposit before the move.

You can read more useful tips and articles on our blog.

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article author avatar SVL

Desten Musoni

Senior Manager

As a Senior Manager of Star Van lines, There is nothing that keeps me up at night more than thinking about being one of the best company in the nation and providing an impeccable service to each of our customers. With the unique experience of being responsible for the relocation of the many customers around the nation for 5+ years. Proven to be instrumental in developing processes that allow for timely and cost-effective project and move management. Through the many challenges that are presented in relocating people and their items the ability to manage any size project presented has been gained. Energetic and resourceful professional proficient in project management and team leadership. Innate problem solving abilities and customer service skills. We are providing an impeccable service with teams of movers that are experienced. We have customer service support available for any updates as soon as the job info is booked until at the delivery and most of the time I am involved as well to deal with complex issues if any occurs. Customers are our primary priority, so we do our best to get the jobs done properly with efficiency. We have more than 20+ trucks and trailers.