Like many hiring decisions, choosing a moving company requires due diligence. You want to vet candidates because of the trust that you place in a moving company. You let them drive off with the bulk of your worldly possessions and hope for the best. This service is also a big undertaking in terms of cost. All things considered, you need to watch out for moving company red flags as you search for a good moving company to hire.
What Makes People Vulnerable to Moving Company Scams?
Any service that can demand a big price has the potential to inspire scammers. The moving industry is perpetually plagued by bad actors who want to cash in while cutting corners.
Time and Financial Pressures
People who need to hire movers have a higher likelihood of being busy and distracted by the fact that they have to move. They may be pinched for time, money, or both. A mover who shows up and promises speedy freight for a low price can exploit the situation.
Consumers are vulnerable to moving scams due to inexperience. Maybe so far in your life, you did not move much. Perhaps you were a child during a move, and your parents took care of the details. Maybe you did solo moves as a freewheeling single, but now you’ve got a family. No one has experience moving a family until you start a family, and moving your family is not something you get to do in easy mode.
Moving involves many moving parts, and the process can include various forms of stress, including job loss or nervousness about starting a new career. It’s easy for people to get overwhelmed and say yes to the first mover who writes them an estimate.
Of course, plain old cheapness goes hand in hand with vulnerability to scams. Moving a whole household, especially a good distance, is pricey due to the fuel and labor necessary. Someone who wants to feel brilliant by saving money might snatch up a low-ball estimate from a sketchy company, or rogue mover.
Examples of Moving Company Frauds
Rogue movers are worse than a company that gives poor customer service or drops a box of China. A moving company can be honest but still do a poor job. The worst movers commit fraud.
Deceptions used in moving company frauds:
- Luring you with a low-ball estimate and then demanding more money to actually deliver your possessions after hauling them away
- Lying about the weight or volume of freight, known as weight bumping
- Copying, forging, or changing bill of lading
- Inflating supply and/or fuel cost
Moving Company Red Flags
Legitimate moving companies make a clear effort to understand what you need done and fully disclose the cost of services. The following warning signs of a bad moving company show how fraudsters reveal their sketchy characters.
Willing to give you estimate without looking at your home and possessions
Any mover who feels confident writing an estimate without inspecting your possessions in person is either incomepent or looking to give you a raw deal. Don’t get tempted by an estimate given to you by phone or email after you answer some questions. It simply can’t be accurate. You’re certain to face extra “surprise” charges later.
Estimate is significantly lower than other estimates
Moving companies compete against each but also share similar expenses, primarily labor, fuel, and insurance.
Good moving companies will mostly write similar estimates. The market can only bear so much markup on prices, which puts some constraint on overcharging. However, there is a hard floor on what the minimum price charged can realistically be. Any company that quotes you way below other estimates is cutting corners somewhere.
Unprofessional appearance and behavior
Legitimate movers want to have good reputations. Referrals and reviews drive future business. Good companies inspire confidence by having staff members who know how to interact with customers politely. Someone representing a company who looks slovenly or speaks rudely indicates that the company has low standards or may be a pack of thieves for all that you know.
No website or very vague website
Many people go online to search for movers. Websites are an important part of a moving company’s marketing effort…unless it’s a fly-by-night outfit.
No company logos on moving vans or workers’ clothing
Reputable moving companies outfit their workers in uniforms precisely because customers don’t want the appearance of random people taking their furniture away. Moving trucks that lack signage and no branded uniforms strongly suggest that this is a casual business.
High-pressure sales tactics
Sometimes people who commit fraud work hard for their money. They’ll pester you by phone, text, and email, trying to get you to sign a contract and probably pay a big cash deposit right away. They could use tactics like saying that the price is only good for today, and you have to decide.
Demands large cash deposit
A moving company may ask for a modest deposit, like 10%, but many do the job first and collect payment upon completion. A mover who wants a big deposit, or even all of the money upfront, is suspicious.
Requires you to pay cash, won’t take credit cards
Using a credit card to cover a major expense, like moving your household hundreds or thousands of miles, is completely normal. Companies don’t want to miss out on business by refusing credit cards in this business sector. It’s possible you might get a tiny discount for paying cash, but someone who insists on cash is not being reasonable.
Does not answer your questions
Movers understand that their customers will have many questions before signing a contract. A mover who does not answer your questions and is generally evasive about information could be a scammer.
Steps to Choosing a Good Moving Company
You should be able to weed out the sketchy movers by working your way through the steps for hiring a mover.
Know what kind of moving company that you need
Moving companies can have certain operational areas. For example, a good local moving company may not have the resources to conduct an interstate move. Before going through the trouble of getting a quote, find out if the company can do what you need.
Get quotes from three to five movers
Multiple quotes will show you what the price range is for the service. The lowest isn’t necessarily the best because it might not include services that you need.
Moving companies should have reviews on Yelp or Google. Read through these to get a sense for how the companies have succeeded or failed with prior customers. As you do this, keep an eye out for reviews that seem over the top with praise. They could be fake.
The Better Business Bureau is also a good source of information regarding problems. Consumers generally only contact the BBB to file a complaint.
Ask questions about what the estimate includes and excludes
Estimates can vary on what they cover. Make sure that you understand what the estimate gets you and when you would have to pay more.
Confirm license and insurance information
The companies that you contact should gladly share their license credentials and insurance policies.
When Moving Was the Wrong Move – How to Decide If You Should Move Back