The Better Business Bureau (BBB) regularly gets a truckload of complaints about moving companies during ordinary times. Now an extraordinary housing market boom indicates an increase in the number of people relocating.
That in turn means a boom for moving companies.
BBB says watch out. That boom you hear might be a hole blown through your finances by a scam moving company as they flourish right along with legitimate movers. Take BBB’s advice on ways to protect yourself from the bad guys. Last year, BBB examined in great detail the fraudulent mover issue, publishing a study to help guide consumers to honest movers. Read the full study at bbb.org/scamstudies. Most of the following information is condensed from that study.
An emotional event
It’s no secret why moving is rated one of life’s top stressor events. Most of us don’t do it that often. The ins and outs of selecting a mover can be unfamiliar to you. You probably realize the importance of making a good decision since you will be entrusting most of your household belongings to complete strangers. Many of those items have emotional value to your family. The house itself may tie into your family’s emotions, as may the neighborhood and the friends you are leaving behind.
Then, there is the matter of expense. Moving is not cheap. It all adds up to a tense time that you hope will not be complicated by unforeseen obstacles. A crooked mover is the last thing you need to deal with. Nationally, last year at least 1,335 moving companies earned an “F” rating from BBB. Many are still out there waiting for you.
Tricks of the trade
There are an abundance of trustworthy moving companies and many of them are Accredited by BBB and meet its tough Standards of Business Practices...but unfortunately consumers really do need to be on guard for bad actors in this industry. Here’s a brief rundown of some often-reported scams perpetrated by fraudulent movers:
• Upfront friendliness – They may seem super helpful and sincere over the phone at first contact.
• Lying – A well-designed website may trumpet faked years of experience, well-trained workers, happy customers and appropriate licensing.
• Demanding additional fees – During phases of the move, they may demand unexpected fees, even holding your belongings hostage until you pay them. Charges may end up being 2 or 3 times the expected rate.
• Unmet scheduling – They may not arrive when expected to empty your house or to deliver your belongings to the new location.
• Subbing out the work – the company you initially talked to may not be the company that does the work or may use untrained temporary hires with rented trucks.
• Breakage – Items may be ruined and the reimbursement for their value may be a tiny fraction of their real cost.
A few of the ways you can avoid crooked movers:
• Research them. Check out the company at BBB.org to find their rating and marketplace history.
• Visit the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) website and enter their license number to read complaints. No license number? No deal. The same goes for insurance.
• Do an internet search using the mover’s name and the word “scam.”
• Visit the American Trucking Association’s MSC (Moving and Storage Conference) website at moving.org, and use the pull down menus across the top of the page for useful tips and information.
• Never settle for one estimate and never settle for over-the-phone estimates. Get it in writing and only after they have visited your home to lay eyes on your belongings.
• Pay no more than 15% of total cost upfront.
• Sign nothing with blank pages or large blank areas.
• Get their business location and drive by it or do Google Street View.
• Don’t pay with cash.
• Pay extra upfront for full replacement value protection insurance. Things often break.
For answers to other questions about movers, contact the BBB, 800-856-2417 or at bbb.org.