It’s sad but true: moving company scams are out there, and they’re trying to fool you. In the most common one, movers will give you a lowball estimate, load all your stuff on their truck, and then claim the price is actually double and hold your things hostage until you pay up.
Another common scam, according to Noah Duarte, training manager atGentle Giant Moving Company, is hiring a mover for a specific time, and then they never show up and don’t communicate with you, whether you’ve paid a deposit or not. The reality there is that the moving company deliberately overbooked in order to find the highest-priced move.
Don’t let it happen to you. Watch out for these red flags when you’re looking for a moving company.
The company has no credentials
The very first thing you should do is your own research. Google the moving company. Does it have any reviews? And if so, are they positive or negative? Look at repositories online, like moving.org, to see if they’re listed as a legitimate business. Check with the transportation department to see if they’re licensed. Ask them for an insurance certificate. Check for thorough contact information, and make sure the images on the website aren’t just stock photos.
You get a quote quickly… almost too quickly
Some websites offer a quick quote, where you enter all your information, submit it, and then receive quotes within minutes. Watch out for these, says Rachael Lyons, marketing director at Olympia Moving. At best, your move will be farmed out to someone not affiliated with the actual moving company. At worst, you’ll be victim of a scam.
“You don’t know anything about these companies and at the end of the day, they actually aren’t performing the moves or managing the moves at all,” Lyons said. “Moving is not a Grubhub order. You’re trusting someone with all your worldly possessions.”
Duarte agrees to stay away from subcontractors. ”You want to know who’s coming into your house,” he reasons.
There’s a lack of communication
Trouble getting in touch with your movers is a big red flag, Lyons says. If they won’t communicate with you properly before the move, you can be sure they won’t communicate properly during the move—or they might cut off communication completely and not show up at all.
You haven’t been given a written quote
Get a written quote for the move. Movers need to take a physical inventory of your belongings—whether that’s done over the phone, by video chat, or in person.
“In order for them to quote the move, they need to understand the scope of the move,” Lyons says. “If someone is just quoting you a price without knowing what it is that needs to be moved and the details of the services that you need, then what are they basing the quote on?”
The company requests a large down payment or cash only
If any company asks you to pay for the move in full before even moving anything, that’s the biggest red flag of all. And if they request cash only, they’re probably not a legitimate company. Lyons notes that nearly every moving company will ask for a deposit; just be mindful of how much it is and how they want the money.
And don’t forget you have legal rights
Sometimes moving costs will go over the company’s initial estimate. That can happen for a variety of reasons, like having to move more (or heavier) stuff than originally planned. But sometimes those inflated costs aren’t justified. The important thing to remember is that you have rights here—especially if the company refuses to release your belongings until they’re paid.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, after you pay 110 percent of a moving company’s initial estimate, the company is legally no longer allowed to hold your items hostage. After you make that payment, the company can come back and negotiate the remainder of the price—but only if there was a legitimate reason, like you needed an attic packed that you didn’t inform the company of beforehand.
Photo: Getty Image