How to avoid moving scams

Moving is a major event that can be very stressful and overwhelming. Luckily, these days you can find many useful moving tips that will help you with your relocation. Hiring a moving company is always a way to go, but you must be careful to avoid moving scams.
Moving scams can transform your move from an exciting dream to your worst nightmare. Still, there are ways to avoid them. You just need to know what to pay attention to.

If you want to avoid moving scams, start planning your move as soon as possible

The first step you need to take when you want to avoid moving scams is to make a moving plan. Moving is a complex ordeal and getting into it without a precise plan could easily get you in trouble. Once you put everything on paper, you will understand what you should do and when.

A notebook and a hand
Preparing a thorough moving plan is the best way to start your relocation

The best way to avoid moving scams is to be careful while hiring movers

Of course, to evade moving frauds, you need to be sure that you will be working with a reputable moving company. But how to hire a mover that’s reliable? You can ask someone you know to give you a recommendation. If, on the other hand, you do not know anyone who moved recently, you can use the internet to check a moving company. The best websites to do so are the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Besides that, there are some things that you need to watch out for, even if the company appears to be legit.

Do not accept an unseen estimate if you want to avoid moving scams

Every reliable company will do an in-home estimateThe companies that give you estimates over the phone or email are not the ones that you should trust. Moving prices are based on the mileage, the weight of your belongings and their size.
That is why it is crucial that a representative of the company assesses your stuff personally and determine their bulk and weight. Based on that, the company can make an estimation of the moving costs.

If you accept to get an estimate over the phone, you are likely to incur some additional costs. This is one of the most common moving scams. It may sound great on the phone, but it’s usually too good to be true. In the end, it can cost you much more than you have planned.

Pay attention to how the estimator assesses your stuff

An estimator from a reliable moving company will have many questions for you. Will you bring all of your stuff? Would some of the items need special attention? Which items are fragile, etc.? A good estimator will take many notes and mark all possible moving problems. He will do a thorough estimation of every piece of your belongings that you want to move.

If you notice that the estimator does a quick walk-through without taking notes, asking questions or opening cabinets, that should be a red flag. It means that you shouldn’t trust that moving company and that you can become a victim of a moving scam if you continue collaborating with them.

Once you get your estimate, you can see if it fits your moving budget and if it requires some adjustments.

Using a moving inventory list to acquire a moving estimate

Still, there are times when it is not convenient to have an estimator to visit your home. If you are asking for estimates from several different moving companies, you cannot sit all day, or several days, while they evaluate your stuff. Maybe you are not feeling well. Or it’s not convenient because of your working hours. In those cases, your moving inventory list could serve as a reference for a moving estimate.

If you decide on this approach, make sure that your list contains as many details as possible. Besides items’ names, you should also write down the color, weight (if it’s possible), serial numbers, and their overall condition. If you want, you can download a moving inventory app for this. It will allow you to take photos of your items as well. Nevertheless, the more precise your inventory list the more precise estimate you will get.

A notebook and glasses
Prepare your moving inventory list if you cannot find time for estimators

Different types of moving estimates

There are, however, three different types of moving estimates. And fraudulent movers tend to use one in particular. Of course, it doesn’t mean that only fraudulent movers will offer a non-binding moving estimate. But it can be one of the red flags that you are looking for. Here is what you should know.

Non-binding moving estimate

A non-binding estimate is the fraudulent movers’ favorite one. And it is usually given without any written evidence. But how it all works? When you are searching for moving companies to hire, you will get a few different estimates to compare. If you find that one (or a few) is particularly lower than others consider it as a red flag that something is not right. Those estimates serve the purpose of luring inexperienced customers to accept the offer. But if it is a non-binding estimate it means that the final price can change after the move is complete.

There are numerous cases where people are attracted to accept the low offer but before their items arrived, they are informed that the price has increased. Sometimes even several times.  Movers will demand from a customer to pay or they will keep their items hostage until they do.

Binding moving estimate

Now you are probably thinking, what is a binding estimate? Binding moving estimate means that, when your move is complete, you will pay the price that you agreed with your movers in the beginning. Moreover, you will always get it in written form.

How it all works? A moving company will send their representative to your home to estimate the overall weight of your moving inventory. Or they will give you an estimate based on your moving inventory list. Before your items are delivered, the moving truck will go on a scale and the exact weight will be determined. If you have a binding moving estimate, it means that you cannot pay more than you originally agreed even if your items are heavier than previously estimated.  However, it also means that you cannot pay less if your inventory is weighing less.

Binding not-to-exceed- moving estimate

This is by far, the most customer-friendly moving estimate. Unfortunately, there aren’t many moving companies that will offer it. Binding not-to-exceed moving estimate means that you will not pay more than you agreed upon. It also, means that, if your inventory is weighing less you will pay less. Hiring movers that offer binding not-to-exceed moving estimates is one of the best ways to avoid moving frauds.

Avoid moving companies that ask for a large deposit

Any moving company that demands cash or any large deposit should be considered suspicious. When you are dealing with reliable movers, you usually pay upon delivery. The deposit should be in the range from $100 to $500. If your mover requires any larger amount than $500 for a deposit, you should start looking for another company.

When you pay upfront, you have no guarantee that you’ll see your belongings again. The company can claim that you have to pay additional costs and hold your furniture hostage until you do so. To avoid moving scams always pay with your credit card. That way, you can fight any fraudulent activity if they occur.

Paying with a credit card as a way to avoid moving scams
Always pay with your credit card if you want to avoid moving scams

Working with movers without a contract or with an incomplete contract

Fraudulent movers will sometimes try to organize your move without signing any papers with you. That is why you should always ask for a contract. Also, take the time to read it entirely. You may like your movers, but you should never trust them that much to sign an incomplete contract and without reading it.

Everything that you have agreed upon should be put in writing. Your estimate, all extra fees, pickup and delivery dates, list of your entire inventory. Read everything from top to bottom multiple times and pay attention to a fine print or paragraphs that are somehow “hidden“. Do not sign any contract without the complete list of your belongings. An item that isn’t on the list will probably disappear, and you won’t have any evidence to file a claim. The more detailed your contract is, the more protected you will be from the moving scams

Avoid feeling scammed by understanding your contract

Unfortunately, there are times where you could feel scammed even if you are working with a reputable moving company. Many moving companies have hidden fees that could surprise you at the end of your move. Of course, reputable companies will have them stated in the contract, but your duty is to read it and understand everything. That is why it is important to read your moving contract from top to bottom. These situations could surprisingly increase the cost of your move:

  • Your items cannot fit in an elevator and your movers will have to carry them through a staircase.
  • You didn’t prepare a parking spot for the moving truck so they have to carry your items on foot more than expected.
  • You have some robust items to move that cannot get through a door. If they need to employ a crane to get your items through a window, you will pay more.
  • Some moving companies will charge you separately for the packing materials they will use to pack your belongings.
  • Maybe you thought that by hiring packing services you are done as far as your items are concerned. But some movers will charge you extra is they need to disassemble your furniture.
  • Sometimes your new building has dedicated hours in which a moving can be conducted. If your movers need to hold your items until the next day, you will also have to pay.

Changing the company name

Fraudulent moving companies can avoid being caught and prosecuted for moving scams by constantly doing business under new names.
It can be tricky to find that out, and it will require a lot of research. A trustworthy company should have a local address and information about licensing and insurance.
When you are calling the moving company, pay attention to the way they answer the phone. The reliable movers will always present themselves with the full name of the business. If they answer with some generic phrases like „moving services“, know that you should keep looking.

Woman in a call center
Reliable professionals will answer the phone with a full company name

How to avoid moving scams

Once you know what kind of moving scams are most common, it will be easier to spot them. To be sure that you are not being scammed, here are the steps that you should take:

  • Use the power of the internet and find everything about the moving company that you are considering to hire
  • Choose a reliable moving company– The more successful moving company is, the more likely it will give you a fair deal. A reputable company will not get involved in a moving fraud because it’s a sure way to lose a good reputation. Find a company that is on the market for a long time and that has great credibility.
  • References– Once you find the company you think you can trust, research it. Use the Better Business Bureau and check their references. Read personal testimonials from people that have used their services. Finally, ask a moving company of your choosing to provide you with the list of former customers. The reliable moving company will not refuse to provide you with that information.
  • Check the legal status of the moving company– Make sure that the moving company that you choose has the necessary licenses, insurance, and impeccable reputation. Search their website for the USDOT numbers for interstate movers or MC numbers for intrastate movers. If they exist, it is a clear sign that the company is operating legally.
  • Start to plan early– Once your decision of relocation is final, start to plan your move. It’s never too early for that. Most reliable moving companies are fully booked in advance. The longer you wait to contact them, the chance that they will be available at the time of your moving day decreases.

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