How to Avoid Moving Scams
Moving is awful. More than 40 million moves occur each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Paying someone to handle most of the heavy lifting can be a great way to ease stress and tension. (See also: The ABCs of DIY Moving)
But it can also create a fiscal nightmare for consumers who aren't careful. Moving scams are increasingly common and can cheat unsuspecting consumers out of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees or even result in lost or damaged items. Sleazy companies and below-board movers use an array of tactics to trick or deceive people, from phony estimates to charging huge deposits that they rarely return to the owner.
Education and common sense are the key tools in the fight against moving scams. Homework and due diligence aren't always at the front of mind for homeowners and apartment dwellers planning a major relocation. But a few simple steps can make a tremendous difference.
Here's a look at a few tips to help ensure you're safeguarded against unscrupulous businesses and skeezy opportunists.
Perform a Background Check
Before you even talk with potential movers, search the Better Business Bureau for jeers and cheers. This is a quick way to weed out companies that received more complaints than praises. You should go a step further and obtain at least three references from the companies you're considering. These should be local folks who can provide honest feedback on the company and its services. You can also talk with friends and family about movers they’ve employed. Check with the Department of Transportation to find out if the company is licensed and bonded.
Pay the Right Price
Be suspicious of ridiculously low estimates or demands for a large deposit up front. Scammers frequently use both tactics. Ask moving companies what specials they’re offering and plan to line up three companies. Get quotes from all three, but it tell them why you might choose a competitor. This way you can negotiate a lower price. Give the companies as much detail as possible about your belongings and make sure you get a thorough estimation. The last thing you want is a mover holding your stuff hostage until you fork over a wad of bills.
Get It in Writing
It’s useless to get a verbal quote. Make sure to get a company’s quote on paper. You’re then protected legally, as it’s illegal for the movers to charge you more than 10% over what they quoted in writing. Any moving company that will not write down a quote will likely cause a headache. Have quotes broken down to every last detail: cost of weight, item conditions, and pickup and delivery dates. Ask the movers to estimate and record extra charges like truck weight, gas, and customs and convenience costs. Most importantly, get a not-to-exceed price on the written agreement.
Take Inventory of Your Possessions
Although this sounds like a painstaking task, it’s worth it. Insure everything you plan on moving. Pictures and lists of everything help in the instance that you need to file a claim with the insurance company.
Prepare for the Big Day
Confirm the address, time, and day of pickup and delivery several times with the moving company. Get the names of who will be picking up your belongings. When they arrive, ask for their names and paperwork that proves they’re your movers. The last thing you want to do is turn over your prized possessions to scammers.