Here’s the scenario: Your moving date is quickly approaching, and your endless to-do list makes you feel frazzled and overwhelmed. To help take a few things off your plate, you hire a local moving company. After all, they should be able to help wrap and protect your furniture for the move, efficiently pack up your moving truck, and maybe most importantly, take care of all of the heavy lifting.
With so much expertise in the industry and plenty of experience working with individuals and families alike, hiring a moving company seems like a no-brainer. Especially if you’re moving across the country or moving into a house for the first time, movers can be an invaluable asset throughout the entire process.
But if you’re moving for the first time or you’ve never hired a moving company, it’s understandable that you might feel anxious at the prospect. How can you tell if a moving company is legitimate? Do moving companies ever steal from their clients? And could all those moving company scams and horror stories you hear about really be true?
How do I not get scammed by a moving company?
If this is your first time hiring a moving company, don’t panic. First, make sure you do your own research, read customer reviews online, and find referrals through friends, family, and other people in your life.
Once you’ve done that, this guide will help prepare you for any moving company scams you may also run into. We’ll also give you actionable tips on how to avoid these common issues before they arise, keeping your moving day running as smoothly as possible. Use it in conjunction with a few of our other moving resources below:
- Hiring a Moving Company? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
- How to Choose a Reputable Moving Company
- 9 Tips to Help Make Moving in the Winter Months Less Annoying
- Moving in Together? 8 Helpful Tips for Living With Your Significant Other for the First Time
How common are moving company scams?
Simply put, moving scams are more common than you might think. According to Forbes, The Better Business Bureau receives an average of about 13,000 complaints about moving companies each year.
The BBB also has 1,300+ moving companies on file with an “F” rating due to unresolved complaints from customers. And as individuals, couples, and families alike continue to move into new homes throughout the next couple of years, it seems unlikely that this number will decrease anytime soon.
How to Check if a Moving Company is Legitimate
While these low ratings and complaints may not directly involve moving scams, it’s still important to be extremely careful when hiring a moving company. Here are a few precautions you can take that can help you narrow down your search to only reputable moving companies in your area:
- Read customer reviews. Before contacting your moving company of choice, it’s a good idea to read their reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other social platforms. Seeing only negative reviews (or no reviews) could be a major red flag.
- Check for an online presence. Does a quick search of the company’s name bring up a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram profile, or a Twitter? Moving companies may not need to be on every platform under the sun, but checking out their online presence (or finding a lack of one) can help determine their legitimacy.
- Evaluate the company’s credentials. Is your moving company licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)? Are they properly insured in case of an accident or an emergency? These are important details to double-check before committing to paying for any services.
For more information and helpful tips in finding the best moving company, check out our article on How to Choose a Reputable Moving Company.
Need to know exactly what is and is not considered a scam? Check out this helpful Forbes article on How to Handle Moving Company Scams for more red flags and indicators of fraud.
Common Moving Company Scams & How to Avoid Them
Once you’ve decided on a moving company, it’s time to finalize all of the necessary details leading up to your moving day. (On top of packing up all of your stuff, of course.) Here are a few of the most common moving scams to watch out for before, during, and after your move:
Moving Company Scam #1: Requiring a Large Cash Deposit
One of the most common moving company scams requires an unexpectedly large deposit before the move. Especially if your movers require that deposit to be paid for in cash. Always be wary of this: Sometimes, moving companies will even disguise this request by offering an exclusive discount in exchange for upfront payment in cash.
We understand that any opportunity to save money on moving costs may be tempting. After all, moving into a new home can get costly very quickly. But requiring a full cash deposit, not accepting credit card payments, or expecting to be paid before providing service is a major red flag with moving companies.
Did you know: Reputable moving companies typically operate on a “payment upon delivery” system. That means they shouldn’t require a large deposit to hold your time slot, and all your belongings should be safe, sound, and accounted for in your new space before paying your movers.
Of course, every moving company is different, and policies may vary by state. But in general, paying after the move is complete keeps the moving company accountable for holding up their end of the bargain throughout the entire process. When you pay upfront, you relinquish control over how you, your family, and your belongings are treated during the move.
Plus, paying with cash means there won’t be a paper trail of your interaction with the movers. Always pay your moving company with a credit card through a secure POS system. Not only will this help you retain the proof of payment, but you’ll have the option to involve your credit card company if you need to fight fraudulent activity.
Moving Scam #2: Doing Business Under Multiple Names
Want to spot a moving company scam from a mile away? Look for a business that operates under multiple different names or changes its name constantly to avoid leaving a paper trail of scammed customers.
At the end of the day, a moving company can only scam customers for so long. After multiple people lose their time, property, and money, negative reviews will pour in. Official complaints may even be filed with the BBB. That’s why shady moving companies may use multiple websites, company names, and social media profiles— to leave themselves the option of abandoning them quickly once they’ve been found out.
Pro Tip: Notice how your moving company answers the phone when you call them. Do they clearly identify their business name or refer to themselves as something generic like “moving company?”
This is perhaps the biggest reason why looking up a moving company’s online presence is so important. It may alarm you to find a handful of negative reviews and unresolved issues with previous customers, but a complete lack of reviews can be just as bad.
As Move.org puts it: “This short lifespan means that [moving companies] aren’t around long enough to get reviewed by third-party moving websites, so if you can’t find any reviews of a company, it might be a fraud.”
In general, avoiding doing business with companies that operate under multiple names or have zero online presence is a good idea. Always check for a local address and other identifying information like licensing and insurance before committing to anything, mainly if you can’t track down any previous business customers.
Moving Scam #3: Lack of a Contract or Blank Contract
An easy way to tell if a moving company is attempting to scam you is if they ask you to sign an incomplete contract or fail to provide you with any contract. Shady moving companies may tell you that discussing everything over the phone serves as the contract itself and that everything will be all set once they’ve received your payment.
One of the most important aspects of hiring a moving company is getting absolutely everything you discuss and agree to in writing. Not only does this keep your movers accountable for everything they promise, but it helps keep you protected against fraudulent activity. Plus, it will also cover your belongings if they’re lost, stolen, or damaged during the move.
What needs to be included in a moving company contract?
Never under any circumstances should you pay for moving services without signing a complete contract first. A few things you’ll want to get in writing when working with a moving company include:
- The original or preliminary estimate
- The in-home / on-site estimate
- Total cost of labor
- Your moving date and time frame
- All of your personal belongings
- The window of company liability
Important Note: If something you own is lost, stolen, or damaged in transit, you won’t be able to file a claim for it if it’s not already included in the contract.
That’s why it’s important to read through everything thoroughly before signing. Be sure to narrow down blanket terms and larger scope sections like “office supplies.” Instead, include specific items like “laptop” or “desktop computer.” Absolutely everything should be accounted for, especially if these items are expensive to replace.
Have You Experienced These Moving Company Scams?
Ready to get your next move underway? As a reminder: This isn’t an exhaustive list of every moving company scam out there. If you’re in the process of choosing the right moving company to work with, be sure to take your time. Hiring movers is an investment that should help alleviate stress during the moving process, not create more of it.
Have some helpful tips or a moving company experience to share? We’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts and start a conversation with us on social media.