Moving company scams are reportedly on the rise
Photo (c) MartinPrescott – Getty Images During a typical summer, many things happen in a consumer’s life. This includes vacation, preparing for a new school, and last year nearly five million moving out of the state to take a new job.
This last part – moving – is causing heightened concern in COVID-19 circles. According to a new study by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the pandemic has opened the door to additional competition and new practices for moving companies. This has led the organization to issue new guidelines for consumers who are not familiar with the process so they can spot a scam and find a trustworthy company.
Of the millions of moving jobs, the BBB is hit with an average of 13,000 complaints per year. Most come from an innocent online search for moving companies where ignorant consumers are likely to be hit with a barrage of advertisements by dishonest moving companies, or “rogue” as they are known in the moving industry.
“The bad actor usually offers a free quote by phone or email with a low-ball offer,” says the BBB. “The website looks legitimate, usually with false reviews from happy customers and claims to have been in business with well-trained staff for many years. So-called independent mover review sites can also publish fake positive attributions for the moving fraudster. “
The number 1 scammer
The hallmark of a good scammer is the ability to achieve a customer experience that is second to none and seduces the customer to kill. To begin with, double-acting removal company representatives are friendly and helpful when a potential customer calls for the first time. But if everything is in order, the company’s employees are nowhere to be found.
Dishonest movers have several gambles that they depend on. One of the common strategies – 57 percent of the time – is to ask for a large down payment and then process it. After the money is in the bank, the dishonest moving company outsources the work to a company that hires temporary workers or unskilled workers to reload the customer’s belongings.
Once the entire life of the customer is packed on the truck, the driver claims that the actual amount of goods to be transported is above the original estimate. They ask for more money and the customer usually pays instead of causing a hassle and a half.
“When the goods finally arrive at their new home, sometimes days or weeks after the promise, the fraudulent creator sometimes demands additional money to effectively take the belongings hostage,” warns the BBB guidance.
“If the extra money is not paid, the operators simply drive off without unloading or saying where they are taking the goods. In addition, some victims report that they then charge additional storage fees for the items held hostage. “
Who is real and who is not?
The BBB warns anyone moving out of the state to vet moving companies before signing anything or paying anyone money. You can ask both BBB and ConsumerAffairs who the best moving companies are and who are members of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). The US Department of Transportation also offers a search for safety and fitness records from moving companies. You can find this online search here.
In addition to these three background checks, there are a few other things that consumers should be aware of:
How long has the mover been there? The good guys have been in business and licensed for decades.
How much deposit do you need? The BBB says the good guys can collect relatively small deposits upfront and collect the balance after the goods are delivered and unloaded.
Read reviews from other customers. When someone gives a moving company a low rating, you may want to quickly run the other way.
Good business is not always good business. Paying a modest price doesn’t mean much if your furniture is lost, broken, or if you ask for more money when the moving companies show up. When ConsumerAffairs looked for “an affordable, honest moving company near me,” we got 223,000,000 results. There’s probably a lot of shit in this pile, so be careful.
“One way to identify a shady mover is to do an internet search with the mover’s name and the word ‘scam’,” suggests the BBB. “If you come across reports of moving companies charging more money to deliver goods, this may be a seedy operator.”