Warning Signs a Moving Company is Scamming You

August 26th 2016

Almie Rose

It's college move in season, which means thousands of students across the country will be gamely lugging oversized futons up dormitory staircases across the country.

But while DIY-movers place themselves at risk of a lower-back pain and skinned knuckles, those who rely on professional movers could be putting themselves at risk of financial pain.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "a growing number of complaints have been filed against interstate movers-and many of those complaints spring from the fraudulent practices of a small percentage of dishonest movers known as rogue movers."

For example, through the "hostage goods" scam, your movers essentially hold your things prisoner in their moving truck, according to The Washington Post, who spoke with Linda Bauer Darr, president and chief executive of the American Moving and Storage Association.

She explained the scam:

"In a hostage-goods situation, somebody has already moved your stuff and quoted you one price. But by the time you get to the destination, they're holding on to the goods and they ask you to pay an inflated price. We all know that when someone's charging twice the amount they originally quoted, something's gone afoul."

So, how do you avoid ending up a victim of one of these scams? Look for these red flags when hiring a moving company.

They Won't Accept Credit Cards

"I don’t know of any good mover that refuses credit cards," Gil Ben Shoushan, a moving company owner from Maryland told Angie's List. "But those other companies, the bad ones, they don’t want to have to deal with the credit card program where you can dispute the charges." You may get a better deal from a company if you pay with cash, but you're not protected — there's no evidence or record of your transaction with your bank.

They Don't Have a Branded Moving Truck

A real moving truck will have a company logo and phone number on the side. "A company that can’t afford to have their own rolling billboard in the streets is a definite red flag," Kamaul Reid, a moving company owner from Boston told Angie's List.

They Don't Have an Actual Office

A lot is done online these days, but a reputable moving company should still have some sort of office or store set up in real life and offline. "Before hiring anyone, check their address," The Fiscal Times advises. "Is it a secure business or a vacant lot?"

They Demand Payment Up Front

You shouldn't pay for the service ahead of time. If a moving company is eager for a massive deposit, that could be a sign that once they get your money, they'll take off. "If a mover demands a deposit, move on to a different company," Allied warns. Sometimes even legitimate companies will require a small deposit to reserve the move-in date. However, if your mover asks for a small deposit and then calls to demand a larger amount after you've already agreed on one, that is also a warning sign.

Their Prices Are Too Low

If you get a really cheap quote for your move, you should be skeptical. "Some of these rates are so low, it would be impossible to accomplish and pay everyone," Tanya Morrow, a sales marketing manager for a moving company, cautions Angie's List. Like the aforementioned deposit switcheroo, you may be given an amazingly low quote for a move only to find that when the time comes, they're demanding twice as much, hoping that you'll be so reliant on them that you won't cancel.

Last Tip: Make Sure You Sign a Contract

A legitimate moving company will ask you to sign something. That's a good thing. And, as advises, "Your moving contract should spell out all the details of the transaction, including price, delivery date, needed supplies and a complete list of your possessions. It should clearly specify there are no additional costs, like a driver’s fee or mandatory tips."