BBB Scam Alert: Watch out for moving scams

(WHNT) — Moving is always stressful, no matter how far you’re moving or how much stuff you have to move.

To make things worse, people have to worry about the threat of falling for a moving scam.

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The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported receiving nearly 6,000 complaints filed against moving companies during 2023.

People who fell for moving scams and reported them to the BBB Scam Tracker in 2023 lost a median of $350.

Victims have dealt with missing items, massive, unexpected price hikes, and in some cases, their items being held hostage for additional payment.

The BBB reports that moving scams can work several ways:

  • No show: Consumers receive a quote and pay a deposit, but the movers never show up.

  • Upcharge: Consumers are charged on their credit cards for more money than the moving company originally quoted for their services.

  • Extra fees: The moving company provides a quote based on expected weight, and after loading the truck, they inform the consumer that the load is over the expected weight and an additional fee must be paid. Most of the time, the additional fee is significantly more expensive per pound, sometimes as much as double the original estimate.

  • Stolen items: One of the most disruptive and difficult-to-anticipate moving scams is when everything appears to be going well. The movers provide an estimate, arrive on time, and load your belongings on a truck. However, this is where the interaction turns disastrous. When the truck fails to arrive at its destination, either your belongings are gone, or the company requires the consumer to pay an additional fee to deliver them, holding the possessions hostage.

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However, there are some steps to take to try and prevent from falling for one of these scams.
It starts with careful research.

Look at a company’s website and watch out for warning signs.

If the website doesn’t include an address or information about a mover’s registration or insurance, it’s possible that the company doesn’t have the proper policies to protect your belongings.

Other warning signs include the mover using a rented truck or offering an estimate over the phone prior to or instead of an on-site inspection.

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If you call a company and the person who picks up just answers with a generic “movers” rather than a company name, that could also be a red flag.

Other things to look out for are unusual requests and extra costs.

Asking for a large down payment or full payment in advance could indicate a fraudulent business, according to the BBB.

If your possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that you did not agree on when you signed the contract, contact the BBB or local law enforcement.

The BBB recommends the following guidelines:

  • Get everything in writing. When moving between states or provinces, check or contact your local BBB to check if the business is reputable. In the U.S., all interstate moving companies require an identification number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number. Make sure to read the terms and conditions of your moving contract carefully, the limits of liability, and any disclaimers. The pickup and expected delivery date should be easily identified.

  • Keep an inventory of your belongings. An inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. BBB recommends consumers who are moving to label the boxes their belongings are packed in and what is in each box. In general, movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the mover’s part. Taking photos of the contents before packing is a great way to prove if damages were incurred during the moving process.

Finally, the BBB encourages that you ask the company questions about anything you don’t understand.

If the company can’t or won’t answer the questions, that’s a red flag.

For more tips on avoiding moving scams, click here.

To contact the BBB, click here.

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