Many consumers may be moving in the near future, either as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or other reasons. Careful research before hiring a moving company is necessary to avoid falling victim to a moving scam. There are many reputable movers, but scammers can turn relocating into an expensive nightmare. These scams run the gamut from missing items, massive price hikes, and in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payment.
There are several versions of moving scams. The simplest is getting a quote and leaving a deposit, but the “movers” never show. In another variation, the moving company quotes a price based on weight. After loading, they inform you that your belongings went over the weight estimate and the additional weight will be a lot more per pound, sometimes double.
With the most egregious scheme, everything seems to be fine. The movers quote a price, arrive on time, and load your belongings on a truck, but when the truck doesn’t show up at your new home, either your belongings are simply gone forever or are being held “hostage” and you have to pay another fee before scammers will deliver them.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips to spot a moving scam:
Watch out for signs of a fly-by-night company. Look out for company websites that have no address and no information about a mover’s registration or insurance. Another warning is if telephone calls are answered with a generic “movers” rather than a company name, or the mover uses rented trucks. Another tip-off is the moving company that doesn’t make an on-site inspection but does estimates over the phone. Check BBBHouston.org for any customer complaints or reviews filed on a moving company.
Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be a warning sign. And if a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
Get everything in writing. Check licensing with the authorities. In the U.S., visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website to check out interstate movers at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move. Movers in Texas are also required to be licensed by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and this licensing can be verified at www.txdmv.gov. Confirm insurance coverage, and get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. Make sure pick-up and delivery dates are spelled out and understand how the rate is being calculated. Don’t pay cash and don’t prepay or make a large deposit. Understand the terms of the insurance coverage and consider purchasing full value protection.
Keep an inventory of your belongings. Make a detailed inventory of your property and number the boxes as they are packed in for tracking. Know that a mover is not liable for loss or damage of contents in customer-packed boxes, unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover.
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail email@example.com. Include your mailing address and phone number.