As I was reading through moving-related news today, I noticed most the articles were about moving scams. What frustrates me the most is that we’re now going on decades of this behavior without a clear end in sight. You’d think at some point the criminals would be caught and locked up leaving the rest of us a little less stressed about our next move. Moving is stressful enough even if it all goes perfectly. So I put together a quick note with some tips on how to avoid moving scams.
1. Get a quote in writing.
Ok, so not necessarily in the literal sense. There are lots of companies out there that will email you a quote. And if you’re just getting the big stuff loaded into your Budget rental truck, then an emailed quote on a couple movers for a couple hours will do just fine. Just make sure to have something documented, written, emailed or printed. If the need arises, God forbid, then you’ll have helpful information to show authorities what you SHOULD have paid. Don’t pay more than what was quoted, unless any extra charges (like extra hours) were also clearly quoted ahead of time.
2. Pay with your credit card.
Your friends over at Visa will be happy to work out any disputed charges between you and the mover before the movers get to go spend any of your money on their weekend. Visa (and most other credit card companies) have a strict policy to support the customer in case of fraudulent charges to the point of putting the money back where it came from. Cash doesn’t quite work that way. Once it’s handed over, it becomes significantly harder to get back. Plus, there’s something about seeing that green come out of your pocket that makes less-than-honest movers even less honest as “extra travel fees” start showing up on the final invoice. We (HireAHelper) charge for the whole order up front for two major reasons: (1) so that at the end of your move you know you don’t have to worry about handing over cash or a check for some erroneous amount the mover makes up on the spot, and (2) so the movers know this is a paid for job, no flakey customers that may or may not have enough cash at the end to adequately pay. Which usually results in the movers working harder, knowing you, the customer ultimately have to call HireAHelper to release payment.
3. Check Out Each Movers’ Reputation
Did I really just write “street cred”? I meant, instead, to write “reputation”. Time for another cup of coffee. But seriously, there are a few organizations out there that might have more info about your mover.
- The Better Business Bureau – The BBB, even in light of it’s paid membership model and questions about it’s rating proces, takes complaints on several thousand companies across the country and posts a grade for most companies. Start your research with your local office to get a good snapshot on how many complaints are reported and resolved with the mover you’re considering. Even the best movers get complaints, but the really good companies know how to make even unhappy customers happy again.
- The American Moving & Storage Association – also a paid membership model, but definitely committed to trying to raise the quality and ethical standards of the moving industry. Just because a mover is not a member of the AMSA doesn’t mean they’re a terrible mover. But movers that are members commit to adhere to a set of moving industry performance standards.
- www.ProtectYourMove.gov – a government site with one goal: to protect the consumer. You can get all sorts of information about what a mover can and can’t do or can and can’t charge in extra fees. Definitely something to comb through before making your move. Get a copy of your moving company’s DOT # or Motor Carrier # (MC #) then you can check them out online by clicking on the “Search Movers/Brokers & Complaint History” link on the right of the page.
- HireAHelper.com – of course, we’re a little biased to recommend our very own site. But that’s only because we know the reviews posted are 100% from real past customers and have never been edited or removed by HireAHelper staff. Plus there’s a pretty amazing service guarantee. And free insurance… I could go on and on.
4. Call the Cops
Ok, I know this post is supposed to be about how to AVOID moving scams, but just wanted to tack this on. If you think that a mover’s behavior is fraudulent, call the cops. If a mover asks for a dollar amount significantly higher than what was quoted, make them show you why. Did the shipping weight come in as more than the estimate? If it was an hourly quote, did it take longer? Or are the movers just scum bags trying to rip you off. If it sounds like they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes, politely let them know you’ll be calling the cops to help sort it all out. If the movers threaten to keep your stuff locked up, call the cops. You change your role from victim to hero when you participate in getting these rogue scam artists out of the moving industry.
Have you been scammed? What’s your story? Do you have any other tips to fight the growing tidal wave of scams out there?
**Photo Credit: pumthuggee.com