“Pay me upfront for your move. Even then I might not deliver your belongings.”
(Cue screeching-tires sound.) Hold it right there. There’s something seriously wrong with that picture.
No one would ever accept that deal at face value. However, each year, consumers are duped by unscrupulous organizations pretending to be legitimate, reputable moving companies.
The Better Business Bureau reported all about this unfortunate trend in a study released June 2020 that revealed rogue movers price gouge, hold items hostage and even destroy people’s belongings. The toll of a moving scam? Financial hardship plus emotional scars. In fact, the BBB reports it receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year.
BBB leaders advise those in the market for a mover visit bbb.org and/or the official Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website to review complaints lodged against moving companies.
Just two years before the BBB announcement, government officials charged 12 individuals with defrauding more than 900 customers during a five-year period. The allegedly dishonest dozen reportedly filled their pockets via a sticky web of company-name switcheroos, bogus business practices and phony favorable online reviews. Authorities are reaching out to the public to determine whether this multi-state scam suckered even more people.
So, what did hundreds of consumers miss with this moving scam? What might have tipped them off scammers were pickpocketing them? Or, conversely, how do you ensure you choose a top-flight—rather than fly-by-night—operation?
Beware telltale signs an organization lacks permanence. These include no-name vehicles or rented trucks, websites missing a physical business address or generic phone-call replies not mentioning a company name, such as, “Hello, moving and storage.” The “dishonest dozen” reportedly frequently changed business names as part of their moving scam. These monikers often resembled those of well-respected companies, such as National Van Lines, likely adding to consumers’ confusion. If “Public Moving Services” called itself “Smart Relocation Solutions” just six months ago and, two years before that went by “Unified Van Lines,” find out why. Often, it’s scammers trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes.
Accurate moving quote
Generating an accurate moving quote requires attention to detail and a methodical approach—whether conducted in-person or via virtual survey. Watch out for zoom-through-your-rooms estimators who can’t be bothered to examine cabinet contents or open closet doors. A good survey is a two-way street. Your mover should ask questions, such as whether you’re planning to slim down your pre-move inventory via food donations or a garage sale. Also, be on-guard for mover companies claiming they can provide accurate phone-only estimates.
Too Good to Be True
As the old saying goes, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of moving companies that offer unrealistic service packages or moving rates that are significantly lower than other similar moving companies in your area. You can make realistic comparisons by shopping around at several different moving agencies. If one sticks out as being an unusually good deal, take this as a red flag warning you to be cautious.
Pay me now
Remember, reputable movers—such as National Van Lines—shouldn’t insist on an up-front deposit. Moving-industry practice is to ask for payment at delivery. Regard as suspect a relocation company demanding a deposit—particularly cash—before going forward. Don’t sign a contract with vague payment terms or incomplete information, either. That’s a warning sign you’ve encountered a moving scam.
Raise an eyebrow at interstate movers whose bids fall far below others. This lowball tactic might omit a key component that could bring the final price in line with (or exceed) the competition. Obtaining at least three estimates will let you accurately analyze rates and services. The dishonest dozen’s wallet-expanding scheme allegedly hit customers with last-minute four-figure fees. Items sometimes wouldn’t be returned unless payment occurred, government officials stated. Protect yourself from a moving scam: Insist on written estimates.
“Moving is hard,” National Van Lines Chairman & CEO Tim Helenthal explains. ”That’s one of the things consumers need to understand. Moving across the country is an expensive purchase. Don’t just go with the lowest price.”
Quality moving affiliations
This age of instant online access makes vetting more convenient than ever. Ensure a mover is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the U.S. trucking industry. Plus, a mover must have a U.S. Department of Transportation number. This number proves the federal government authorizes a company to conduct interstate moves.
National Van Lines is a member of the American Moving & Storage Association—a non-profit moving-industry association—and an AMSA certified ProMover, the hallmark of a reputable cross-country mover. To obtain (and retain) ProMover status, AMSA members must pass an annual criminal background check, be FMCSA-licensed and follow specific ethical standards in advertising and customer transactions.
Don’t just trust the ProMover or AMSA logo on a company’s website. In fact, the organization recently requested an Arizona mover stop using an AMSA logo and cease claiming affiliation with the group. You easily can check a mover’s status by visiting AMSA’s website to thwart a possible moving scam.
Before settling on any moving company, take some time to do a little research. Check a mover’s BBB rating. (By the way, National Van Lines holds a BBB A+ rating.) How about online reviews? Yelp or Google review sites permit consumers to view and review a company. This offers insight into company performance and how an interstate moving company handles unforeseen circumstances.
There are a few key factors that will separate a reputable moving company from one you should avoid, including:
- Service quote accuracy
- Agent courteousness
- Attentiveness and assistance provided by customer service representatives
Is a moving company receiving a barrage of negative reviews? Beware. Since online reviews can be faked, take with a grain of salt an avalanche of over-the-top perfect reviews. The 12 alleged “rogue movers” reportedly created sham reviews to convince consumers of their credibility as an element in their moving scam.
You can search reputable movers using our online tool that lists by zip code our certified moving consultants. This tool will help answer the question: What moving company should I use? Rest assured, as National Van Lines agents, these movers carry proper credentials and excel at ethical and effective long-distance moving.
At National Van Lines, we make long-distance moving easy. As a national moving company, we’ve helped more than a million families enjoy moving their memories for 90+ years. Contact us online or call 877.590.2810 for answers to your questions—plus a FREE moving quote.