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Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them

Friday, March 17, 2023

Have you ever heard of movers taking off with someone's belongings? How about movers who quote low prices but hold the goods unless customers pay much more? Or movers who lose or break stuff and refuse to refund customers?

Moving home is a stressful experience at the best of times. But if you fall prey to a moving scam, it can turn into a nightmare. No one wants to watch a truck filled with their life possessions take off to uncertainty. 

Some moving companies are run by fraudsters. Every year, many people become victims of moving fraud. Read on to find out how to identify moving scammers, protect yourself from moving scams, and how to source a professional moving company that can minimize the stress of moving.

Professional movers in uniform moving furniture out of the house

What Is a Moving Scam?

Moving company scams can take many forms. Here are some real-life examples:

  • Charging customers a hefty deposit upfront and then not showing up on the day of their move.
  • Altering or making a fraudulent bill of lading, the document that details the type, quantity, and destination of goods being shipped
  • Misrepresenting the weight or volume of the goods shipped.
  • Falsifying the amount of packing supplies provided for the move.
  • Giving a low initial quote and then withholding belongings unless customers pay much more. 
  • Taking upfront payment and your goods, then closing the shop and selling or ditching your belongings.

Who Gets Targeted by Moving Scammers?

Moving scammers target everyone, but especially people over 50. This is because moving scammers assume that people over 50 are less digitally savvy and more prone to stress when contemplating a move. And as we all know, stress can adversely affect our ability to make sound decisions.  

Some scam victims meet fraudsters online through friend requests, direct messages, or unsolicited emails. 

If you have ever fallen victim to any scam in the past, be especially vigilant. Rogue operators like to target people who have already been scammed. Criminals even trade a list of victims on the black market and try to defraud them again. This list can include personal information such as names, addresses, contact information, and details about the scam and how the victim was targeted.

Retired man looking through a window of his retirement village

How to Recognize Moving Scammers

The moving industry is plagued by moving scammers preying on people who are unsure how to find a reputable mover. Since this is a lucrative business involving large sums of money, fraudsters do not skimp on expenses to design a professional-looking website or advertise on the internet.

The moving scammers create fake reviews and sometimes even display a fake federal license. These rogue operators change their names frequently, which makes it difficult for consumers to get reliable information about them. Here are some warning signs that should alert you:

  • The mover gives you a sight-unseen estimate. Reliable movers base estimates on what they see, in person or online. 
  • Their price is too good to be true. 
  • They initially quote a low estimate but ask for more when the goods are about to be loaded or the day before to pressure you into accepting a higher price.
  • They ask for a hefty deposit or even full payment in advance.
  • They provide estimates based on volume and then manipulate the measurements to demand additional charges once the truck is loaded.
  • They do not accept credit cards and require a direct deposit or cash.
  • They ask you to sign blank or incomplete forms and say they will fill them in later.
  • They show up in an unmarked van.

How to Avoid Moving Company Scams

Avoiding moving scams involves a fair amount of research. Gather information on the company you want to employ and learn how a professional and reliable moving company should work.

Give yourself plenty of time to find an experienced, legitimate company. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. Experts in the moving industry recommend these steps to avoid moving scams:

  • Read online reviews and make sure the company has a physical address. 
  • If you are moving between states, check that the company has a valid Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) license. Look for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, usually at the bottom of the moving company website. Then search for that number in the FMCSA database to see if it is valid. Some states require local (or intrastate) movers to obtain a USDOT number.
  • Get at least three estimates from different moving companies.
  • Pay with a credit card to potentially get a refund.
  • Read your contract and the bill of lading. Do not sign a partial or blank contract.
  • When your goods are unloaded, inspect the condition of each carton, and do not sign the receipt without noting the damage first. 
  • If you find damage later on, notify the movers and keep the broken items and packing materials as you found them in the box.
  • Document everything from the first contact until the mover drops off your belongings.

Remember that a legitimate moving company could charge you additional fees. However, moving companies cannot charge more than 10 percent above the original price. They also have to give you 30 days to pay this extra fee.

A retired couple making online payment with a credit card purchasing home accessories

What to Do if Scammed by a Moving Company

The Better Business Bureau estimates that only 10% of scams are reported to them or the police. This could be because people do not place much hope in recovering their loss. Or it could be because they are embarrassed about being scammed.

Falling victim to a moving scam is not pleasant, but it is not something to be embarrassed about. It can happen to any of us, no matter how digitally savvy, meticulous and cautious we usually are.

You should always report a moving company scam. Perhaps you will not be reimbursed, but there is hope that rogue operators will get busted if complaints pile up.

What should you do if your movers refuse to pay for damages, threaten not to deliver your stuff unless you pay extra, or otherwise try to defraud you? You should:

  • File a complaint with BBB.
  • File a complaint with FMCSA or call 1-888-368-7238. 
  • Alert Office of Inspector General (OIG) at 1-800-424-9071, or at DOT Inspector General, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, West Bldg 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20590
  • Contact the police.

Go With AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft

Hiring a moving company is not only about money. It is an important decision that involves trust. You must trust your mover to get your precious possessions from A to B without damage and at the agreed price.

Do you need help finding a reputable moving company? AARP Moving Services powered by Shyft has an extensive network of vetted movers ready to bid on your move, ensuring you get the best price. 

The moving companies in the Shyft network are reliable. On top of that, Shyft oversees the whole process. You can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. 

Smiling woman over 50 talking on the phone with movers, organizing her move after retirement

How Shyft Works 

AARP Moving Services powered by Shyft offers a comprehensive and personalized approach to relocating for adults. Their expertise makes them an excellent choice for people over 50 planning to move. 

Shyft uses state-of-the-art technology to make an itemized list of everything you want to move. This is a contactless experience and involves a video survey that is easy to do even if you do not consider yourself tech-savvy. After the video survey, Shyft will send you several moving quotes from different moving companies. That way, you can choose the mover that fits your needs and budget. 

The video survey is done via the Shyft Next mobile. Download Shyft Next to your iPhone or Android device, and you are ready for the magic of contactless appraisal of your entire move.

With the Shyft Next mobile app on your device, it is time to schedule a call with a Shyft representative. Just fill in a short form on the Shyft website or phone 1-888-501-3181.

A Shyft representative will contact you at the time you specified. This representative will be your dedicated Move Coach. They will oversee the entire process from door to door and ensure a smooth and stress-free move.

During the video call, your Move Coach will ask you to walk around your current home. While you point the camera on your device at the items you want to move, your Move Coach will create an inventory list through the app. There is no need for people to come into your home and look around. The app does it all.

The video call also allows you to ask questions and tell the Move Coach your preferences. For example, do you want to engage a packing service or will you do the packing? Do you need boxes and other packing supplies? What type of insurance do you want? And so on. Your Move Coach will be able to advise you on the spot about your options and estimated costs. Of course, if you remember anything you forgot to ask about, you can always reach out to your Move Coach, and they will be happy to help.

On average, the video call takes about 30 minutes. And about 30 minutes after the call, your Move Coach will send you an inventory list. This list is typically 95% accurate. You can add or remove items and leave notes for the movers.  

Then send your updated inventory list to your Move Coach. They will upload the list to a secure Shyft Moveboard with the weight, volume, and moving distance details.

The Shyft Moveboard is a bidding platform for an extensive network of moving companies. During the bidding process, Shyft will collect several quotes from different companies. The quotes are fixed, and there are no hidden costs. The whole process is designed to keep the pricing transparent and competitive.

Your Moving Coach will send you at least three top quotes. You can compare them and add or remove additional services. Once you accept a quote, the price is locked and cannot be changed unless you add or remove items, change the move distance, or fail to book your move before the quote expires.

Whichever company handles the move, your dedicated Move Coach will oversee the entire process from door to door, ensuring the same quality standards apply to all. The latest technology is there to streamline the process of moving, but you will be working with a living person. The Shyft team will be available at every step, from the inventory creation list to unloading your belongings.

And if you are contemplating a move but are unsure where to start, why not download and print the Shyft moving checklists. It is packed with details that might otherwise get overlooked.

With Shyft, AARP members get up to a $250 discount for every move booked, no matter how many times you decide to move and where you decide to move to. 

Learn more about AARP Moving Services powered by Shyft by visiting Shyft website or call 1-888-501-3181. 

Shyft is there for you seven days a week. Contact Shyft to book your move and save up to $250.

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