15 Ways Moving Companies Secretly Scam You (and How to Wise Up)

You're giving everything you own to the moving company, so look for these serious red flags for moving company scams.

"We guarantee customer satisfaction"

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The truth is that moving is a fairly uncommon event, which means you're not likely to be a repeat customer any time soon—and shady companies know that, says Britt LaLiberte of Dunmar Moving. And even if you are unhappy, chances are good you'll be living in another state with different laws, making it even harder to deal with your moving company. The best way to combat this is to be prepared and have realistic expectations. "Look for a mover who is telling you what is possible and not telling you what you want to hear," he says.

"I don't have my paperwork handy but I'm totally registered"

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"A mover or moving company should be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and should have a U.S. DOT number to prove it," says Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving. "A good mover will volunteer this information. Run away from anyone who won't immediately provide it."

"Just sign this, we'll fill out the rest later"  

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Asking customers to sign a blank or incomplete contract is one of the primary ways dishonest movers con customers, according to Mr. Sapir. Make sure you get everything in writing—and read it—before inking your name on the dotted line.

"We'll give you the cheapest rate"

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Finding the cheapest deal may work fine if you're buying beans or basketball tickets but when it comes to moving companies you get what you pay for, says Kate Windleton, moving expert for Strong Move. The internet is riddled with moving customers who took the cheapest deal only to have it turn out to be far more expensive in the end when things got broken or, worse, the company held their goods hostage. Instead, seek several quotes from reputable companies and if one is a far outlier, be very wary.

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"All insurance is the same"

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The most basic and most common form of moving insurance is Standard Repair Coverage Insurance. However it only pays $0.60 per pound per item if something is damaged. That's fine if you're only moving pillows but heaven forbid the movers drop your 30-pound flat-screen TV. "With Standard coverage you’d only see an $18 check to cover your broken $500 TV," says Mike Glanz, CEO of HireAHelper. "Most reputable moving services will offer another form of insurance, called Full-Value Replacement Coverage, which covers (just like it sounds) the full value of every item listed in your inventory. This coverage is generally available as a paid upgrade but is relatively cheap.

"You don't need to be here, we got this"

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"You must supervise the loading and unloading of your belongings," says Mr. Sapir. "If you absolutely can’t be there, ask a good friend to come." This makes sure that none of your stuff "disappears" and allows you to make note of any damage that may happen during the moving process.

"We do door-to-door service"

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They may be getting things from one doorstep to another but it may not be the same moving company the whole way or the same items you packed. Make sure that once your items are loaded onto a truck, they don't get unloaded until it gets to your new house. "Many less reputable movers will switch trucks, or mix multiple households onto a truck and every time that happens, the likelihood of damage or missing items is increased 100 fold," says Jeff Campbell, a moving expert and author of New Middle Class Dad.

"We believe you"

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This may sound counter-intuitive but you don't want a mover who takes you at your word about how much stuff you have and how easy it will be to pack up, says Lavi Brill, sales manager of Oz Moving. "Most moves are larger in scope than people realize. Overall, the process is very extensive and time-consuming, which makes moving services more expensive than you might first think," Brill says. "Customers commonly underreport or underestimate the size of their inventory so your mover should never assume your guess is correct."

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"We're new, we don't have any reviews"

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There are many fly-by-night moving scams that bank on busy customers not vetting them. You're under a lot of stress when you're moving but the more you can do in advance to confirm whether a mover is legitimate, the better. Mr. Sapir recommends checking the mover’s rating on Yelp, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau and their ProMover accreditation from the American Moving and Storage Association. Here's how to spot fake online reviews.

"We can give you a quote over the phone"

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You should always interview at least three companies and ask them to come to your home. Because of extra fees for things like stairs, specialty packing, or disassembling and assembling of furniture no one can give you an accurate quote without visually inspecting your home and belongings, Mr. Sapir explains.

"We move everything!"

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For safety reasons, federal laws prohibit moving companies from transporting any hazardous materials including paint, ammunition, propane, and other flammable items, says Randy Shacka, president of Two Men and a Truck. This means your moving company cannot move items that contain gas such as grills and lawnmowers and may not take perishable things like food, plants, or pets. It's up to you to find out what you personally must be responsible for moving so there aren't any surprises on moving day.

"We can play it by ear"

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"Reputable moving companies will provide a schedule and stick to it," Mr. Sapir says. "Between May and September are the busiest times of year for most moving companies, and you can expect rates to skyrocket and quality to suffer. Avoid this by booking long in advance and getting your schedule set in stone."

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"Don't lift a finger, we got this" 

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Movers usually charge by the hour so some movers will try and maximize the charges by telling you there's nothing you can do, Brill says. As they slowly pack items for you, you will be paying for that extra time spent. If you’re looking to save money, do everything you can beforehand.

"We'll provide all the packing materials"

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"Buy your own packaging rather than buying it through the company. It may be cheaper and it'll also allow you to get it sooner. If you head to an office supplies shop or a post office you can pick up strong packaging that will be more than suitable for most of your items," says Max Robinson, owner of Guardian Removals Edinburgh.

"We'll save you money using recycled boxes" 

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Boxes are not the place to go super cheap. "If you pack in boxes that have already been used, they might be damaged which will increase the chance for broken belongings," explains Sebastian Barnet, operations manager at Man and Van Best Move.

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