When changing locations, moving can be stressful. Packing all those boxes, organizing your goods, and scrambling it into the van. This task can easily take many days of your time.
Without the proper gear, it can lead to damaged items, storage problems, and more gasoline expenses. But don’t think it’s over! Moving your stuff is less than 50% of the work. The same chaos awaits in your new location.
Then there are professional movers. Yes, those who charge you $800 to move a $300 couch (not all of them!). You can let them carry all the weight and forget about it, but who knows if these strangers will respect your possessions?
Let’s get it straight: nobody wants to endure the hassle of moving boxes from one place to another. But you neither want to pay a premium price for such a simple task.
The good news is: these companies DO exist. The bad news? Some agencies are unscrupulous scammers. Although they aren’t hard to detect, it’s not easy to prove them wrong after they rip you off.
Everything looks fine until they start moving. But what if they rush you with an unfair surprise bill, and you can’t report? We’ve made this guide to help you prevent resentful situations.
- Moving Scams: When The Final Receipt Doesn’t Match
- Warning Signs Of Movers Fraud
- Scam Variations: 5 Ways To Rip Off Clients
- Don’t Let Them Rip You Off
- The Bottom Line
Moving Scams: When The Final Receipt Doesn’t Match
Of course, hiring (expert) movers is effective. But if you don’t know how to spot the common industry scams, you should either learn or move the boxes yourself, because they’ll catch you.
In moving scams, you give control to an unreliable agency. Rogue movers make use of hidden fees and faulty estimates to overprice your quote. The victim— who is too busy to think clearly— misreads the contract, pays more than they should, even have their goods stolen.
Other movers simply don’t exist, meaning you pay upfront an imaginary company. Middleman also brokerage movers:
- A moving company you don’t know charges $500
- You find a (fraudulent) offer to move for $100
- You pay the broker $100 on contract, who then passes it to the real movers. He tells them you’ll pay on the spot (without him telling you).
- You think you got it for $100. But the scammer runs with the cash, and the movers arrive asking for the real $500, leaving you in a tough spot. The middleman is out of reach.
How Do Moving Scams Work?
As an online broker, you can scam anybody anyhow, anytime. Moving scammers prefer targetting people they can trick with ease:
- A client hiring them only one week in advance will likely be tied up with his affairs. The last thing a scammer wants is a patient customer who reads contracts cautiously, questioning every euphemism.
- Inexperienced buyers, the elderly, or families moving their first time.
- Big-volume clients. If they hire you in a rush to move hundreds of items, you have more room for “error:” you can misstate numbers, steal goods, and they still wouldn’t notice.
- Passive buyers who want to outsource 100% of the work. A scammer’s dream comes true.
Why Moving Scams?
Scammers make good money, but not as much as legit, reputable brands. Like many, these reputable brands prefer long-term profits rather than a quick cash-grab. Why sacrifice credibility for such a small reward?
As a generic scammer, you don’t care about reputation. For them, moving companies are just another fake agency among the many schemes they pull. If they get caught, they fake another brand.
As for real moving companies, it may be tempting to take advantage of unsuspecting clients. It’s easy to make them responsible for an overpriced service when you didn’t disclose the terms they should know.
- Competition: The sad truth is, most legit companies never get the attention they deserve. Big brands are everyone’s favorites, and locals are always cheaper. Unless you have a unique selling proposition, to scam becomes the only option to make the business survive.
- Tight profit margins: The moving service has commoditized. People can’t see the difference between two good brands, and the lowest price wins. Usually, those who spend the most get the best industry discounts, set lower prices, and outcompete small brands with negative ROI. Movers overcharge to counter that loss, which ruins them in the long run.
- Technology: Great movers often have countless truck sizes, mover managers, packaging, even driverless vans. Assets make them money. A small competitor, however, may lack the funds to invest that much, offering clients a substandard service.
That doesn’t mean professionals can’t scam you as well. Any company that matches certain red flags is trying to take advantage.
Warning Signs Of Movers Fraud
We call them red flags and not scams because a company can steal from you without going against the law. You heard right: a mover with incentives will put your interests last, making you responsible for their service flaws.
Is the fine print a scam? Think again. These examples follow the same style:
#1 No Final Contract
They want you to sign a contract based on rough estimates. You think that’s it, but on the moving process, you find yourself paying unmentioned extra fees.
Moving is a data-driven business: the items weight this much, here’s the driving distance, and we include X, not Y. Evasive answers don’t bring confidence:
“Final price? It’s complicated to define.”
Clients pay after they have made all the decisions required to start. Therefore, the service must be the same as agreed; if a client doesn’t mention X, movers should either ask or exclude it.
#2 Blank Contract
When moving many items, listing all of them can turn into a mess. Some movers group them in categories (such as “Kitchen Supplies”) or not write them down at all.
That mover may be a friendly person, telling you it’s all included. The problem is, if something is missing, you can’t claim items that didn’t appear listed. Do NOT assume every word they say is stated on paper.
Plus, signing a blank document can lead to signature misuse.
#3 Payment Term
You can’t fake a moving company: clients won’t pay until all their items arrive at the new location. And your workers are there in person to make sure they do after finishing the work.
That’s why upfront payments make no sense. “Seller protection” is an excuse, and after you pay the “professional” they no longer care about you. Not only is it risky, but it also decreases service quality.
Movers move first and get paid last. If not, you might be dealing with a middleman.
#4 Over 20% Down Payment
Just as suspicious as it is to pay upfront, it’s rare that the company asks for a big down payment.
These payments protect movers from scams. You don’t want to spend money on gasoline and worker salaries to drive to the client, who has a change of heart at the last minute. Down payments show the client is serious and pay them to arrive at the scene.
But over 20%? You don’t need to pay that much before the service. After you pay, the mover has no obligation to work for you. They may not even arrive for the estimate!
#5 Estimated Estimate
Talking of estimates, movers use multiple variables to make you a quote, being item weight one of them. They may ask you to make the inventory yourself or give you a flat fee.
No matter the number, estimates are useless if they don’t measure it themselves. Movers who skip inspections may save time and money, but how can you guess if you haven’t seen the goods?
They may make you pay the (low) estimated price, then they weigh the items on the same moving day, and make you add funds if it weighs more than “estimated” (it always does). It only confuses the already stressed client.
If they didn’t come to your house and are already giving you numbers, that company is most likely fake.
#6 No Insurance
Despite the costs, some people buy full service because it’s convenient. When paying to move, package, and assemble, you can get a discounted bundle price. But you can’t pay for everything without adding insurance; it’s too risky.
Do not assume a good history is synonymous with security. Even the best brands damage items by accident. Movers with no insurance usually aren’t licensed to work with you.
#7 Can’t Contact On The Moving Day
When you need them the most, movers are “busy” and won’t respond to any call. You worry: Will they follow the agreement? What will happen to your things?
Until the moving day, they work as professionally as any legit business. Evasion is a sign they may:
- Try to steal your items.
- Hide extra costs and show up right at the last minute, so you can’t prevent it.
Planning upfront prevents most unexpected delays.
Scam Variations: 5 Ways To Rip Off Clients
Getting the best deal has to do with knowing your rights and responsibilities. Without previous knowledge, even legit companies can “scam” you on the move-out day.
#1 Packaging: To Buy Or Not Buy?
Not insured companies lead to a lot of tricky situations. For example, you may want to package the items yourself to save money, but then the movers are not responsible for the damages or losses. The only way to protect is to buy their overpriced packaging.
This catch 22 makes you pay no matter what. If you go DIY, consider whether you need a mover at all; and if you’re going to hire one, don’t fear to spend more on a better, more expensive firm.
#2 Moving Hostage
If you’ve hired in the past, you may be familiar with the fees that come after the move-out day. Prices change with service fees, location, weight, tools used, or truck size.
If you put the full amount upfront for an estimate, that’s not the ultimate price. You get the receipt once the truck arrives at your new location. Since you are in a dependable position, movers make you overpay on the spot— otherwise, they drive away with your inventory.
Without a receipt copy, you can’t prove anything to anybody. Ask them to send you the full quote before they arrive.
#3 Misstated Estimate
If you move hundreds of items, costs can add up quickly. You chose a non-binding plan to pay only for the weight.
Make sure to check it with the mover before they drive with the inventory. If you let them weigh it themselves, you won’t know if they misrepresent the amount.
Movers weigh their truck being empty, full gasoline tank, and one driver. Clients expect the weight difference to be their inventory. But dishonest movers can weigh it with all moving tools and the whole crew in the vehicle. That extra weight you pay for doesn’t exist.
When moving a large inventory, this cash-grab may stand for less than 5% of your final price. Most clients will let it pass.
#4 Binding Not-To-Exceed
Dishonest movers can advertise not-to-exceed quotes to attract more clients. However, these are far from the true price.
Binding not-to-exceed offers a promotion for X number of items. You don’t pay more if weight is more than estimated, but they charge less if your weight is below that number.
If the mover agrees to move 100 items and you bring, say, 105, you either move the difference yourself or pay more. Most clients who chose not-to-exceed rarely get the table of measurements that shows the items included.
If they don’t show you the actual items to move, don’t expect them to give you a low, fixed price.
#5 The Mover Broker
A middleman poses as a moving agency. They include all the services you normally don’t find for cheap, so you hire them.
All the con man does is charging you upfront, selling your contract to another mover, and walking away.
In the “move-out day,” you find yourself with all the goods packed and the surprise bill of an unknown moving company. Not only you wasted money, but also a lot of your time. Most companies require you to get the quote for two to four weeks in advance.
Don’t Let Them Rip You Off
You can save yourself from all these horror stories with a bit of preparation. With correct practices, you can prevent fake movers from scamming you, even if you didn’t see the red flags.
Do yourself a favor: Let your busyness aside for a moment and protect yourself. One hour of planning can save days of stress, even get you a lower price.
#1 Contrast Your Expectations With The Contract
To avoid wrong assumptions, write on a paper the exact service you expect. Do all those details appear on paper? Notice how some of your expectations were mere verbal promises, not official documents.
Once you know what you want, talk to your mover on how to make it work. Chances are they can do what you ask, so talk about what you do NOT want more than what you want.
“If I requested X, they know I don’t want the contrary of X.”
#2 Read Reviews
Unlike online businesses, client reviews offer unbiased opinions about movers. Mostly. You can detect dishonest companies by looking at three cases.
- Too many negative reviews
- Positive, narrative (fabricated) reviews that sound almost like the ad
- There’re no reviews, or they only appear on one site.
Moving organizations have legit mover directories. If you found them due to cold-emails and ads— instead of organic traffic and referrals— look for a better mover.
#3 Stick To Long-Lasting Companies
In moving, competition is tough. Nine out of ten businesses fail after five years. A +10 year company proves they’re legit and best offer. They wouldn’t have last that long if their focus wasn’t on what’s best for their clients.
It doesn’t mean legit movers can’t be new companies. But ignoring the track record may lead you to work with fake movers and brokers.
#4 Trust The Right Sources
It would be a waste of time to review a moving company when others have already done that work for you. You can find most reviews with a quick Google search.
#5 Have A Response Plan
There’re so many details when moving that it’s impossible to cover everything unless you’re an organization god. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
By the time you spot a potential scam, it’s too late to take action, so do it now. As you negotiate with the mover, ask copies for every paper you sign. Ask: If I want to pay a fixed final price, what do I need to know?
Jump into a call or meet in person to avoid discontinuous communication.
#6 Try Alternatives
When hiring movers:
- You can agree on a binding not-to-exceed
- You can pay an inflated fixed price
- Your inventory weight sets the price
You may haven’t heard of “Hybrid Moving.” Instead, you rent a van with the right size and hire cheaper local laborers. If not, you can ask some friends to help you load the van.
The Bottom Line
Most moving companies are completely legit, however more than a few will try to trick you into paying a lot more money than you expected. Leaving normal transportation scratches aside, moving can become a big stress factor and pain if you run into a shaddy company. Moving scams are easier to prevent than to undo.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Others have already done the research for you. Working with a cheap unknown mover isn’t worth it.