Moving Scams: The Bait and Switch

In honor of the holidays, we thought we’d give another tip on common moving scams.  In our last post on moving scams, we shared the story of a friend of ours and his nightmare move cross country.  One of the traps that story didn’t include though is one of the biggest moving scams: the bait and switch. You visit a website, you call up a moving company, and they talk to you about your move, and then they quote you an unbelievably low price, often flat.  You’re tempted, you’re skeptical, but then maybe you’ve stumbled on the best deal out there?  And even if it’s not the best moving company, maybe saving a couple hundred bucks is worth it? And then come moving day, you find out the truth: that estimate wasn’t based on anything. While you’re standing there with your lease about to expire and your whole lives in moving boxes, the price doubles or even triples sometimes.  Just when you can’t back out anymore, you discover that the cheapest company out there is actually the most expensive one – or even worse, that the cheapest moving company isn’t even a moving company!  That the company that took your deposit and gave you an estimate was just a middle-man pretending to be a moving company, and that now you’re going to get a new estimate and have a new price to pay. The problem is so widespread, that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation even sent letters to major online search engines to ask them to crack down on false moving companies and moving scams. A lot of times this comes from picking a moving company in a hurry, without taking the time to really shop around.  We totally understand that people today are busy and don’t always have time to slave over their moving decisions.  But even just taking the time to visit sites like Yelp and reading customer testimonials can help you avoid this.  It can also help you to get better educated and prepared for your move. So take the time to research, it pays off in the long run! Otherwise, it’s holiday time, and we hope you’re all home safe with your families and certainly not packing up and moving just now.  Christmas is a big holiday for us movers – there’s just something about a holiday that revolves around a sleigh loaded with boxes visiting houses all over the world that appeals to anyone in our profession.  Santa is something all of us in the moving business can aspire to – he does it all for no payment more than milk and cookies, and no one has better online reviews than he does! Happy holidays, we wish you all a safe and healthy new year!

Moving Scams: From New York City to Hell

Nothing gets our blood boiling like moving scams.  Not only are they some of the nastiest bits of theft around, but they give a bad name to the whole industry so that legitimate moving companies like us have to fight for respect.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been voted the best movers in DC 200 times, people still won’t trust you because of moving scams like these. Here’s a particularly bad story we heard recently from a friend of a friend, father of 3 little girls about his family’s horrible long distance move from New York to Seattle (or, as we call it: From New York City to Hell…):   The move was far and expensive, so they decided to use one of the cheap interstate moving companies you can find online.  The movers showed up one day, packed up the whole house into boxes, loaded them into a huge truck and set off.  The family meanwhile piled into their own car, hoping to turn the move into a family cross-country road trip, and to arrive after their stuff had already made it. The road trip went great – but when the family made it to Seattle, their house was empty, none of their boxes had been delivered.  There was no sign of their stuff.  It’s everyone’s worst moving scam nightmare.  They had voluntarily given all their possessions to a band of criminals…  The parents started making phone calls – to the company, to the police, to anyone who would listen.  They started feeling stupid and angry too, blaming themselves for having been robbed of every single furnishing, article of clothing, dish and heirloom they owned. They went out and bought some new clothes and dishes to get through the next few days – and then one day, with no warning whatsoever from the moving company, the truck showed up!  The movers ignored all their complaints about being late and proceeded to insist that unloading the truck wasn’t part of the contract, and that they would only do it if they were paid more, in cash, right now – a classic moving scam. Needless to say the parents were furious.  They got into a screaming fight with the movers in the middle of their new front lawn (a great way to meet your new neighbors, right?), and only when they threatened to call the cops that instant did the movers agree to get to work. They unloaded the truck, and a few hours later our friend signed the receipt and the movers headed out. Nightmare over, right?  Wrong.  That was when the family realized about half their stuff was missing – and that about half the moving boxes in their house weren’t their boxes at all, they were filled with the possessions, memories, and lives of some other family!   These cheap interstate moving companies just take all your possessions to one warehouse and drop it off, and then another team of movers loads up another truck with whatever boxes they can find and takes that off to the final destination.  Trucks can load and unload several times in a cross country trip, no one person follows your move. No one watches over them, there is no quality control, no guarantee of anything. So what’s the moral of the story?  If there’s a moving tip here, it’s that moving scams are everywhere.  If an estimate you get from a moving company online looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Stick with companies with positive reviews and a lot of them, and that have maybe even won awards (wink, wink).  Also, call references, ask around – don’t take chances with your stuff!

Avoid moving scams in 3 easy steps

It’s easy to avoid moving scams, and we’ll show you how to do it in just 3 steps that will take less than 5 minutes to do.  The key is knowing that the internet is both your worst enemy and your best friend.  Many moving scams rely on the internet to contact their victims.  In today’s world, anyone can set up a cheap website and have it look good, and then with a couple well-placed search engine ads, customers come to them – the internet here is your worst enemy. But it’s also your best friend.  You can find reputable moving companies by searching Google just like you can find disreputable moving companies.  There are also loads of websites that share customer experiences and even list moving companies to avoid.  We wanted to share 3 websites that we admire and that you can check in under 5 minutes to find out if your moving company is legit and to make sure you avoid moving scams.  Just 5 minutes to be sure you have the best moving company for your needs and price range. 1. Moving Scams.com Blacklist – If you have the name of a company that interests you, take a minute to run it by the list on this site.  Moving Scams was started by Tim Walker when he got scammed by a company known as “America’s Best Movers.”  He tells the full story here.  He turned that awful experience into a positive one for the rest of us, compiling a blacklist of disreputable moving companies based on his readers’ reviews so that others can avoid moving scams too.  It takes a minute to make sure your moving company isn’t on that list – why not do it? 2.  Department of Transportation – Walker’s site can’t include everything, so the next step should be to confirm that your company is licensed.  Any reputable moving company is licensed by the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Many states have additional certification requirements as well.  Ask the company what their license number is, and then you can use the USDoT website search to easily verify their license number and record – again, it just takes a minute, why not do it?  (If you’re curious, our license numbers are: DOT# 2005212 and MC# 707471).  If they’re not licensed, BEWARE, of moving scams. 3.  Yelp – If they’re not on the blacklist and they have a valid license, then it’s time to check out Yelp.  We mention Yelp a lot because we think it’s great. Many moving companies are on there and people don’t pull any punches in the reviews.  A company can easily be licensed and reputable and still not be very good at what they do, so read the reviews carefully – and before contacting a company, at least check if it’s listed – if it’s not on there, think twice! Our hearts go out to victims of moving scams.  Worse than realizing that you have lost your belongings or your hard earned cash though would be realizing that it’s easy to avoid moving scams.  Just remember those sites above, and take 5 minutes to make sure that your move is in good hands.