Summer begins the moving season, here's what to know
June 1, 2023 | View PDF
For countless Americans, summer signifies a major transition in their lives. Whether it’s graduating from high school or college, starting a new job, or receiving that highly anticipated acceptance letter, summer is the busiest time of year for movers.
In 2022, 40% of all business inquiries on BBB.org for moving companies occurred from May through August, and over 5,300 complaints were filed with BBB against moving companies throughout the year. Additionally, consumers reported to the BBB Scam Tracker more than $1.2 million lost to moving scams in 2022. This year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is launching Operation Protect Your Move, deploying dozens of investigators around the country to crack down on the uptick in moving scams and complaints, including investigating moving brokers.
With the amount of moving activity during summer, the potential of being a victim of a moving scam also increases. There are several versions of moving scams reported to BBB every year, including:
Moving companies not showing up. Consumers receiving a quote and paying a deposit, but the movers never show up.
Changing quotes after loading the truck. The moving company provides a quote based on expected weight and, after loading the truck, they inform the consumer that the load is over the expected weight and an additional fee will have to be paid. Most of the time, the additional fee is significantly more expensive per pound, sometimes as much as double the original estimate.
Holding your belongings hostage. The most disruptive and difficult to anticipate moving scam is when everything appears to be going well. The movers provide an estimate, arrive on time and load your belongings onto a truck. However, this is where the interaction turns disastrous. When the truck fails to arrive at its destination, either your belongings are simply gone or the company requires the consumer to pay an additional fee to have them delivered, holding the possessions hostage.
To avoid becoming a victim of a moving scam, BBB recommends following these guidelines:
Watch out for warning signs. When reviewing a company’s website, if there is no address or information about a mover’s registration or insurance, it’s a sign that it may not possess the proper policies to protect a consumer’s belongings. Additionally, if the mover uses a rented truck or offers an estimate over the phone prior to conducting an on-site inspection, it may not be a legitimate business.
Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be an indication of a fraudulent business. If an individual’s possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that was not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
Get everything in writing. When moving between states, check licensing with the U.S. Department of Transportation. An identification number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is required of all interstate moving companies, which can be verified at http://www.ProtectYourMove.gov. Also, check with your state to verify any registration or licensing requirements prior to signing a contract. Make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. The pickup and expected delivery date should be easily identified.
Keep an inventory of your belongings. Having an inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. BBB recommends labeling every box with details on which belongings are packed in each. In general, movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover. Taking photos of the contents prior to packing is a great way to prove if damages were incurred during the moving process.
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company either can’t or won’t answer your questions, look for another company. Trust matters when hiring a moving company.
Visit http://www.BBB.org/moving to find a company you can trust.
Roseann Freitas is a PR and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau Great West and Pacific region.