We love to watch CBS This Morning because it’s devoid of most of the silly chatter that seems to be the focal point of some of the other morning shows, like GMA and Today Show.  CBS This Morning actually covers news we can use, so it’s our favorite for morning news.  This week, they reported on a startling phenomena we thought all our clients and friends should know about: Moving Fraud.

One person profiled in this news piece was charged an additional “ransom” of $4,600 by a moving company before the firm would deliver her household goods!  It seems unbelievable to us that moving fraud is real, but the news story was very eye-opening.

Each year, more than 35 million Americans move for personal reasons or career opportunities, and these folks can be a victim of moving fraud whether the move is across the country or just across town.  The federal government is launching “Protect Your Move,” a new anti-moving fraud campaign, designed to warn consumers of fraud by moving companies.  You can lose property, face unexpected fees, or even see your belongings effectively held hostage.

On the government’s Protect Your Move site, you can research moving company complaints, file a complaint, download a free Moving Fraud Prevention Guide, and find other useful tips.

We wanted to share with you some of the key “red flags” of moving fraud, from information gathered both in the CBS news moving fraud story and the Protect Your Move website.

Red Flags of Moving Fraud

The groups that have been dubbed “Rogue Movers” typically work like this:
They’ll give you a low-ball moving estimate via phone or Internet, even though they’ve never even seen your home or your belongings that you plan to move.  Then, the fraud kicks in; once they have your stuff on their truck, they won’t deliver or unload until you pay them additional fees; essentially holding your items hostage until you pay them more money.

The best way to avoid moving fraud is to learn to recognize these Rogue Movers before you even agree to do business with them.  Don’t let them put any of your belongings on their truck unless they check out against this test of “red flags” for you to look out for:

Binding Estimates
You should always be aware of what’s listed in the estimate they provide you with.  A binding estimate works how it sounds; it’s binding on the services and items listed within the estimate.  It means that the price can NOT legally be increased unless you add services or items that aren’t already listed on the estimate.

Blank Documents
It’s a general rule of thumb in any scenario that you shouldn’t sign incomplete or blank documents, but it especially applies to estimates.  In a moving fraud scam, rogue movers use the documents that you signed to add new fees and pricing that you never agreed to, increasing your charges.

Copies of Documents Signed
We know it’s tough to get copies of the documents that you sign, especially when you’re in the middle of moving!  But here’s a tip – you can always take a photo of these documents with your cell phone.  The cameras on most phones are so good these days that this would be just as good as a copy anyway.  That way, if the rogue movers try to alter the document after you’ve signed it, you’ll know, because you have a “copy” of what it looked like when you signed it.

Generic Rental Truck
This one can be a gray area depending on the company you hire; there are SOME reputable moving companies that don’t have a fleet big enough to service all the moves they take on; especially during the summer on a Saturday.  But in most cases, if your movers arrive on moving day in a truck that is a rental from UHaul, Budget, or any other rental place, you should definitely be proactive about getting additional information about the company before they start putting your items onto the truck.  The ideal situation is if they have their own company-branded fleet of moving trucks.

No Company Name
Every legitimate company must have a name!  When you call the company, if the phone is answered with a generic greeting such as “Moving Company,” or “Movers,” it’s critical that you determine the name of their company and other pertinent details.

No Local Address, License or Insurance
If the company’s website doesn’t have basic information that all company websites should have, that’s a red flag.  At minimum, the company should be able to provide you with a local (or at least a regional) address, and their license number and insurance information.

No Inspection
Sight-unseen moving estimates are another red flag; most reputable moving companies will want to physically see the amount of items and household goods that you have in order to provide an estimate.  If the company you chose provided an estimate via phone or internet, the estimate will likely sound too good to be true, because it is!

Payment First
If the moving company you chose demands a large deposit before moving day, that’s worrisome.  Additionally, if the moving company stresses that they only accept cash, you should probably look into other movers.

The Booklet, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”
Did you know that moving companies are required by Federal regulations to provide their customers with a booklet called, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” anytime the customers are planning an interstate move?  If your move is to a different state, and this booklet hasn’t been provided to you, it’s a good sign that your movers are dodging more than one Federal regulation.

You Have More Stuff Than Estimated
If your mover suddenly tells you that you have more items than they originally estimated, you should be sure that the mover provides you with a revised estimate, which lists the additional services and/or items, and gives a specific price before they even begin loading your items onto the truck.  This new estimate should be signed by you (and don’t forget to get a copy or take a photo with your phone!) and the moving company.  The movers should NEVER try to change these fees after they’ve already started loading your items.

Hopefully, these tips and resources will help you avoid becoming a victim of moving fraud!  Although we linked to some great sources within this blog post, here is a complete list of moving fraud resources that you should note if you’re planning on moving anytime soon:

Best of luck on your next move, and if you’re having trouble finding your dream home for your next move, be sure to reach out to us!  We’d love to help.