Guide to recognizing fraudulent long distance movers

Long distance relocations can get really expensive. So much so that most people are looking to save some money by choosing the moving company that will provide them with the best possible deal. While this would not be a problem in an “ideal world”, where all companies are honest and straightforward, the presence of fraudulent movers complicates things a bit. Recognizing fraudulent long distance movers is not always easy, as these scammers utilize a variety of tactics to deprive you of your hard-earned money. Needless to say, you should always hire one of the top rated moving companies instead of trying to minimize your relocation costs by any means necessary. But, as that might not be an option for everyone, you may need to learn how to spot fraudulent movers before it is too late. And that is what this article is going to be all about.

Recognizing fraudulent long distance movers 101

Here are some of the most common ways you can recognize fraudulent long distance movers:

  • Lack of FMCSA licensing
  • Charges more money than agreed to
  • Asks for a large deposit
  • Pricing based on cubic foot
  • Price is “too good to be true”
  • Contract before in-home estimate
  • No “third-party” reviews
  • No “physical address”
  • Phone etiquette
a red flag, representing a way of recognizing fraudulent long distance movers
Pay attention to “red flags”.

Proper research is key here, as it will allow you to figure out whether your moving company is fraudulent or not. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is research and compare moving companies very carefully.┬áDo note that this research takes considerable time to complete, and you might want to start as early as possible. Get some referrals, read online reviews, verify credentials, etc. The more time you invest into research, the easier it will be to figure out whether your moving company is out to scam you. With this in mind, there are some very common “red flags” that you need to be wary of.

Fraudulent long distance movers are not FMCSA licensed

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) regulates and tracks the entire trucking industry. Moving companies use trucks for transportation of their client’s belongings and fall under FMCSA jurisdiction. The most obvious red flag that a fraudulent mover can have is the fact that they are not registered and licensed with the FMCSA. Do note that some companies might be in the licensing process and may not be fraudulent. But it is always good not to take any chances.

You can easily check whether your mover is FMCSA-Licensed. All you need to do is ask your company about their US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number and cross-reference it with the FMCSA database. You can usually find this number at the bottom of the company’s website but you can also contact the mover directly and ask for it. FMCSA also collects various information about their licensed companies, information that may be of use to you.

Note that being FMCSA-licensed does not mean that the company itself is a quality moving company. What it does, though, is verify that the mover in question is not a fraudulent one.

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They charge more money than initially agreed

A common tactic of fraudulent movers is to provide their customers with a certain price for their services, only to increase it due to “unforeseen circumstances” or similar. The fact of the matter is that there are circumstances that can influence the price of your relocation. But hidden fees and extreme price increases are the domains of moving scams. When planning your long distance moving process, you need to be able to work with true numbers. It can be devastating if your relocation suddenly costs as much as 50% more.

The issue is that you simply cannot know in advance whether your mover will dramatically increase the price of your relocation. The best you can do is to read as many reviews as you can get your hands on. What you want to do is look further than simple customer reviews. Customers have a tendency to only leave a review if they find the company lacking in some regard. Knowing about the company’s shortcomings is a good thing, though, and may influence your decision.

three checkboxes
Always be mindful of customer reviews.

But to make sure that your mover is not a fraudulent one, you will want to extend your search to “third-party” review sites such as Yelp, Consumer Affairs, Google Reviews, and the like. Any review that comes straight from the company needs to be taken with a “grain of salt”. Furthermore, you will want to make sure to look at review trends and not singular reviews. If a certain trend is apparent on all of the review sites, chances are that it is true.

Large, up-front, deposits

Another very common moving scam is when a fraudulent mover asks for a very large deposit. It is normal that a moving company asks for a deposit for long-distance relocations, as they need to protect their own business. The deposit amount is based on the size of the move but it should almost never be more than $500. In most cases, the moving company will ask for a deposit within the $200-$500 range. Some movers may also decide to ask for a deposit that is based on a percentage of the relocation’s total cost but you should avoid them.

The easiest way to figure out whether a deposit is too high is to acquire several moving estimates. To be extra sure, you will want to obtain a binding quote from several movers as well. While the binding quote usually involves a fee due to additional work involved, it is well worth your time and money.

Fraudulent movers charge based on cubic foot

Charging by the cubic foot is probably the most common moving scam. Most of the time, recognizing fraudulent long distance movers is all about verifying that they follow the standard moving industry practices. Reputable moving companies will not charge you based on the volume of your shipment but by its weight. That being said, there are some movers that offer great deals and who actually honestly charge by the cubic foot. They are the main reason why this moving scam is so effective.

large shipping containers, representing one of the ways of recognizing fraudulent long distance movers
Legitimate movers charge by weight, and not by volume.

To be safe, you should avoid even talking to a moving company that bases their price on how much space your items take inside a moving truck. It is rather easy to figure this out, as it must be written in the estimate. On the off-chance that the estimate does not provide you with this information, you are most likely talking to a fraudulent mover.

They offer “too good to be true” prices

Fraudulent long distance movers are all about “reeling in” their potential victims with extremely low relocation prices. These prices usually involve a time limit of some sort, adding further pressure on the customer. This moving scam is all about making the client “buckle” under the fear of losing such a great deal. The customers are then thinking about all they can do with the extra money and forget about the fact that it all may be a scam.

If you are not doing any research and basing your decision on the estimated price, chances are that you are going to encounter fraudulent movers. They always have the best prices and their deals are simply “too good to be true“. In reality, most long distance moving companies have significant operating costs which dictate a “standard” relocation price. That said, you can still take advantage of certain money-saving tips when hiring movers. It is just that the total price reduction is never as large as when dealing with fraudulent movers.

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If you take some time to get estimates from several moving companies, you will see that they do not differ all that much. But with fraudulent movers, you can see as much as 50% lower prices than the rest of the industry. Recognizing fraudulent long distance movers is usually all about figuring out how they are different from the rest of the industry. If the price is too low, be extra wary.

Fraudulent long distance moving companies will ask you to sign a contract before doing an in-home estimate

No legitimate moving companies will ask you to sign anything before performing an in-home estimate. While some local relocations might be an exception, this is all but guaranteed when it comes to long distance moves. If your moving company provides a contract for their services for you to sign before conducting an in-home estimate, chances are that they are “out to get you”.

person signing a blank contract without recognizing fraudulent long distance movers
Never sign a blank contract, either!

The way that moving estimates work is the following: A moving company will provide you with an “instant” quote first, offering a quick way to assess how much your relocation might cost. But these quotes are not binding. Not for the company and not for the customer. They are simply “ballpark” estimates. They are there to provide the client with a reference on how much the move might cost. Not how much the move will cost.

For a company to offer you a binding quote, an in-home estimate needs to take place, always. It is impossible to provide the customer with an accurate cost representation otherwise. Any company that skips this process can be considered to be either fraudulent or to have very bad business practices. Note that these days, a personal visit from an inspector might not be necessary for an in-home estimate. Some companies adopted “virtual tours” where the customer will provide video footage of their home or office. But the main principle stays the same, the company needs to assess exactly what they will be relocating.

If a company presents you with a contract to sign without going through this necessary step, it is most likely a fraudulent one.

They will have no “third-party” reviews

There is no fraudulent moving company that “stays open” for years and years. Most of the time, moving scams have a short lifespan. That is not to say that they can’t be elaborate, complete with professional websites and catchy company names. Due to this fact, most, if not all, fraudulent moving companies will not have a large presence on any of the third-party review sites. If you can’t find enough reviews of your movers, chances are that they might be scammers.

person giving a 5-star review
Don’t look at the number of stars. Look at the number of reviews.

Luckily, this is very easy to check, if somewhat time-consuming. What you want to do is go to every moving review site you can think of and verify that the mover you’re talking to has a presence there. If there is no information to be found, you are most likely talking to a fraudulent mover.

Recognizing fraudulent long distance movers – No physical address

Lastly, fraudulent moving companies seldom have a “physical address”. They will have one listed on their website, of course, but it is usually going to be a P.O. Box. Failure to provide a physical address is, of course, a clear sign of the company’s intentions.

You should also do what you can to verify that the company’s listed address is an actual place of business. Sometimes, it can be a vacant lot, which is rather easy to figure out.

Fraudulent movers usually have a poor and unprofessional phone etiquette

If you have contacted several professional moving companies, you already know that they answer their phone calls by stating the company’s name first. Fraudulent movers often answer their calls by simply saying “Hi” or “Hello“. This is clearly unprofessional and might indicate that you are speaking to a mover that is about to scam you. Your communication with a quality long distance mover needs to have a certain degree of professionalism.

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As you can see, recognizing fraudulent long distance movers is a lot more complicated than it may seem at first glance. The problem is that the strategies that scammers employ are always evolving. But if you take your time to do proper research, there is very little they can do to trick you. Always be on your guard and question everything you see and hear. That is the best way to figure out whether you are working with a reliable moving company or a fraudulent one. And if you need a list of all the best moving companies in the country, all you need to do is explore the Consumer Opinion Guide. We take great care to list only the very best moving companies that are worth your time and money!

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