Allowing someone you don’t know to drive away with your belongings is among the many stressful aspects of a long-distance move — especially if that move is complicated or maybe prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Unfortunately, some consumers find their stress compounded by fraudulent movers who charge them many times the amount quoted, subject them to unreasonably long delivery windows, hold their items hostage for additional undisclosed fees and leave them with damaged goods.
An in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) finds that scams are widespread in the moving industry, particularly when it comes to interstate moves. BBB receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year, with many complaints describing how experiences with dishonest moving companies have turned into financial and emotional nightmares.
The investigative study — Know Your Mover: BBB Study Reveals Scammers Price Gouge, Taking Belongings Hostage and Destroy Goods — highlights the risk to consumers who do not do careful research before hiring a mover. Read the full study here.
“Most people only move a few times in their lives, so hiring a mover may be an unfamiliar process that leaves them vulnerable to scams,” said Robin Guenard, Vice President Operations, BBB serving Northeast and Central Louisiana and the Ark-La-Tex. “The good news is that there are plenty of reputable movers. Unfortunately, they are competing against some movers that just don’t care about ethics. This puts the burden on consumers to do thorough research to avoid excessive expense and heartache.”
The best way to avoid such a scam, BBB’s study states, is to do careful research before hiring a moving company. Specifically, the report advises looking up a mover’s license number on FMCSA’s website and its BBB Business Profile at bbb.org.
In addition to telling consumers how to recognize and avoid moving scams, the report recommends:
- Given the size of this problem, FMCSA may need more resources and additional enforcement authority.
- More educational efforts are needed to inform the public about the dangers of moving scams and ways to find a legitimate mover.
- Additional criminal law enforcement efforts are needed in both the U.S. and Canada.
- Although the FTC has not traditionally brought cases against movers, its legal authority and experience may fit into this area. They should consider enforcement efforts against crooked operations.
- BBB should continue to do its part to provide information about company practices, complaints, and reviews at bbb.org.
What to do if you are the victim of a moving scam:
- File a report with local police.
- Contact MoveRescue at moverescue.com or (800) 832-1773.
- Go to BBB.org to file a complaint or report a scam on Scam Tracker.
- File an online complaint with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238). While the regulator typically does not represent individual victims, it does track complaints and will request the mover’s license number.
- File a claim with the insurer listed in your moving contract.