7 Ways to Identify a Scam Moving Company

By: Harrison Gough Last Updated: Oct 19, 2023

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Learn to spot moving scams: review positive reviews, ensure insurance coverage, check associations, demand quality service and transparent contracts.

7 Ways to Identify a Scam Moving Company

Ever stumbled upon a moving deal that seemed too good to be true? In an age where finding the best moving companies has become a staple in every moving checklist, ensuring the reliability of your chosen mover is paramount.

The sad reality? As families eagerly look for assistance in their big move, more and more moving companies are emerging from the shadows, ready to scam unsuspecting victims.

No one deserves the nightmare of a botched move or lost possessions. Fortunately, there are clear indicators to distinguish genuine movers from fraudulent ones. If you’re curious about spotting the red flags, you’re in the right place.

Read on to find out!

In this article

What Are Rogue Movers?

Before we delve into the methods of identifying fraudulent moving companies, it’s crucial to grasp what “rogue movers” really are. These are disreputable entities posing as legitimate cross country movers or local moving services, yet their primary goal is to prey on unsuspecting families.

Imagine this: someone masquerades as a representative of a moving company, smooth-talking you into paying a hefty upfront fee. But it doesn’t stop there. These impostors, once they have your belongings, might claim additional fees are owed.

When you challenge them or reject their outrageous demands, they might simply unload your possessions onto the street. Worse, some might sell them off.

In the direst scenarios, these rogue movers vanish—taking your belongings hostage, never to be seen again. This is why a moving cost calculator alone isn’t enough; discerning genuine from rogue is vital.

7 Ways to Identify a Scam Moving Company

Now that we’ve established the importance of identifying rogue movers, let’s delve into the seven warning signs that can help you distinguish between reputable movers and potential scammers.

1. Lack of FMCSA Licensing

Have you ever wondered if there’s a federal agency regulating the trucking industry, especially since virtually all movers utilize trucks for transportation? Well, there is—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

This agency plays a crucial role in overseeing the moving industry. If a moving company lacks proper licensing through the FMCSA, consider it a glaring red flag.

So, how do you verify this? Legitimate moving companies typically display their US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, and it is usually found in the fine print at the bottom of their website.

Armed with this number, you can navigate the FMCSA’s database. The initial search reveals a chart that includes an “Operating Status” field, where “Authorized” signifies a valid license. Keep a keen eye out for this essential credential.

2. No Online Presence

In the digital age, it’s highly unusual for any legitimate business, especially moving companies, to have zero online visibility. The absence of an online presence should raise a substantial red flag. Reputable movers maintain websites, customer reviews, and contact information readily accessible online.

Beware of salespeople who appear at your doorstep with no official identification or professional attire—another significant warning sign.

On a moving day, a truck or van devoid of a logo or company name is equally suspicious. Scammers often operate in the shadows, avoiding the online scrutiny that genuine movers willingly embrace.

3. Charging Based on Cubic Foot Instead of Weight

One of the most common moving scams involves pricing based on cubic feet rather than weight. Reputable movers, especially those handling interstate moves, base their charges on the weight of your belongings, not the amount of space they occupy in the truck. If a company offers an estimate calculated by cubic foot, it’s a strong indicator of a potential scam.

To protect yourself, pay close attention to the metric used to calculate prices. If the estimate relies on size metrics like cubic feet, square feet, or cubic meters, consider seeking a different mover. Pricing based on the weight of your belongings is a hallmark of legitimate movers, although it’s essential to remain vigilant for other red flags.

4. Charging More Than the Initially Agreed-Upon Price

When a moving company presents a bill that significantly exceeds the initially agreed-upon price, it’s a substantial cause for concern. While legitimate movers may need to adjust their estimates due to unforeseen circumstances like a more extensive move or undisclosed belongings, excessive increases, and hidden fees should trigger alarm bells.

To verify the credibility of a moving company in this regard, turn to customer reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Consumer Affairs. In any case, it’s essential to approach reviews with skepticism.

Some companies manipulate reviews to create a false image of customer satisfaction. When analyzing reviews, focus on trends rather than isolated incidents to make an informed decision and protect yourself from potential scams.

5. Only Accepting Cash, e-Transfer, or PayPal

A common tactic employed by scammers is to restrict payment options solely to cash, e-transfers, or PayPal. These methods provide a level of anonymity that makes it challenging for authorities to trace transactions back to the culprits.

While not all companies that accept cash are fraudulent, legitimate moving companies offer clients a range of payment options, including credit cards. Be cautious when a mover insists on cash or electronic transfers as the exclusive forms of payment, as this could indicate a potential red flag.

6. No Local Phone Number

The absence of a local phone number is a strong indicator that a company may be operating from a different location with the intention of scamming individuals in various areas.

You can test this by visiting the company’s contact page and placing a direct call. A legitimate company committed to assisting you with your move will typically answer promptly and professionally.

Large and reputable movers often feature toll-free numbers starting with “1-800,” which are not local. However, if the company provides a local phone number option, it may indicate a higher level of credibility.

7. Asking for Payment or to Sign a Moving Contract Before Conducting an Estimate

Legitimate moving companies adhere to a stringent process that involves conducting an in-home estimate before requesting any payment or contract signing.

This approach allows them to accurately assess the weight and scope of your belongings, ensuring fair and transparent pricing.

If a moving company deviates from this established practice and insists on immediate payment or contract signing following an instant or free online quote, exercise caution. While movers may provide preliminary quotes online or over the phone for general cost estimates, the final price is typically determined after an in-home assessment.

Legitimate movers send a trained estimator to inspect your items before providing an updated and accurate estimate.

By keeping a watchful eye for these seven warning signs, you can safeguard your move and avoid falling victim to moving scams. Prioritize your peace of mind and the security of your belongings by staying informed and vigilant throughout the moving process.

How to Identify a Legitimate Moving Company

Here are five key characteristics that can help you identify a trustworthy mover:

1. Positive Reviews

One of the most telling signs of a reputable moving company is a history of positive customer reviews. Genuine movers consistently deliver quality service, leaving a trail of satisfied clients in their wake.

Explore review platforms like Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to gauge the experiences of previous customers. Keep in mind that while a few negative reviews are standard for any business, an overwhelming number of positive testimonials is a strong indicator of reliability.

2. Active Insurance Coverage

A legitimate moving company carries active insurance coverage to protect your belongings during the move. They should provide you with details about their insurance policy and the extent of coverage offered.

Don’t hesitate to ask for proof of insurance to ensure your items are safeguarded in case of accidents or unforeseen events during transit.

3. Recognized by Associations

Reputable movers are often affiliated with professional associations and industry groups.

Look for affiliations with organizations like the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) or the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM). Membership in these groups signifies a commitment to industry standards and best practices, further validating the legitimacy of the moving company.

4. Quality Customer Service

Legitimate moving companies prioritize customer service excellence. From your initial inquiry to the moving day, they should be responsive, professional, and attentive to your needs.

Reliable movers provide clear communication, addressing your questions and concerns promptly. When you experience outstanding customer service throughout the process, it’s a strong indicator that you’re dealing with a reputable company.

5. Transparent Pricing and Contracts

Another characteristic of a legitimate moving company is transparency in pricing and contracts. They provide you with a detailed and easy-to-understand estimate that outlines all costs involved in your move.

There should be no hidden fees or surprises on moving day. Additionally, they should be willing to explain any aspects of the contract that you find unclear, ensuring you fully understand the terms before signing.

Wrapping Up

In your journey to a successful and hassle-free move, identifying a legitimate moving company is your first line of defense against potential scams. By scrutinizing positive reviews, verifying active insurance coverage, seeking affiliations with professional associations, prioritizing quality customer service, and insisting on transparent pricing and contracts, you can ensure a smooth transition to your new home.