7 Red Flags of a Moving Scam

The moving process is stressful enough; the last thing you need is to wind up dealing with a shady moving company. Ideally, you want to work with a moving company that’s trustworthy and reliable. Unfortunately, there are scammers everywhere who are waiting to make a quick buck without actually providing the services promised.

To help you avoid being scammed, here are 7 warning signs to look out for before hiring a moving company.

1. They Want a Big Deposit Upfront

Most reputable companies will only ask for a reasonable deposit upfront to secure their services, usually around 10% to 20% of the entire price. Movers are no different. Once the movers have completed their job and have transported all of your belongings appropriately, they’ll then expect full payment when all is said and done.

Any company that asks for a huge chunk of money before any work has started is a warning sign that something might be up. This is true for any other type of service. There are plenty of scammers out there who ask for a large down payment up front – sometimes the whole amount – only to run off with the money never to be seen or heard from again.

It’s not necessary for you to have to give more than 20% of the quoted rate to movers as a deposit. If they ask for much more than that and seem overly pushy about it, you should probably look elsewhere.

2. There’s No Contract

Every legitimate moving company should have a contract for you to sign. This document is meant to protect both you and the mover so that you’re both obligated to hold up your end of the bargain. While you agree to pay a certain amount for specific services quoted, the mover is agreeing to provide you with these services for the stated fee.

Moving contracts will detail the date of service, the address(es) for delivery, the supplies required, the specific tasks to be completed, and the estimated price. There should also be a stipulation that no hidden costs will pop up unexpectedly when the job is done and payment is due, such as extra fees for gas. Contracts are mandatory when it comes to payment for services, and you should never agree to work with a mover who doesn’t come equipped with one.

It’s important that you obtain a detailed estimate from your mover that’s guaranteed in writing. Without paperwork in hand, it’s possible that the mover is up to something.

3. They Quote You a Very Low Price

Many scammers lure their unsuspecting victims with the promise of a low price. Everyone wants to get a deal, and shopping around for the lowest price is a common practice. But sometimes paying the lowest price isn’t always best, especially if you wind up with shoddy service. Extremely low prices should be a warning sign that something isn’t right.

Sometimes quoted rates are so low that the mover wouldn’t be making any money off of the deal. There’s plenty of overhead with moving, including equipment, gas, and employee wages, among other things. If the rate your moving company quotes is barely enough to cover these expenses, they may be out to scam you.

Many moving scams involve quoting super-low prices, only to double or triple the price the day of the move. At that point, you’ll either need to pay up or scramble trying to find another available mover at the last minute, which is typically tough to do.

4. Their Website is Questionable

Every company in operation should have a website. These days, consumers expect that. If your mover does not have a website, that’s a warning sign. And if they do have one, check it out. Do they have an official logo? What about an actual physical address (not a P.O. Box)? If there is an address, is it legitimate?

You can learn a lot about the legitimacy of a company from their website, and if your mover is lacking some of these basic yet important details, you may want to call someone else.

5. They Don’t Take Credit Cards

Many services will offer you the option to pay cash in an effort to get a slightly lower rate and to save on taxes. But that shouldn’t be your only option. Legitimate movers will still use credit cards as a major form of payment.

Scammers don’t like the idea of using credit cards because it leaves a paper trail behind and gives you the opportunity to dispute any issues with them if there’s a problem. A mover that only takes cash is a big warning sign that they’re in it for the wrong reasons.

6. They Lack Professional Phone Etiquette

Most professional moving companies will have dedicated administrative staff that takes phone calls and handles the customer service part of the business. When you do call, the person answering should respond with the name of the company. If it just sounds like you called someone’s cell phone, it’s highly possible that they’re not legitimate.

7. There Are Lots of Bad (or Oddly Positive) Reviews Online

One of the first things you should do when trying to find a mover – or any other type of service – is go online and check out the reviews that previous clients have left. If you notice that there are more negative reviews than positive ones, that’s an obvious red flag.

But in addition to negative reviews, keep your eye out for an overabundance of positive reviews that sound fake. Some companies leave these reviews themselves or get others to leave them on their behalf, even if they did not actually provide service to these individuals.

Your best bet is to look up online reviews on reputable review websites, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and Better Business Bureau. Sites like these monitor reviews, so you can be sure that the reviews you read are coming from actual customers.

The Bottom Line

There will always be scammers out there looking to make some fast money on those who least expect it. In order to avoid becoming their next victim, make sure you’re armed with information about what suspicious moving services look like before you hand them your hard-earned money. Knowledge is power, so do your homework before hiring a mover for the job.