Moving can be exciting, especially if you are moving into a new house or apartment, a new neighborhood or starting a new chapter of your life! Moving can also be stressful, so when you hire a moving company, you want to make sure that they pack and move your belongings with care and professionalism.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 40 million moves occur every year, and most of those moves go smoothly. However, anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be a mover and, unfortunately, scammers who take advantage of consumers don’t follow the rules or act ethically.
This past June, a Connecticut-based moving company quoted a California woman $3,100 to move her household belongings to Reno, Nevada. The day before the move, the mover called to inform her that the price had risen to $3,800 after doing an actual box count. Later, they tried to add on an additional $300 charge for the final loading. When she declined to pay the additional amount, citing the original quote, the company drove away with her furniture and it was not delivered to her until nearly a month later. Many of her items were broken, crushed or otherwise damaged. In addition, something had leaked into many of the boxes.
The consumer was so angry that she shamed them on social media for months – the company ended up changing its name, but more than likely they are continuing to scam consumers under another company name.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, telling customers that their items will not be returned unless they agree to pay extra fees is a part of a mover scam with many companies.
Of the more than 8,000 complaints filed against moving companies last year, the most common complaints involved:
- Damage to, or disappearance of, personal belongings, and difficulty getting compensation for loss or damage.
- Final bills much higher than the original quote.
- Delayed delivery time.
- Damage to apartments, homes and condominiums.
- Movers who demand an additional payment before releasing property.
- Consumers held responsible for storage fees while negotiating final payment.
Under federal law, movers must give you a copy of the federal publication “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” If they don’t offer it, please ask for a copy; it will answer many of your questions, and make good suggestions.
Talk to friends and family members who have made a recent move. They may be able to tell you what questions to ask and what challenges they found when looking for a mover.
Reputable movers will do an on-site visit before writing a contract. Make sure that all information is in the contract before you sign it. Remember, always read the fine print in anything you sign, from the initial contract to the final bill of lading (the detailed list of what has been moved). And, you want to be guaranteed in writing of the final price.
In addition, reputable movers:
- Will show you proof they are certified by and registered with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, as well as provide proof of insurance.
- May ask for a reasonable deposit, but will not demand cash or full payment in advance.
- Will offer you two different levels of liability insurance–Full Value Protection will assure you receive the full replacement value of your belongings or Release Value means the mover assumes liability of no more than 60 cents per pound per article.
Do NOT hire a mover if they:
- Want to give you an estimate over the phone, without seeing your home and belongings.
- Request your signature on incomplete or blank documents.
- Demand a large sum of cash as a down payment in advance of your move.
- Do not return phone calls or confirm a date.
- Have unmarked trucks, or their business has a name like “Moving Company.”
- Provide no local address or licensing and insurance information on their website.
If you have heard of someone you know getting scammed, or have been victim of one yourself, remember to warn others and Pass It On!
If you believe you have been scammed, contact the:
CT Department of Transportation at http://www.ct.gov/dot/complaintform.
Better Business Bureau at https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started.
U.S. Dept. of Transportation at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Move Rescue, a consumer advocacy group that helps you when your belongings are being held by a mover: 800-832-1773.
For more information on moving companies, see www.protectyourmove.gov.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.