Frequent International Moving Scams and the Information you Need to Avoid Them
Can you point out if a moving company is a rip-off? For most of us, the answer is no. A moving company can operate a devious business for years before it can be discovered and closed, and they will only have to relocate and open under a different name to start again.
Staying updated and well researched is your best defense against rip-off companies. Moving is strenuous and to have someone’s help is great, but you can’t impart all the particulars to them.
We have listed down the most common moving rip-offs and how you can spot them to avoid getting scammed. Helpful tips are also added for long distance and local moves.
Here’s the top 10 most used moving scam scenarios
- The company that doesn't use the name they advertised when you call them. For example, the publicized company name is “Nationwide Van Lines” but what you hear is “movers” when they answer the phone or other general company brand names. This often means the company is concealing their true identity from the IRS, the government, from unhappy and unsatisfied customers, etc. It may also imply the business shut down and changed its name to prevent lawsuits, taxes etc.
Moving Tip: Find a moving company that is established and has been using its name for more than a decade
- A Low- Ball estimate is an unrealistically cheap quote for your move. This happens every day in all states and cities. It will be up to your thoroughness in finding the most accurate price estimate to avoid this type of scam. It is highly recommended you use a Moving Calculator. Find a calculator that offers piece by piece quotes instead of quoting by the number of rooms. These types of calculators often cause arguments between the parties and increase the moving price.
Moving Tip: Find a calculator that provides quotation per item.
- You should avoid moving establishments that charge more than 10% or higher than $100 for long-haul moves. Long distance moving scams often happen when movers ask for a 30% to 50% down payment. You may think you can easily cancel your charge card if movers arrive late, do not show up or break your stuff, but most scammers are shrewd enough to ask you to sign a moving agreement. They will use this to make it hard for you to cancel saying the deposit is non–refundable as stated in the agreement you signed. Most moving scams have long paper works and numerous ways to ensure they get to keep your down payment. This scheme is mostly used by van line agents that have legal support backing them up with paperwork.
Moving Tip: Be suspicious when a moving company asks for more than $100 on local moves or a 10% down payment for long-haul moves.
- Basic moving quotes do not include additional charges most of the time. Some movers may take advantage of these charges and add them up to your total price. Make sure your moving quote includes the following: charge for a number of flights (stairs or elevator), distance, shuttle cost, toll fees, taxes and other charges. Be upfront when asking about hidden charges to ensure you get an accurate moving quotation.
Moving Tip: Look for a mover that does not impose additional fees and list down possible fees he may include.
- Moving agencies have a great web page. Ideally, we anticipate the moving company will arrive wearing a complete uniform, with clean moving blankets and trucks, and are expected to provide professional services. But in reality, most moving crews show up wearing ripped jeans, with unmarked trucks and grimy blankets.
Moving Tip: Search for moving companies on different social media sites that provide clean trucks and professional crews. Be sure to check on feedback and comments from other customers that used their services.
- It is mandatory for all moving businesses to assume accountability of the valuable items they transport. There are 2 different kinds of liability you should know of. Learn what are the applicable taxes and the coverage for each type.
Moving Tip: Look for a moving establishment that provides both kinds of insurance coverage.
- Once you’ve completed your move, you are given up to 15 days to start a claim or report any damages. Most moving agencies collaborate with a claims company that strictly reinforces a 15- day period. Most customers don’t know about this policy and it is typically written in small print in contracts.
Moving Tip: Ensure you process your written claims to your moving company within the provided 15 day period.
- There are 2 types of Moving Agreements required by Federal law. Under a non-binding contract, a company cannot oblige a customer to pay more than 10% of its original quoted price. On the other hand, the company anticipates that your payment will be 10% less. With the binding agreement, the total moving quote should cover all the charges including the extra fees. Adding an extra hundred cubic feet can easily be done by packing poorly. Moving companies that use container vans are well known for their packing strategies to expand cubic feet with less weight.
Moving Tip: Find a mover that will provide an estimated price based on weight.
- Avoid low–ball offers. Be watchful of fraudster movers that will try to keep your business by giving you a low–quote deal. Hostage load movers are often small and unlicensed moving companies that post their ads through Craigslist and road signs. Their strategy is as follows: Once your belongings are loaded on their truck, they won't unload them until you pay them thousands more dollars than initially agreed upon. It is safer to check websites managed by the industrial trade’s group like moving.org. For interstate moves, you can use protectyourmove.gov, a federal supervised website that monitors the license and complaint records of moving companies. It is best to schedule your move on a midweek, mid-month, during the winter or fall. It is during the fall or summer seasons that scammers are active. Be cautious of the moving tagline “You get what you pay for”.
Moving Tip: Get your price quotes from multiple resources and examine the weights using an accurate online moving calculator to ensure your mover is legitimate.
- There are several dynamics involved in leasing a Van line. One vendor picks up your belongings, then loads and unloads them in a storage facility. Afterwards, they are picked up or possibly swapped to another truck, then loaded / offloaded again to another storage. The losses and/or damages that happen during this transition are frequent. Even if the furniture is perfectly wrapped and protected, it may still get damaged due to the continuous loading and unloading. Most van lines have already merged with another van line or have gone bankrupt. Full replacement protection is offered by most of them, compared to an independent moving business, because they anticipate losses at a high rate of almost 80%. If you don't have full replacement insurance, your items are valued at $0.60/lb per article.
Moving Tip: Look for an independent moving company that offers full service on long-distance hauls to avoid hiring van lines.
This year alone, there are over 35 million Americans relocating to another state or country. Be mindful of the possible drawbacks you’ll encounter with your move. In the 800,000 relocations recorded last year, 3,600 complaints have been filed by people that contracted interstate movers. Make sure you ask for advice or do your research so you don't fall for a scam.
A-1 Auto Transport can help you move your household goods nationwide. Call 888-509-3213 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote on interstate moving services.
Preventing Shipping Scams
Always keep in mind you need to have the complete documents. Not to mention the Bill of Lading that serves as proof your belongings are with the shipping company and which will act as your reference. The Order for Service provides a complete list of the items, the tasks the shipping company will do, the dates of delivery and the actual condition of your items before you’ve shipped them.
With regard to non-binding estimates, shipping companies are allowed to charge up to a maximum of 10%, and with binding estimates, the cost is fixed. However, it’s sometimes more expensive.
Shipping companies generally offer basic insurance to their customers. It’s recommended you check its terms and conditions if the policy includes loss and damage before you take the insurance.
Solicit feedback from your family members, friends and colleagues
You have the option to check clients' feedback on the company’s website. It will serve as a guide, but there are instances where the comments can be fabricated. In relation to this, it may be a better idea to speak to a family member, to a friend or even to colleagues who might have taken their services and act as a more reliable source of information.
Do more research about the shipping company
Be very careful when investigating reviews on the internet. There are occasions where these transport scam websites are operated by the transport company itself. It will be safer to ask questions, feedback and reviews from different websites. Compare the comments from one website to another to check the consistencies of it.
The government also published some information on how to prevent scams from happening, like Protect Your Move and the info you can find on the FMCSA website. There are also web pages that do not edit reviews, like the Customer Lobby website. You may visit these web locations for more information.
Check if there are any other fees that may be associated with the moving cost
The shipping company must inform you of any additional costs that were not mentioned prior to giving you a quotation. In general, local shipping costs are less expensive and less complicated when it comes to additional fees associated with the delivery of your vehicle.
Gather as many estimates as you can and compare them using a calculator online
You need to at least have three prices to compare. Make sure these quotations are given after the mover's representative visits your place. This is relevant especially if you are moving from one state to another. This will help in case of any unexpected costs.
Avoid selecting the shipping company that offers the cheapest price. It is dubious when some charge an extremely low cost, but it will not hurt to ask them why.
Do not pay immediately
When it comes to paying deposits before your move, some shipping companies may ask you to pay up to a maximum of fifty percent of the overall cost. This normally happens when requesting a long distance move.
Reliable and stable moving companies will not ask for a payment up front. You may negotiate for a maximum of ten percent of the total cost as your deposit. Untruthful companies may scam you even for hundreds of dollars if you’re not careful. A complaint or lawsuit will rarely fully compensate you for your troubles.
How to Prevent a Vehicle Moving Scams
In the following section, we will cover how to protect yourself from a possible scam when moving your automobile to another country.
First of all, your vehicle must be delivered in the same condition it was in before the move. Taking photos and checking the mileage, as well as taking note of existing scratches on your car, can be used as a reference to compare after the delivery. You need to keep this data for your protection, in case you need to claim a reimbursement.
The terms and conditions must be checked, so if there are any damages to your vehicle, you’ll know immediately what to do and the steps you need to follow to file for compensation. The majority of shipping companies do not give the complete details when it comes to reimbursements. This is why you need to get as much information as you can on your own.
Upon the delivery of your car, you may want to inspect it again, especially if you notice the vehicle is untidy compared to its condition before the delivery. The moving company might give you alibis like “the delivery will be completed at night,” etc. This is a red flag. Make a last check of your vehicle before you sign the sheet stating your car was delivered in the condition you expected.
Validate the Company
Registration of car transport businesses is mandatory. They must be listed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You may visit their website to check the legitimacy of the company.
Get Feedback from Reliable Sources
There is no such thing as a "perfect shipping company". An internet research is an easy tool for reading feedback and reviews on the company. However, there are instances where only positive feedback is shown while others have just a couple of reviews. This is a red flag. Some companies may edit or cut any negative feedback written by its customers.
Checking the company's reputation on the BBB.org may reveal what it’s trying to hide. Most companies take complaints seriously, and so do their clients. This website will let you see each company’s issues and how they resolved them. You may check unsatisfied client reviews and verify how the moving company acted to resolve the complaints filed against them.
The Difference Between Direct Companies and Brokers
"Direct Companies or Carriers" pertain to companies that use their own transport vehicles and company drivers. There is no intervention from a mediator along the moving process. They hold responsibility from the start-up to the last part of the moving process.
Meanwhile, brokers are mediators in the moving process. They get paid by the difference between what you pay and what the carrier’s fee is. Once you notice a company does not have their own transport vehicles or equipment, you need to be cautious of them. They may choose cheaper carriers that do a poor job, so they get a higher cut out of the deal.
Advertising the Lowest Fees versus other Companies
Looking for the lowest possible price does not necessarily mean you’ll save money. If a company offers the lowest possible price, it should make you wonder why they are charging you differently compared to other movers. They may include hidden fees if you check the receipt.
If you notice this, contact the moving company to clarify any details not specified in the quotation you were given. Most of the time, some costs are not included in the first price. That is why the price is so low.
Get the Contact Information and Identity of your Driver
Do not pay your deposit to a vehicle moving company if they have not provided you with the driver's name as well as his contact details. Knowing his contact information will prove useful in case the shipping company asks for a higher cost.
Check the Data First Before Signing the Agreement
Checking the reputation of the moving company before signing a contract is a must, but also make sure you read the details. Once you sign the agreement, you will not be able to dispute other charges. If they do not shoulder a reimbursement in case of damages on your vehicle upon delivery, you will have to pay it yourself.
The auto transport company must clarify every single detail of the document. Read it carefully and ask for clarifications. If there is any vague information, it may come back to cost you. If you speak to them and they do not give you direct answers or clarifications, you may want to consider searching for other companies.
Proper judgment and research are extremely important when looking for a reputable moving or auto transport company. Feedback from previous clients, friends and colleagues will save you a lot of trouble, but it is ultimately you who must make the final decision.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.
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