icon back
Back to blog

Don't Fall for It! Protect Yourself from Moving Scams

Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Professional movers putting a couch in a truck on a moving day

A professional moving company is something that everyone wants to use when they are making a move. Certainly, if it is a big move. The main reason is that people want to avoid falling into a moving scam. And, there are many out there. Therefore, we will tell you how to protect yourself from scams, and find one of the professional relocation companies that will not try to rip you off.

The Type of People Scam Target

When it comes to scammers or con artists everyone is a target or a mark for them. However, many moving scammers (or scammers in general) tend to target certain types of people. These can be: 

  • Elderly people who are often targets of scams
  • People pleasers, who do not do research and buy into everything someone says to make others happy
  • People that have been scammed before. Scammers could have put your information on a type of “victim list.” This could be sold to other types of scammers or criminal rings, according to AARP
  • Those under a lot of stress. Stress can cause everyone a lot of issues not only physically but mentally as well. And moving can be extremely stressful, particularly moving out fast as if you are on a time limit
  • People who did not do their research. This means that they do not know any better, nor do they know how professional relocation services should work
  • Friendly people. According to AARP, many scam victims could have met their scammers online through friend requests or DMs. That is why you should also learn how to protect yourself from online scams. Because, in this case, these can end up being relocation manager scams instead of the real deal

At the end of the day, everyone is open to getting scammed so it is important that you watch out for the signs. Speaking of signs…

Close up of a young hand holding an old hand warmly

How To Tell If It’s A Moving Scam

According to the BBB (Better Business Bureau), moving scams are a huge problem in the moving industry and it has gone up year after year. They say that the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) in the US who oversees international as well as interstate moves got 4, 780 complaints in 2019 about moving companies. And about 57 percent of these were about people getting overcharged. 

If you take a look at this table on BBB - Negative reviews, and complaints that were registered at BBB about people being overcharged: 

Negative reviews, and complaints that were registered at BBB about people being overcharged:

And this was only from the US and Canada. And, to really hammer it in, the BBB also says that they estimate that about less than 10 percent of scam victims report these types of frauds to law enforcement or BBB. Therefore, there is a huge chance that these numbers are actually a lot higher.

Losing money from a white piggy bank

Many people have not only lost tons of money due to these scammers or rogue operators, but they have also lost their stuff because of them. You see some scammers will keep your items hostage until you pay them a lot more money. Otherwise, they will just run off with your stuff, possibly selling it. So let’s look into how you can spot these rogue operators to avoid moving scams and falling victim. As well as to warn others about them. 

License

Choosing safe movers, and legitimate relocation services can boil down to doing a lot of research. Not only that but you also have to question what you are seeing online. One of the first red flags that you should look out for is their license. This should be on the top of your moving checklist, and there is a particular license that professional movers aka safe movers, have to have. 

It is the FMCSA license.

Close up of different colored files with the word: Licenses in the center

The FMCSA keeps track of the moving companies that have their license since all moving companies have to use trucks to transit your goods. If a company does not then it means that they are new and didn’t know how to get one. Or that they are scammers and overnight operations hoping to make a quick, big buck off of you. 

If it is the former then they should go to SaferSys where they can register and get their USDOT Number (US Department of Transportation), and a lot of information about FMCSA. As well as to become a legitimate moving company with the FMCSA breathing down their back to keep them in line. 

You can check out which company is registered by looking for the USDOT number that has to be in the fine print usually at the bottom of the moving companies site. If they have that number, you are still not yet in the clear because anyone can make up a number. That is why you should write down this number so that you can search it in the FMCSA’s database in the US. 

Name Changes

One of the ways that scam companies get away with it is by changing their name. A name change does not necessarily mean that they are dodgy but if it is something that is done way too often then that could be a big red flag. Companies rarely change their names due to marketing reasons and branding. So if you see that they have done this a lot then it is best to go elsewhere and maybe report your suspensions to the BBB, so they can take a closer look at it.

Business meeting in Shyft’s office with employees smiling and talking in front of the laptop

Plus, you can also check out the moving companies site to see if there are any spelling errors or if their information does not line up. Furthermore, you should also check out their address and their information about renters and moving insurance as well as licensing. When you check out their address make sure that it is a local one and that it is not a residential one. If you think of it logically, you cannot fit a truck in a backyard regardless of how small the truck is. 

You can also give them a call to hear how they answer. Businesses answer with the name of their company and not “moving services” etc. And you should also look at their reviews.

Find Vetted Movers

Paying Before Viewing

Reliable moving companies that are the real deal have to give you an estimate based on what they see. This can be done in person or online in certain cases. However, a company should not give you the actual cost upfront and ask you to sign something before they send their estimator to see what they are working with. 

Professional mover filling out a form outside a house

They can give you a moving estimate over the phone or email but this is only an estimate, not the final price. Moving companies can only work that out when they inspect your items. Some companies may require a small deposit upfront but this is small and the full payment is done after the move is finished. However, they work this out after they look at your goods. Not before. 

Therefore, it would be a good suggestion to look at estimates from three different moving companies before you pick one, so that you can get the best price. And, also keep in mind that there could be other fees that come up. But, according to Federal law, companies cannot charge more than 10 percent above the original, agreed-upon cost. And they have to give you a month (30 days) to pay this change after the move is done.

Close up of a red keyboard saying: scam alert

Another thing you should look out for is how the company works out the cost. Reliable moving companies work out their price by checking the weight of your objects that you want to put in transit. Not how much space it will take up in their truck aka cubic feet/ cubic meter/ square feet etc. Moving spammers usually work with an area instead of weight. Professional moving companies work with weight. If it is the former, then report them and find someone else.

How To Avoid Scams

You can avoid these types of scams by asking people who they used to move with and their experience with the moving company. And, you have to do your research not only on the company you are looking at but also on how a professional and reliable moving company should work.

Customer holding a cellphone and searching it through with magnifying glass

Look if their site is professional and their information makes sense. Also makes sure that their physical address is real, as well as if they have an FMCSA license. Read their reviews outside of their site, and even call the hotline for more information. But, also question if the reviews are way too good. 

If they ask for payment after they see your items, it is a no-go. If they measure in distances and not weight, another no-go. The most important thing you can do is to research a lot. Also, ask them questions and see how they reply. If they give generic answers or tell you what they think you want to hear to get you to sign with them, this can be dodgy. 

Get Free Quotes from Shyft

If You Have Been Scammed 

You may have fallen victim to these types of scams by either paying way too much. Remember you should pay 10 percent over not more if need be, or your stuff was held hostage. Or even threatened to be broken then you should contact the police. You should also report it to BBB and FMCSA.

Call the latter’s National Consumer Complaint Database at 1-888-368-7238. This is a toll-free number. Plus, when it comes to your stuff you can also talk to  OIG's (Office of Inspector General) Fraud Hotline by filling out their online hotline complaint form or calling 1-800-424-9071 which is also toll-free. You can also email them at hotline@oig.dot.gov or do old-fashioned mail by sending it to DOT Inspector General, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, West Bldg 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20590. 

Our Suggestion for a Safe Moving Company

Our moving advice is that you be careful with who you pick. And do a lot of research. 

With that being said we would like to suggest that you check out the Shyft app. It is an online app that works as your personal concierge when it comes to organizing your move. They are not only safe, but they will do all the work for you. This includes finding the right company to help you move and getting the best prices that will not change. They do all the paperwork, all you do is pack and pay their agreed-upon cost. Not more, not less.

happy Shyft’s employee sitting down in an office suit and pointing at a laptop with Shyft’s website on

And they can also offer you moving tips and moving hacks on how to avoid rent scams as well as moving ones. As well as other types of information. Plus, they do an inventory of your goods while you are showing them to move coaches. And they send this list in 10 to 15 minutes, usually. Plus, they will find three safe moving companies and the real deal. Sending you the list and their prices in three days. 

What they do is that they go to a bidding platform to get the three best prices from movers that are safe, legal, and not scams according to their knowledge. They go out of their way to make sure that the companies they work with are legitimate.

And, they do not sell your information online so you will not get overwhelmed with moving companies' ads.

The Last Haul

When you are moving, it is important that you have a moving guide on the ready. This not only includes what to pack and how, but how to find a safe moving company that is not a scam. The best moving advice we can give you is to do your research.

If you have been unfortunately affected by a scam, reach out to BBB on their complaint page, FMCSA, and OIG as well as the police. Also, make sure that you let the internet know of your experience in reviews so that other people do not fall victim. 

If you are unsure about where to start looking for a safe moving company, then you should talk to Shyft Moving by filling out their quick form and giving them a call. They will video chat with you at the time that is suited for you. And then they will go out of their way to find three of the best and safest movers for you to choose from. 

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed we would suggest that you just let Shyft Moving do all the work for you. This will be less stressful, giving you time to tie up loose ends and pack. Their job is to do what takes up a lot of your time when it comes to moving, which is finding the right company to transit with. They make sure that the companies they find tick all the right boxes to not be scams. As well as doing it quickly so that you can organize your life and move better, more efficiently and with a lot less stress. 

And again here are the contact details for who you can reach out to, if you have been scammed, or even if you are suspicious of a moving company:  

  • BBB complaint page
  • FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database number: 1-888-368-7238.
  • OIG's Fraud Hotline: 1-800-424-9071 
  • Their Fraud Email: hotline@oig.dot.gov 
  • OIG's Fraud mail address: DOT Inspector General, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, West Bldg 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20590
  • And contact the police

We hope that this article was useful for you, and we urge you to keep your eye out for red flags. Not only for yourself, but for others as well. Happy, well researched, and safe traveling. Remember it is better to find the right company or just use Shyft Moving to do it for you.