Local Moving Scams: Red Flags, Pitfalls & Staying Safe
A moving company can sometimes be your worst enemy when you’re leaving for a new place. Our guide will explain how to avoid the most widespread moving frauds there are.
About 30 million Americans move to new houses annually. And if an average American loses $836 to unscrupulous moving companies according to a review, there are reports, damages in which can be as appalling as $5 000 as in Steve Rupee’s case.
But fret not — we are here to help you with the best advice on how to recognize and avoid moving scams in California. (Or any other state.) We’ve reached out to representatives from a few moving companies — unnamed to avoid product placement — to share their insights about the most common moving scams and how to save your pocket from them.
1. Price estimate
Often the estimate of the relocation within or outside Los Angeles is done by movers by the phone. This is a natural thing to do, as it allows the company to get a partial picture of the job: how many movers will be needed, what type of truck to employ, and so on. This estimate is neither final nor legally binding for both sides.
The closing estimate, however, should be done in real life. A company’s representative must revise the cargo together with you to:
- Efficiently allocate space in the truck.
- Predict and avoid potential damage.
- Prepare enough manpower.
- Give you the correct price.
Note: Unforeseeable events, like traffic jams or unfavorable weather, may impact the relocation’s final price.
2. Beware of subcontractors
Sometimes, moving companies hire outsourcers to do the gig. Basically, it’s just a smaller moving company. You need to ask the mover whether they employ subcontractors or not. If yes, then check the truck marking on the side of a vehicle: it should contain a company’s trade name and the USDOT number. It’s also worth it to look up info/reviews related to a subcontractor on the web.
3. Pay attention to the contract
The final price that you’ll pay is dictated by the contract. You need to watch out for:
- The floating hourly rate. This rate gets bigger every 2–3 hours.
- Minimal time quote. The mover team can finish their work much sooner than the time quote, that is mentioned in the contract, expires.
- Gas fee. This fee applies if you’re relocating to a destination at a larger distance (usually starting at 40–60 miles). If you’re moving not too far from your old home, we suggest you negotiate this term.
- Double drive. In most cases you’re duty-bound to pay after 10 miles, which is practiced by most moving companies. However, some moving companies or unscrupulous move specialists may start to charge you after 5 miles, or 15 minutes driving — this is a budget-buster should you get stuck in traffic.
- Round up. It must be specified in the contract that the moving crew gets paid precisely for the fixed amount of time spent at work. Often, workers can round up the time in their favor adding extra 30–40 minutes, which results in your overpaying.
4. Extra-heavy items
Anything over 200-300 lbs. is considered “extra-heavy”. Usually, domestic appliances — fridges, dryers, washing machines — don’t fall under this category. Scammers may try to charge an extra for the household items without such condition in the contract. Stand your ground as only specific items are classified “extra-heavy”: furniture with marble elements, gun safes, non-standard gym gear, pianos and organs, pool tables, etc.
Beware of the blind contracts. When no precise details and conditions of your move in the contract, movers can interpret the terms and charge clients at their discretion.
5. Insurance details
By the way, there are two insurance types provided by the movers:
- Full value protection.
- Alternative (lesser) liability.
The former is the best type. It requires an extra fee, but also guarantees you will be fully compensated should one of the articles in your cargo be lost, stolen, or damaged. The latter is trickier: it takes the pound weight of the article damaged or lost and then multiplies it by 60 cents. So, if a 20-pound antique Shang dynasty vase gets stolen, you will be paid only… $12.
6. Check the license
Movers prone to scam you may also provide a false U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, which is basically a license to be in this biz. So, before booking a quote, find or request all necessary license info and then double-check in the FMCSA’s register.
7. Extra tips:
- Always check a company’s reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, and Better Business Bureau.
- Double-check license info on FMCSA.
- Do not pay in advance if the company requests you to do so by the phone.
Follow our guide, double-check every bit of info, and there’s a 99.9% guarantee you won’t get scammed!