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Moving Scams – How to Recognize a Fraudulent Company

Kate Holland April 6, 2022
Posted April 6, 2022 In How-to, Moving Fundamentals,
Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

Relocations are far easier on us when we have professionals at our side to help with such a complex task. But recognizing moving scams and staying clear of fraudulent companies is not simple, especially if you don’t know how to notice the red flags.

Relocations can be daunting and hard on us when we’re relocating across the world, but they can also be joyous and fulfilling, and it all depends on the reasons to move as well as how much work we have to put into them. Although each relocation has its own set of challenges, moving internationally requires the most from us. However, finding reliable movers and paying for the moving overseas services can take all the stress out of your move. But you should be very careful about picking the best international moving company and avoiding becoming a victim of a moving scam.

Are Moving Scams a Real Thing?

The moving company scams are real. Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting trust on the market, annually receives around 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year. In 2019, they received more than 10,000 complaints, and some of these people have fallen victims to moving fraud. So before you contact some random movers to help you move to another country and let them move your jewelry and other valuables, make sure you double-check everything.

How Do Moving Scams Work?

Fraudulent companies can scam you and trick you in numerous ways, but the most common way is to hide additional expenses. The price of relocating across the world isn’t going to be low, but nevertheless, the ending price shouldn’t be any more than 110% than the quote you were given in the beginning. But besides charging you way over the initial estimate, they can also hold your goods hostage by making up a list of excuses about the delivery and asking for more money.

Will I Be Able to Spot Them?

You may not have experience when it comes to relocating internationally and finding the appropriate and reputable overseas shipping specialists, but spotting scammers should be your initial priority. It comes right after deciding to live overseas, finding a job, and housing. You can say that if you get scammed at the beginning of your new life, you may feel underwhelmed, and it will be harder for you to adjust to a new country. But what should you do to notice something’s amiss right at the start, before it’s too late?

Do a Proper Research of Companies Before You Pick One in Your City

Searching for the movers to help with everything relocation-related may seem as easy as pie – you just hit that search button and whatever turns up on Google is the right choice. Right? But hiring the first relocation business would be among the relocating mistakes you wouldn’t want to make.

What you should do is pick several movers that come under your radar. You can also add any recommendations received from friends and family. As Americans tend to move a lot, there’s a high chance someone knows someone that has moved recently and has a mover to recommend.

Narrow down your choices to under ten and start doing thorough research on each of them. Don’t simply focus on whether they offer storage service or perhaps whether they provide custom crating, but instead, go deeper. Visit each website, read the reviews, see if there ever was a complaint and what it was about. There are several other sites where you can check for information, like the BBB website, but more importantly – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A reliable interstate and international relocation business should have a USDOT number registered there.

How Do You Avoid Moving Scams? Notice the Red Flags

Before you can pack up and move abroad, you should ensure everything is going smoothly. This includes leaving all your goods in the hands of professionals you can trust. After the initial cross-checking, these are the non-deniable red flags that you should pay attention to:

  • Once you have narrowed down several relocation companies and checked their reviews, notice if there were any name changes. If there was, it might be simply because of the merging of two enterprises, but frequent name changes are a huge red flag. So before you let them help you move overseas, you should know that this was most likely done to hide a shady past.
  • A true sign that you should look for another shipping business is when they ask for a hefty deposit, and additionally, when they want only cash. A reputable enterprise should accept all sorts of payment methods, and you should simply keep the cash for tipping the relocation crew if they’ve done a good job in helping you move efficiently.
  • A mover shouldn’t base the price on the volume of the goods. Instead, they should offer a quote based on the household inventory list of the selected items you want them to move. It’s a good option to stick with a business that gives a guaranteed estimate, as pricing by the list will not have any added unexpected costs.
  • If a company doesn’t have a physical address on their website or their crew arrives in an unmarked truck or a van, stay clear of them.

The customer support representatives that you contact should act professionally and provide you with all the information you need. They should also ask about all the details of your move abroad, like whether you’ll be shipping a car overseas and the country you want to move to. The services and the distance should be important pieces of information to them so that they can give you a more precise estimate.

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What Will a Respectable Relocation Business Provide Me With?

As scary as this may all sound, finding movers you can trust is a must, especially if you’re packing to move to a completely different part of the world. And it’s also manageable to pick between the frauds and the trustworthy movers. For you wondering – “how do I know if a moving company is legit?” there are a few things to expect from a respectable mover.

They Should Be Providing In-Home Estimates

First and foremost, in-home estimates (as well as virtual ones) are non-debatable. A business that does everything by the book will only give you a rough quote at the initial contact. They should later send a representative to inspect your home and look closely at all the items you want to be placed on your relocation abroad checklist. Only then will the quote be punctual, with a give or take 10% of extra charge for situations like too narrow streets and too many stairs.

They Will Offer Different Services to Cover All Your Needs

A good professional crew will help you move, but a vetted and highly-professional one will also provide you with a service for each of your needs. They usually offer the basic relocation package but also the swift packing service to get that daunting task off your back. And if you’ll be living in Europe as an American, you would probably want to bring your car to enjoy all the beautiful places where you can’t reach with public transport. So you should be provided with punctual and secured overseas vehicle shipping. Also, get informed on the types of marine insurance and how it can give you peace of mind until your belongings arrive.

You Will Get Everything on Paper

Once they lay out a contract for you, and before your head gets clouded with living in another country at your grasp, read everything thoroughly. And make sure you read it twice. They shouldn’t be providing you with a blank contract and never agree to put your signature on such a thing. On top of that, they should provide you with a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” too.

The other important document you should have in your hands is the detailed inventory of your household belongings, written down on a list. It’s the base of the pricing, as well as the way to keep track of what you’re sending to another home, where you will be living abroad. Also, the household inventory list is a mandatory piece of paper for additional relocation insurance. These documents and papers are not on the checklist of documents needed to travel abroad, but they are equally important.

Being a Certified Business Is an Added Bonus and a Reassurance for Potential Clients

Having a federal certification is mandatory for interstate and international relocation businesses. But most reliable professionals will have additional certifications from the federally acknowledged trucking industry associations. One of them is the American Trucking Association, or ATA, which provides a strict program for certifying relocation teams. Those professionals that pass some serious checks on their background, meet the safety requirements, have fantastic ratings and are validly insured and licensed receive a Pro Mover certificate.

What Can You Do if You Get Scammed by a Mover?

If you were hasty and careless when picking the relocation crew, and ended up being scammed, don’t despair, as there are several steps you can take. Although you may be now forced to move on a low budget, as you’ve been stripped of the deposit, you should nevertheless file complaints. Contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) through their website, file a complaint with the BBB, but also ensure you reach out to the Office of Inspector General.

If You Want to Avoid a Scam From a Shady Company, Don’t Settle For the First One That Pops on Your Radar

Deciding to move abroad alone or make that leap of faith with a family is not a decision one makes lightly. There’s already a fair amount of relocation stress connected to such an ordeal. After all, you are leaving familiar surroundings for an unknown period of time and probably encountering another world, and thus experiencing culture shock. It will take some time to adjust before you can enjoy this change with full force.

What you certainly don’t need in this situation is to get scammed and start your new life on the wrong foot. So keep your wits about you, your eyes fully open, and don’t be hasty about picking a business for shipping overseas. When you compare quotes, don’t settle for a low-ball bid, it will end up costing you more than you have imagined in the end. As there are 7,000 registered relocation specialists in the US, it won’t be that hard to find those that suit you and which will make your relocation an ultimately adventurous experience, devoid of any stress whatsoever.



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