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How to Spot a Shady Moving Company

Published by Chris Townsend

How to Spot a Shady Moving Company

You might believe that all moving firms are inherently trustworthy because they operate in an industry that supports and assists people, but you'd be surprised to learn that scams are also common in the relocation sector as it is with other businesses.

According to the Better Business Bureau, 230 relocation scams were reported in 2020. This is 91% more than the previous year's total of 130 incidents. As of July 2021, 148 cases have already been filed, which is more than double the number reported in July 2020. Given that these figures only represent an estimated 10% of moving scams, the true figures might be in the thousands.

It might be difficult for a first-time mover to identify a genuinely reputable moving company. When the stress and anxiety of relocation are added to the mix, you might fall prey to the deceptions of a dodgy moving business.

However, after going through our guide on how to spot a shady moving company, you'll realize that they all use the same methods. They would rather attract customers with price estimates that are too good to be true. They may also be without a license, insurance, or any semblance of professionalism.

Fortunately, their schemes, disinformation, and methods will bounce off of you like oil on water once you know what to look for.

Find the real moving company

15 Red Flags to Watch Out for in A Moving Company!

  1. They cannot provide legitimate proof of license.

When looking for a moving company, this is the first thing you should look for. If you're moving over state lines, you should use movers who are licensed by the US Department of Transportation. Those migrating within their specific state are governed by the agency in charge of that task. To find out if a moving business is licensed, go to the website of the corresponding regulating entity or call them.

  1. Their estimates are too good to be true.

Shady moving companies will give you an estimate that is too good to be true, sometimes even before seeing your belongings. This is a red flag because they may give you a low figure estimate initially, but the total amount on your bill will have increased by the time your move is accomplished. Arrange an in-person inspection or a video assessment of your things to confirm that you are working with a trustworthy moving company and that you are offered an appropriate estimate.

  1. They are not covered by insurance.

This is another major red flag. Professional movers should be insured to protect themselves against any lawsuits and to reimburse consumers for any damaged goods. If they are not covered by insurance as a business, you may safely assume that the moving company will not compensate or defend its clients in the event of damage, loss, or theft.

Positive reference for moving company
  1. You won't be able to get references from them.

If a moving company can't provide you with references that can attest to their work, that's a major red flag. Moving firms would typically jump at the chance to show you positive ratings or references that speak to their excellent service. If your movers are unable to present you with any of these items, you have every reason to be skeptical.

  1. They lack professionalism.

Moving companies that lack business cards, a professional email, or a professional moving truck, probably also lack a license to operate. This can be an indication how unprofessional they are. Other movers simply display a pattern of rude behavior, a lack of uniforms, and driving an unmarked moving truck. These are apparent red flags that show you’re dealing with a shady moving company.

  1. Complaints have been filed to the BBB or FMCSA.

After you've reviewed your moving company's reviews, look into their complaint history. On the Better Business Bureau website, you should be able to find an official complaint history, or you may look up their USDOT number with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If clients feel strongly enough about a moving firm to submit a complaint, it should be a red flag that something is wrong.

  1. Valuation coverage is not offered.

Although valuation coverage is not the same as insurance, it does make the mover liable for at least a portion of your shipment. Long-distance and interstate movers are obligated by law to offer two types of liability options: Full Value Protection and Released Value, according to FMCSA rules.

Have a lot of negative reviews
  1. They have a lot of negative reviews.

It's acceptable to have a few negative reviews, but if they make up the majority of the feedback, you should be skeptical. Pay close attention to review sites as well as recommendations from friends.

Customers frequently seek reviews when picking a moving company, and they expect them to be legitimate.

  1. They strictly only offer non-binding estimates.

It’s best to start running the other way if the company you’re dealing with only offers non-binding estimates. This is another red flag that indicates of how the mover intends to scam you. A non-binding estimate is a quote based on the estimated weight of your belongings. It is susceptible to change depending on the actual weight of your things. Because of this, it is possible that the movers will give you a low estimate during the initial stages of your moving process, only for you to discover a ridiculously high total bill.

  1. The driver cannot be contacted during the move.

You must be able to contact and speak with the contracted moving company's driver during the transfer, especially if your belongings are in transit. Customers must be kept informed about the whereabouts of their belongings on a regular basis.

If there are any changes to the moving process or plans, the moving company should alert you straight away, especially if your move is scheduled to take a few days or a week and there are delays. They should at the very least put you in touch with someone who can communicate with the driver.

Bill of lading is the most significant document
  1. You are not provided with a bill of lading.

This is the most serious red sign you might encounter while dealing with a moving business. Never trust them with your stuff if they can't or won't supply you with a bill of lading! During a move, the bill of lading is the most significant document you will get. It's your official contract, receipt, and title. It's also significant since it's a formal agreement between you and the moving business. Before a shipment is made, the moving business is obligated by law to provide a bill of lading to its customers. Before any transfer can be conducted, whoever loads your things and will be in charge of the move should supply you with a copy of the bill of lading.

  1. They demand payment in advance.

Be wary if a moving company requires you to pay an upfront payment, whether it's a big deposit or the whole projected cost of your relocation. You are only expected to pay for your moving costs once you have completed your move. Although it is common for moving firms to ask for a deposit, we can assure you that you will not be expected to pay a huge sum.

It's likely that if you give the dodgy moving business the requested sum, they'll take your money and run. Never choose a mover who wants money in advance if you don't want to deal with the bother of having your belongings detained by an unlawfully operating moving company.

  1. You won’t be able to locate them.

Shady moving businesses tend to disguise their address because they are working illegally. A reputable moving company will never have to conceal its location - it's that easy! The majority of them provide their address on their website, pages, crucial moving paperwork, and other marketing materials. Instead of a genuine address, most of these illegal moving firms use a PO Box or a suite number. This is an indication that they'd rather you didn't pay them a personal visit.

  1. Aside from the estimates, their reviews are too good to be true.

It is usual for moving businesses to have negative evaluations, as noted in the eighth item. A dissatisfied consumer will always exist. When looking at moving firms and their client evaluations, you should avoid the ones who have excessively positive feedback. It’s always the ones with over-the-top, glowing reviews that you should look away from.

Business name change
  1. They change their names multiple times in a short time.

Another method used by these scammers is to alter their business names in order to avoid being tracked down by poor reviews and angry clients. It might be difficult for anyone seeking for them to track them down if they operate under a different identity. If you've done your research and discovered that the moving company has changed its name six times in the last seven years, you should immediately stop doing business with them. This is not a moving company with whom you should do dealings.

What’s Next?

We believe you now have a working idea of how to identify dodgy moving businesses. After you've weeded out the bad companies from your list, the next step is to pick a moving company to deal with based on the good ones that remain. You’ll be happy to know that Three Movers looks forward to doing business with you soon!

why are moving companies so shady

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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