How To Identify And Avoid Moving Scams

Once your house has been sold and you’ve found a wonderful new place to call home, you may be relieved that all of the hard work is over. But before you begin to happily pack those boxes, you might not be thrilled to know that you could already be under surveillance by someone looking to get as much money out of you as they can.

Moving scams can be infinitely profitable ventures for the career criminal, and often, you may not know you’ve been scammed until it is too late. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim.

The Background
The passing of the Household Goods Transportation Act in 1980 was a great thing for movers, as it helped many moving companies get their start. As well, pricing became an additional point for competition among companies.

But with more moving companies came more competition. And in the midst of this competition, companies had to do something in order to keep making a profit. And so, many of them offered lower prices which, when coupled with price gouging, have and still do make companies a lot of money from the pocketbooks of homeowners.

Why Consumers Should Worry
Today, moving scams abound. Complaints number in the thousands per year. And yet, it appears that there are very few investigators to handle those complaints. This means that, should you get scammed by a moving company, your claim could very well be overlooked completely without any justice being done on either side.

There is one law overseeing the moving industry that states it covers every aspect of moving and shipping homeowner goods, and it’s called the Carmack Amendment. However, homeowners looking for protection under this amendment may find that they cannot sue a moving company in any other way than Carmack. This causes further issues, as Carmack only allows the plaintiff to recoup certain amounts from the moving company.

Common Moving Scams
Holding a customer’s goods ‘hostage’ is a common practice of unscrupulous moving companies. A company may give you an estimate at a certain amount, only to significantly inflate the cost of their original estimate once the loaded truck arrives at your new home.  Should you refuse to pay, the company refuses to unload your belongings.

Another common scam is the addition of certain stipulations to your moving contract by the company after you have put your signature to the document. This can render you unable to fight any of the stipulations in court.

All told, moving scams can end up costing homeowners thousands of dollars in fees and damaged items. So how can you avoid becoming one of these horror stories?

Talk To the Mover, Not the Broker
The difference between a mover and a household goods broker is that the latter does not have its own trucks; it simply negotiates your move with an authorized company. It also does not have the authority to issue estimates.

The moving company is the only party which can be held responsible if your goods are damaged during the move, or the actual cost of the move is much higher than the estimate you were given.

Get Multiple Estimates
Experts say that getting at least three estimates from three different moving companies is the first thing any homeowner should do. Be cautious about any estimate which comes in at a significantly lower than the others. Other red flags include a company requiring up-front payment, or one that doesn’t want to sign any contracts.

Get All the Pertinent Information
Does the moving company you’re considering have a minimum charge? Do they cover their employees in the event of any injuries they incur during your move? Will they charge by the hour, or by the piece? These are just a few of the questions that any homeowner who is planning to hire a moving company should ask.

It’s a good idea to understand your rights as a homeowner, and to notify the moving company that you are aware of them. And remember, you are not obligated to sign anything you don’t understand.

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Guest author Sam Dixon writes on a variety of topics in the mortgage industry.  He is a frequent contributor at http://www.home-mortgage-calculator.com/, a site that provides consumers with advice and a free mortgage calculator tool.