For countless Americans, the month of May signifies a major transition in their lives. Whether it is graduating from high school or college, starting a new job, or receiving that highly anticipated acceptance letter, May marks the beginning of the busiest time in the nation for moving. So much so, that the month was designated National Moving Month in 1997.
Internet searches for moving companies generally begin an upward trend in May, peak in mid-June to mid-July and begin decreasing in early August every year. While searching for a reputable business online, Better Business Bureau recommends consumers exercise caution and research a chosen business using multiple sources, including checking BBB.org for customer complaints and reviews. In 2022, consumers reported multiple interactions with fraudulent or unethical moving companies to BBB Scam Tracker with some individuals losing between $5,000-$9,000.
With the amount of moving activity during summer, the potential of being a victim of a moving scam also increases. There are several versions of moving scams reported to BBB every year, including:
• Consumers receive a quote and pay a deposit, but the movers never show up.
• The moving company provides a quote based on expected weight and, after loading the truck, they inform the consumer that the load is over the expected weight and an additional fee will have to be paid. Most of the time, the additional fee is significantly more expensive per pound, sometimes as much as double the original estimate.
• The most disruptive and difficult to anticipate moving scam is when everything appears to be going well. The movers provide an estimate, arrive on time and load your belongings on a truck, but then things take a turn for the worse. The truck never arrives at its destination and you’re left without your possessions, or the moving company demands an extra fee before completing the delivery, effectively holding your belongings hostage until you pay.
To avoid becoming a victim of a moving scam this National Moving Month and in the future, BBB recommends consumers follow these guidelines:
• Watch out for warning signs. When reviewing a company’s website, if there is no address or information about a mover’s registration or insurance, it is a sign that it may not possess the proper policies to protect a consumer’s belongings. Additionally, if the mover uses a rented truck or offers an estimate over the phone prior to conducting an on-site inspection, it may not be a legitimate business.
• Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be an indication of a fraudulent business. If an individual’s possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that was not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB and local law enforcement for help.
• Get everything in writing. When moving between states, check licensing with the U.S. Department of Transportation. An identification number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is required of all interstate moving companies, which can be verified online. Make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. The pickup and expected delivery date should be easily identified.
• Keep an inventory of your belongings. Having an inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. BBB recommends consumers who are moving label the boxes their belongings are packed in and what is in each box. In general, movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover. Taking photos of the contents prior to packing is a great way to prove if damage was incurred during the moving process.
• Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company either can’t or won’t answer your questions, look for another company. Trust matters when hiring a moving company.
To access BBB’s 2020 report of moving scams, visit BBB.org/MoverScams.
For a list of accredited moving companies near you, visit BBB.org.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2022, people turned to BBB more than 250 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on about 12,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.