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How to Spot and Avoid Costly Moving Scams


Moving scams become increasingly sophisticated, making it essential for individuals to be vigilant and well-informed during their moving process. By learning to spot and avoid costly moving scams, you place yourself in a position of power, having a safer transition of your belongings. This article aims to shed light on the deceptive practices of unscrupulous movers and provides practical tips to identify and sidestep potential pitfalls. From understanding the types of scams and verifying a company’s legitimacy to protecting yourself with the right insurance, this guide covers all the bases. Stay alert, ask the right questions, and equip yourself with the knowledge to navigate the moving industry safely.

Understanding the Types of Moving Scams 

Moving scams are prevalent, taking various forms to exploit unsuspecting individuals. A common tactic is offering lowball estimates to attract customers. Once belongings are loaded, the price inexplicably skyrockets, leaving the customer vulnerable. Hostage situations are another common scam where movers withhold clients’ possessions until they pay an exorbitant fee. Hidden fees are also widespread, with costs for services not initially discussed or outlined in the contract suddenly appearing on the final bill.

Falling victim to a moving scam can have significant consequences, including:

  • Financial Strain: Unexpected expenses can deplete savings or result in debt.
  • Emotional Distress: The feeling of violation and helplessness can lead to stress and anxiety.
  • Loss of Belongings: In extreme cases, possessions may be damaged or never returned.

Awareness of these scams is the first step to avoiding them, guaranteeing a smoother relocation process.

A Man Talking to the Agent
An in-home estimate allows clients to engage personally with the moving company.

The Role of In-Home Estimates

This thorough evaluation aids in providing a precise quote and helps avoid the pitfalls of lowball estimates that could lead to financial strain later on. An in-home estimate allows customers to interact directly with the moving company, fostering transparency and trust. It is an opportunity for the movers to notice any items that may require special attention or additional resources. In addition, this face-to-face interaction provides a platform for customers to ask questions and clarify any uncertainties about the moving process.

However, it is essential to remain vigilant during an in-home estimate. Warning signs such as rushed evaluations, a lack of interest in understanding specific needs, or failure to provide a detailed written estimate should raise red flags. These behaviors could indicate a lack of professionalism or intention to provide a deceptive quote, emphasizing the importance of being attentive and proactive during the in-home estimate process.

Asking the Right Questions

Engaging with a moving company necessitates a proactive approach, where asking pertinent questions guarantees transparency and reliability. A comprehensive list of questions should include inquiries about the company’s licensing, insurance, experience, and the specifics of their estimate. Ask about any potential additional fees to avoid financial setbacks, the process for handling claims, and the services included.

The responses to these questions can unveil potential red flags. For instance, hesitation or vagueness in answering questions, lack of proper documentation for licensing and insurance, or an unwillingness to provide a binding estimate can all be indicators of a lack of professionalism or, worse, a scam.

To solidify the understanding and agreements made:

  • Ensure all discussed terms and conditions, including the estimate and services provided, are clearly outlined in a written contract.
  • Verify the inclusion of a detailed inventory list if applicable.
  • Confirm that the document includes procedures for handling any disputes or claims.
Man looking through documents
Leveraging online tools to authenticate the credibility of a moving company.

Spot and Avoid Costly Moving Scams: How to Verify a Moving Company’s Legitimacy

One of the first actions you should take is to check the USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) number and FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) registration. These official registrations are mandatory for legal operation, providing a means to verify the company’s credibility and track record. Equally important is utilizing online resources and reviews, which offer valuable insights into previous customers’ experiences. 

However, while these reviews can be informative, it is crucial to recognize the pros and cons of online moving reviews. Some reviews may be biased or falsified, making it essential to read them critically and consider multiple sources. Also, pay close attention during initial communications and quote estimations with the moving company. Red flags such as vague responses, lack of professionalism, or quotes that seem too good to be true indicate potential scams. 

Recognizing Too-Good-to-Be-True Deals.

To successfully spot and avoid costly moving scams, approach deals that appear overly advantageous with a critical eye. Unrealistically low quotes often act as a lure, setting a trap for unsuspecting individuals. It’s a common tactic employed by dishonest movers, promising low prices and saving money initially only to inflate costs with hidden fees and unexpected charges later on.

Gather and compare quotes from various reputable companies. This practice helps identify outliers that might be too good to be true. Paying attention to details and not skipping the fine print in contracts and agreements is paramount. These sections usually contain significant terms, conditions, and potential additional charges. Overlooking them could lead to agreeing to unfavorable terms, resulting in financial loss and unnecessary stress.

Insurance agent giving a contract to a woman to sign
Secure your possessions by investing in moving insurance

Protecting Yourself with Insurance

Investing in the proper moving insurance can make all the difference in securing your belongings during a move. A range of insurance options are tailored to meet various needs and preferences.

  • Full Value Protection covers the replacement value of lost or damaged items. 
  • Released Value Protection provides minimal coverage based on weight. 
  • Third-party insurance comes into play for items valued beyond your moving company’s liability.

To determine the amount of coverage necessary, assess the worth of your possessions and consider potential risks during transit. 

Here are some tips to facilitate the claim process, should the need arise:

  • Maintain a detailed inventory of your belongings, complete with photos and values.
  • Report any loss or damage promptly.
  • Preserve all moving-related documents.
  • Follow your insurance provider’s claim process meticulously.

By taking these steps, you position yourself for a smoother claim process, safeguarding your possessions during the move.

What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Moving Scam

Falling victim to a moving scam asks for immediate and decisive action. First, halt any further transactions or interactions with the questionable moving company. Collect all documentation, including emails, contracts, and receipts. Reporting the incident promptly to the local authorities and the Better Business Bureau helps make a formal complaint. Also, sharing your experience on online review platforms can serve as a warning to others and contribute to a community-driven effort to spot and avoid costly moving scams.

Contact your state’s consumer protection agency, as they can provide guidance and potentially take action against fraudulent movers. For interstate moves, filing a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is necessary. Throughout this process, maintain a record of all communications and transactions. Lastly, consult an attorney to explore any potential restitution avenues and navigate the complexities of moving scam cases.


In summary, protecting yourself from moving scams requires vigilance, thorough research, and a proactive approach. To spot and avoid costly moving scams, implement a few key strategies. They include verifying the legitimacy of the moving company and getting everything in writing. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. Insurance safeguards your belongings, and understanding your coverage options is paramount. In unfortunate events of falling prey to a scam, it’s imperative to act swiftly, report it to relevant authorities, and gather all necessary documentation to strengthen your case. Choosing the right moving company is about securing your belongings and offering a smooth and reliable relocation experience. Stay alert, ask questions, and don’t hesitate to leave if something feels off. Your peace of mind is worth the extra effort.