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Moving Scams and News

Moving company scams are reportedly on the rise

The #1 con is scammers claiming that the estimate was wrong and that it’ll cost more to get everything off the truck

A lot of things take place in a consumer’s life during a typical summer. This includes vacations, getting ready for a new school, and for nearly five million last year, moving out of state to take a new job. 

That last part -- moving -- is causing heightened concern in COVID-19 circles. According to a new study by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the pandemic has opened the door for added competition and new practices for moving companies. This has led the organization ...

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    Moving to a new home? A 'hybrid move' could save you money

    But you need to be prepared to do a lot of the work yourself

    Just as Uber has disrupted the taxi business and Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry, HireAHelper is hoping to disrupt the moving business.

    The U.S. Census Bureau estimates about one in nine people change residences in a typical year. In most cases, that requires hiring a moving company to load all household items, drive them to the new residence, and unload.

    HireAHelper has pioneered what it calls the hybrid move, in between a do-it-yourself move and hiring professional movers. The company says it's perfect for the practical and budget-minded because it is both convenient and affordable.

    Independent service providers

    "We're an online marketplace where you can find, compare, and book an independent service provider that will simply load or unload your moving truck," HireAHelper moving expert Mike Glanz told ConsumerAffairs. "The site has 1,000 service providers in all 50 states."

    Under the system, the consumer rents the truck and the service provider personnel loads it. The consumer then drives the truck to the new residence where another service provider crew shows up and unloads the truck.

    It's like a do-it-yourself move, except instead of trying to convince your friends to help, screened professionals do the heavy lifting.

    "We also detail the business credentials for each service provider and provide unfiltered customer reviews that can help people find hourly movers that are right for them," Glanz said. "With straightforward hourly rates and no hidden fees, comparison shopping is made easy."

    What if you can't drive a truck?

    But not everyone would even consider a do-it-yourself move because they might not feel comfortable driving a truck. In those cases, Glanz says there are options.

    Consumers “can arrange to have a portable storage container delivered and picked up using a company like PODS," he said. "Once a portable storage container has been reserved, then they can hire hourly moving labor to come load and unload it for them."

    The main appeal of a hybrid move is to save money. According to Glanz, when moving a three bedroom house 100 miles, a hybrid move would save consumers approximately 50 percent if they rent and drive the truck themselves.

    Avoids moving scams

    Even using the portable storage container option, Glanz estimates a consumer could save 30 percent over using a traditional moving company. And he says a hybrid move avoids some of the most common moving scams.

    “The U.S. Government reports that 36 million people move every year, and one in 10 will report that their moving company is holding their furniture 'hostage' for suddenly higher service fees," Glanz said. "It's one of the most common scams in the moving industry."

    With a hybrid move, Glanz says the consumer remains in control of their belongings at all times.

    As we reported earlier this month, the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) has warned that scammers pretending to be professional movers victimize thousands of consumers each year. The AMSA says spotting an illegitimate mover can sometimes be difficult since some fraud artists choose names similar to those of established companies in order to piggyback on their reputation.

    Just as Uber has disrupted the taxi business and Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry, HireAHelper is hoping to disrupt the moving business.The U.S. Cen...

    The financial advantages of moving during winter

    Consumers can find attractive deals and discounts during the colder, off-peak months

    While spring and summer are typically regarded as prime seasons for moving, relocating during winter has benefits for those on a tight budget.

    Since moving during winter isn’t a popular idea, buyers (and renters) can enjoy less market competition and seasonal price drops across many areas pertaining to moving. 

    "Moving during certain times of the year can result in significant savings, and the winter is one of those times," Mike Keaton, senior director of communications for the American Moving & Storage Association, tells ConsumerAffairs. 

    "Most moves happen during the late spring and summer months, so moving companies have greater capacity and more flexibility on moving dates during the off-season. They’re often able to offer bigger discounts during these times when they’re less busy." 

    Financial breaks

    Although you might have to bundle up on moving day, moving during cold weather has its advantages -- namely, lower moving costs.

    Due to decreased demand, most moving companies tend to charge less in late fall and winter. Companies often lower their rates by as much as 30 percent compared to the peak summer months, according to moving industry consultant Vasilka Atanasova.

    “We do generally see slower rent growth and often even a seasonal price drop in the winter months. This year, our national rent index has fallen by 0.1 percent in each of the past three months, and rents have decreased over the past month in 66 of the nation's 100 largest cities,” Sydney Bennet, senior research associate at ApartmentList.com, told ConsumerAffairs.

    She says that’s a big change from the spring and summer months, noting that those seasons are “the busiest time of the year for renters to move.”

    In the winter, consumers are also more likely to encounter motivated sellers who are willing to negotiate on various aspects of a move, such as selling price and even what household appliances and items are included in the sale.

    For those who plan to rent a new home or apartment, moving during winter may also pay off in the form of lease specials. For example, some property management companies may lower the rent or offer a month or two of free rent in an effort to fill vacancies. Many of these deals tend to pop up in February and March, since they are slower months for the rental industry.

    Top cities for job seekers

    Between saving for a downpayment and footing the bill for moving costs, leaving one residence for another can be an expensive endeavor.

    To help offset the cost of moving, it can be beneficial to consider putting down roots in a city with a strong job market and/or relatively high average annual salary. A batch of recent studies highlight a few cities that have been ranked highly by young job seekers.

    • Austin, Texas. Millennials have been flocking to Austin for years, perhaps due to the city’s booming job market. A recent study by LinkedIn showed there are 23,000+ jobs in Austin. The most popular industries include IT and Services, Computer Software, and Internet.

    • Richmond, Va. Richmond constantly ranks on the US News & World Report list of the Best Places to Live. Millennials tend to thrive in this city thanks to affordable housing costs and a strong job market (just 4 percent unemployment for their age group).

    • Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Recent data shows there are 21,000+ jobs available in the Raleigh-Durham area. Raleigh also boasts strong job growth and a high quality of life, making it an ideal place for millennials to call home.

    • Nashville, Tenn. In a recent study, Nashville ranked as the best place for millennial job seekers in the state of Tennessee. The city is rife with job opportunities and has a median annual salary of $40,353.

    • Miami, Fla. Miami took the top spot on Indeed.com’s 2017 list of best cities for job-seekers. The career site evaluated 50 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and found Miami scored high across four different metrics: work/life balance, salary compared to cost of living, job postings (weighted to interest), and job security/advancement.

    While spring and summer are typically regarded as prime seasons for moving, relocating during winter has benefits for those on a tight budget.Since mov...

    How to pick a moving company

    And not get taken for a ride

    Moving is stressful as well as expensive. Dealing with a less-than-professional moving company just makes it worse.

    When consumers choose a moving company often they look for the lowest price. That may not always be the wisest move. Remember that the price you are given up front is an estimate. The actual cost can be – and usually is – higher.

    Federal law limits the spread between the mover's estimate and the actual price to no more than 110% of the estimate. But that is for moves between states; if you are moving across town, or to another town in your state, then state laws apply and these laws vary, state to state.

    For moves between states a federal agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), is the regulating agency. For in-state moves, your state attorney general enforces laws and regulations pertaining to moving companies.

    Florida lawsuit

    In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against Storage & Moving Services, Inc. d/b/a Ryder Moving and Storage and its owners in response to what Bondi says are more than 100 consumer complaints.

    According to the lawsuit, Ryder Moving and Storage picked up customer’s belongings but never delivered them, collected money for services never provided, and refused to pay for damage to customers property.

    The suit also claims that Ryder Moving and Storage marketed its moving services by leading consumers to believe the Hollywood, Florida company was affiliated with the national moving company, Ryder System, Inc. According to Bondi, there is no connection between the two companies. As a result of the deception, she says, many consumers expected one thing and got another.

    “These customers entrusted their clothing, furniture and family heirlooms to this company, only to have them broken and, in many cases, lost,” Bondi said. “We will continue to shut down intrastate moving companies within the state of Florida that prey on our consumers.”

    'Rogue' movers

    Some legitimate moving companies are simply poorly run and under capitalized, resulting in a bad experience. Others can be out and out scams. No matter where you live and where you happen to be going, it is very easy to fall prey to a “rogue” mover. According to FMCSA there are a number of red flags, tell-tale signs that the company you are dealing with isn't quite on the up and up.

    The first red flag has to do with the estimate. If the company representative provides an estimate of the cost over the phone without inspecting your household goods, it's a bad sign. Chances are the estimate will be so low it will sound too good to be true. In fact, that's exactly what it will turn out to be.

    If the company requires payment up front or a large deposit before it will pick up your stuff, that's another red flag. Standard practice is to make payment once the furnishings arrive at their destination.

    In this day and age every company has a website. If your moving company doesn't have one, or has one with no local address or contact information or any other useful information, that could be another red flag.

    Is it a real moving company or just a couple of guys with a truck? According to FMCSA, if the movers show up in a rental truck, you should take that as another red flag.

    To make a move go smoothly you need to have a level of trust with the company you are dealing with. In most cases you must vacate a property by a certain date. You may need to arrive at your new home in time to begin a new job or get the kids in school. Often there is a very narrow window of time. Once you select a company you are depending on it to come through as promised.

    Tips for a smooth move

    To help your move go smoothly, get referrals from trusted sources and take the time to get a written estimate from more than one mover. The estimate should be based on an on-site inspection of the things to be moved.

    Make sure the mover has proper insurance and is licensed. For moves from one state to another, a U.S. DOT number is issued by FMCSA.

    Don't always go for the lowest estimate. Some movers will estimate very low just to get the business. The actual cost will be higher. If one company has strong referrals and appears very professional, it may be worth paying a little more.

    Finally, read “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a booklet from the U.S. government that your mover is required to give you if you are moving from one state to another. This booklet also has information you'll need if your goods are lost or damaged during the move.

    If you have had a bad experience moving within your state, you should let your state attorney general know about it. If it was a move between states, you can file a complaint here.

    Moving is stressful as well as expensive. Dealing with a less-than-professional moving company just makes it worse.When consumers choose a moving company...

    'Rogue' Movers Make Moving A Nightmare

    Here are some tips for avoiding these scammers

    Moving is a stressful experience, made even worse when things go horribly wrong. While a good moving company can ease the pain, "rogue" movers who are out to scam you will turn your move into a nightmare.

    "It started when we were quoted one price, then once the company started loading our things, the price doubled," Maurice, of Jackson, Tenn., told ConsumerAffairs.com.

    Bait and switch

    The bait and switch is probably the most common tactic of a rogue mover. The consumer is given a very low quote, in order to get the business. But once everything is on the truck, suddenly, things change.

    "I got an estimate for an interstate move to Georgia of $989, plus a 10 percent discount and a $50 coupon reduction, for a total of $841," Eugenio, of Clarkston, Ga., told ConsumerAffairs.com.

    But when the movers arrived, it turned out that estimate was a bit on the low site.

    "When they loaded the truck, they gave us papers to sign and demanded $4,000," he said.

    Lee, of Logansport, Ind., suspects his movers were "rogues," because some of his boxes turned up missing.

    Guess which boxes were missing?

    "Even worse than that was the boxes housed all of my gaming consoles, blue ray, PC, and a complete history of my personal, educational and business life," Lee said.

    Rogue movers aren't always easy to spot, but there are tell-tale signs you should look for. For example, they often give low-ball estimates over the phone or Internet without ever visiting your home or seeing the items you want to move.

    Once your household goods are on their truck, they demand more money before they will deliver or unload them. The consumers' belongings are held hostage and many have been forced to pay more than the initial estimate they agreed too in order to get their goods back.

    Red flags

    Here are some other  "red flags" to look for:

    • The moving company's only form of acceptable payment is cash or a large deposit before the move.
    • The company's Web site has no local address and no information about licensing or insurance.
    • The company claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
    • The mover does not provide you with a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
    • Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
    • On moving day a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck.

    To expose a rouge mover before you become a victim, make sure you get a cost estimate in writing, and insist on a walk-through of your dwelling.

    Don't select a mover based on price alone. In many cases, you get what you pay for. If you have a bad feeling about your mover's tactics or charges, stop the move before your household goods are loaded on the truck.

    If you select a 'rogue' mover, your move is likely to be very unpleasant....