Know Your Mover: BBB study reveals scammers price gouge, take belongings hostage and destroy goods


Last year, an estimated 4.7 million people left their state to relocate for a job, retirement or other reasons, mostly when temperatures warmed. With increased competition and new practices due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the industry has issued guidance for consumers moving during the pandemic and Better Business Bureau (BBB) is publishing this study to expose fraudulent movers and help consumers find trustworthy ones.

Most people hire a mover only a few times during their lives, so finding the right mover may be an unfamiliar process, leaving them prime targets for scammers. BBB receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year.

The search for a mover usually begins on the internet, where people are likely to encounter ads by dishonest movers, or “rogue operators” as they are called in the moving industry. The bad actor usually offers a free estimate over the phone or email with a low-ball offer. The website looks legitimate, usually with phony reviews from happy customers and a claim to have been in business for many years with well-trained employees. So-called independent mover review sites also may post fake positive write-ups for the moving scammer. 

Fraudulent moving company representatives initially are friendly and helpful on the telephone. However, when problems arise later, company staff cannot be reached. After processing a down payment of hundreds to thousands of dollars, the dishonest moving company outsources the work to an operation that often hires temporary unskilled workers to load the customer’s belongings. Once the goods are on the truck, the driver claims that the actual amount of goods to be moved exceeds the initial estimate. They demand more money, and it is usually paid. 

When the goods finally arrive at the new home, sometimes days or weeks after promised, the deceptive mover sometimes demands additional money, effectively holding the belongings hostage. If the additional money isn’t paid, the operators simply drive off without unloading or saying where they are taking the goods. Furthermore, some victims report that they then face demands of additional storage fees for the items held hostage.

If you are a consumer considering an interstate move, do careful and extensive research to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate mover. After all, you are allowing someone you don’t know to drive away with almost everything you own. While the vast majority of movers care about reputation and customer service, not all do. Check out movers in advance with BBB and the professional moving associations for the U.S. or Canada. Get three in-person or virtual estimates based on weight, not cubic feet, and opt for full value replacement liability insurance.

This study primarily focuses on long-distance interstate moves rather than local moves because of the severity of problems associated with long-haul moves. It explores the scope and nature of interstate moving fraud, demonstrates the difference between how rogue operators and legitimate movers function, provides guidance on how to find a trustworthy mover, details law enforcement efforts, and explains what to do if problems arise during a move.

How big is the moving industry problem?

Moving Complaints
The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), regulates interstate and international moves. Of the 4,780 complaints FMCSA received in 2019, 57% involved overcharging.

BBB frequently receives feedback from consumers who have had positive experiences or problems with movers. Many people file complaints when they need help, while others post negative reviews to tell others about the service. BBB verifies reviews it receives are from people who have had business interactions and allows businesses to respond to the reviews. At least 1,335 moving companies have earned an “F” rating from BBB due to unresolved or unanswered complaints, unusually large amounts of complaints, and other factors.  

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Know Your Mover: BBB study reveals scammers price gouge, take belongings hostage and destroy goods


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