Tips for Preventing Moving Fraud
It took months to plan our family’s relocation. From the moment my husband accepted a new job in Philadelphia in early March to our move date of June 28, we had been making decision after decision about leaving Massachusetts where we had lived most of our adult lives.
We wrapped up the last installment of our Massachusetts life saying goodbye to friends who had grown into family, selling our home of nine years, and packing up our household. We were physically and emotionally ready to move on.
Our two sons who were at first hesitant about changing schools and leaving the only home they had ever known, had come around. They traded in their blue Red Sox t-shirts for new red ones with Phillies emblazoned across their chests. We exhaled a bit. We were in the home stretch. We were going to be okay.
Our moving day was finally here.
But the movers did not come.
We waited one day. We checked into a hotel.
We waited another day. By the third day, we were distraught.
“We’re coming,” we were told over and over again.
We called our moving company trying to get answers, but it was Sunday and the phone rang and rang and rang.
On the fourth day, a truck pulled in front of our recently sold home. It wasn’t like any moving truck we could have imagined.
An unmarked semi-trailer pocked with rust and peeling paint idled outside bringing two men who barely looked hefty enough to lift a pillow much less the entire contents of our home. One was responsible for driving, the other for negotiating the price.
After walking through our packed-up house, the negotiator named a price almost double what we were originally quoted. At that point, we felt like we had no choice. I drove to the bank holding back tears of frustration. I withdrew the cash. It was thousands more than we planned.
I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that we were lucky to have the money available.
Lucky. We were lucky to have the help.
And later, when the truck finally showed up at our new home, we were lucky that our things made it. Lucky that nothing was lost or broken. Lucky that a truck full of the things that made up our lives din’t disappear into thin air.
As we settled into our new home, at first we were in shock, reeling from the money lost and the stress of having things go off course. We couldn’t get our head around the whole situation, rehashing it over and over again.
And then we felt shame: How did this happen to us? We are smart, competent, capable people. What did we do wrong?
And then anger: How did we end up feeling so violated? So exploited? How can companies get away with this kind of craziness?
We later learned that this happens. Our move was more than a case of botched logistics. What we is experienced is a thing with a name: moving fraud. During the busy moving season of May to September when families are trying to move between school years, the demand for movers is higher than the industry can provide. Unscrupulous scammers take advantage of families at their most vulnerable time.
In our situation the company we originally hired, brokered our move to an unknown entity without informing us. Sometimes companies will low-ball estimates only to show up and demand more money. Experts at manipulating a tenuous situation, part of the scam might be intentionally showing up late so that the family waiting to be moved has no choice but to play along. Sometimes they load your things on to the truck no problem and then demand more money to unload them holding your possessions hostage.
With a little distance, we can see that we were not so lucky. We were victims of a crime. Now we know that it is illegal to raise the price of a move in such a manner. Even though our move was two years ago, I vividly recall feeling completely out of control, backed into a corner, and the stress that ate away at my husband and I as we waited and waited for that truck to show and then counted out piles and piles of twenty-dollar bills.
Millions of families will move this summer. Even we are moving again, to a different house in the same neighborhood.
Finding a company to move your home might seem like a simple thing. We had no idea the array of things that could go wrong.
You can protect your family from scams this moving season with the following tips from Gloria Pugh, President/CEO of AMWAT Moving & Storage in Tallahassee, Florida:
1. There are a few red flags you should be aware of when picking your moving company:
- Bargain pricing: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Internet only presence: Make sure that there is physical office.
- Blank contracts: Do not be bullied into signing contracts missing critical information.
- Licensing: Check the requirements, but just because a company has them, it doesn’t make them reputable.
- Peak moving season: Demand is highest May through September, and scams increase.
2. Consider these things when selecting a company:
- Get referrals from your personal network.
- Use the internet to vet a company, not search for options.
- Visit the company at their office.
- Ask for the company to do an on-site estimate.
- Look for companies certified ProMover by the American Moving and Storage Association.
If you’re planning a move, protect your family by doing your homework. Knowing what you’re up against, you’ll increase your chances of having better luck than we did.
There are dozens of moving check lists out there, but sometimes you need more than a check list.
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Strategy for designing a move that works for your family
The real experiences of families that have relocated
Practical insight into the physical and emotional transitions you’re facing
The assurance that you’re well-informed and prepared
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When Kaly doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and blogs about her humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She’s the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation, a book about the craziness of moving with kids. Her writing has been featured on sites such as Mamalode, The Mid, In The Powder Room, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Scary Mommy to name a few. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.