Although the average American moves about 12 times in their lifetime, the Better Business Bureau receives over 13,000 fraud complaints annually. While not all of these are moving scams, over a third of all reports end up being genuine schemes in which customers suffered significant losses. To help you avoid any fraudulent activities, we’ve arranged a list of the seven most common frauds you may encounter while looking for a mover.
Even if you’re well aware of all the relocation hacks, you’ll still require a professional service during your move. If you’re wondering how to differentiate a scammer from the real deal, always get a free quote from several companies. This will allow you to easily spot if there’s anything suspicious about any of them.
#1 Frequent Name Changing Is Always a Red Flag
One of the simplest ways to figure out if a mover in Chicago, IL has a suspicious past is to check the company’s name change history. Although many legitimate professionals change their names as a form of rebranding, it’s not ok if a mover has done it five or more times in just as many years. Many scammers try to distance themselves from their previous actions by changing every little detail, so it’s always a good idea to check their business license numbers. Once they provide you with the information, find the answers to the following questions:
- How often did they change their name?
- Is the name they are using now different from the one displayed on their website?
- How old is their active license?
- Can they provide you with three references?
If their previous customers don’t check out, or they avoid providing the information you need altogether, it’s better to continue the search than to hire Chicago movers that are scammers.
#2 Avoid Hiring Online Brokers When Relocating
What differentiates online brokers from trustworthy Chicago moving companies is that they only need a PO box and a few phone lines to set up their business. Since they don’t own any trucks or personnel of their own, they shop around to find someone else to do the job for them. Once they book a relocation, they would hire other professional movers in Chicago to cover their end of the contract. Unfortunately, most of the companies they hire are often the cheapest ones on the market, which may not even know how to pack plates. While you should avoid any broker that seems suspicious, remember that not every one of these is necessarily a scammer.
#3 The Low Estimate Is One of the Most Common Moving Scams Out There
Lowballing is probably the most common moving scam there is. Many scammers intentionally give very low estimates to attract customers, only to significantly increase their rates later. The higher price can often go way beyond the budget you initially planned in your relocation expenses checklist. While you may deny them the payment, you won’t be able to find a different mover on the day you have to move out. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to get a quote from several movers and packers in Chicago and turn down anyone whose estimate is way lower than the average.
Some Companies Increase Your Costs With Unnecessary Premium Services
We already said that professionals have the right to charge you for additional services that weren’t included in the contract. On the other hand, scammers add inexplicable expenses to the bill in an attempt to earn some extra cash with each relocation. For example, a scammer will charge you extra for stairs even if you’re living in a two-story home in one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. Keep an eye out for bloated insurance packages and jacked-up fuel charges, and learn more about your rights as a customer before your next move.
#4 Do Movers Charge by Weight or Volume? Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions
While it sounds reasonable to get charged by the volume your belongings take up in the truck, most professionals use weight to estimate your shipping cost. If a mover uses cubic feet instead of pounds, you need to ensure that you’re not dealing with a scammer. A trained group of people may fit everything into less than 1,000 cubic feet, but a shady mover will probably need 1,300 feet. Think of it this way, if you’re packing books for relocating, you want someone who can maximize space usage in every box. Since using volume would lead to significant discrepancies between different service providers, most opt to use the weight pricing model.
Estimate Discrepancies Are Very Discreet but Here Are Some Tips on How to Spot Them
Although the weight pricing model is safer, scammers have found a way to increase your shipment’s estimated weight without you even noticing it. Not only that, but these frauds occur a lot more often than you might think. To assess your relocation cost, the truck gets weighed with and without the shipment, with the difference being the estimated weight of your belongings.
A scammer will pick up your shipment with an empty fuel tank, which they will refill before weighing the truck once again. Some tractor-trailers are known to hold more than 400 gallons of fuel, and at 6 pounds per gallon, you can end up with a significantly higher estimate, or about 2,400 pounds to be precise. Using this simple trick, scammers can squeeze considerably more money from many customers without worrying about getting caught.
Once again, the best way to avoid getting scammed is to get a free estimate from several local movers in Chicago. Avoid anyone who differs more than 10% from the average, as it’s a good chance that they might be setting you up. Additionally, you can always ask the driver to show you his current fuel levels before loading the truck.
#5 A Reputable Mover Will Never Ask You for a Large Deposit
Reputable professionals will never demand a large deposit or cash before helping you relocate. Paying a large sum upfront means that you won’t have any control over your belongings. Some scammers exploit this situation by keeping the customer’s shipment until additional payments are made, while others try to earn a few bucks by selling off all the valuable goods. To avoid losing your items to this fraudulent activity, always use a credit card when paying for the relocation.
#6 Be Aware of the Mover Who Is Phoning It In
A well-trained mover can help you minimize the relocation stress, while hiring a scammer will only aggravate you even more. Most local professionals have a fixed hourly rate, which gives scammers plenty of opportunities to take advantage of any unsuspecting customers. Although even the best movers in Chicago can work for slightly longer than initially planned, the fraud will intentionally work less effectively to increase the total cost of your relocation. Since it’s very hard to figure out if the extended working hours are justified or not, checking the customer reviews will tell you if they are a recurring feature or not.
#7 Scammers Lack Attention to Detail
Once you find a mover that has basic contact information, you’ll need to make sure that you’re dealing with a legitimate company. The representative should want to know all the necessary details about your move before scheduling a home estimate. If you find that they are not asking any critical questions, like the size of your place, or the relocation date, you’ve probably been talking with a fraud.
If the conversation seemed professional, you still need to pay close attention to how the representative behaves on-site. Do they take notes and ask questions? If not, they’ll just be guesstimating the weight of your belongings, meaning that your initial estimate will likely be way off the actual cost of your relocation. They also need to provide you with a booklet called “Your Right and Responsibilities When You Move,” so if they fail to do so, you are almost certainly dealing with a scammer.
Make Sure That the Contract Has All Essential Information About Your Upcoming Home Move
Although this is more common sense than a moving fraud, you should never sign a blank contract. Even if you feel confident that you’re dealing with a reputable mover, always get everything in writing. Carefully read the agreement, and check if everything is listed, including your initial estimate and all additional fees. If anything is missing, make sure it’s not one of the few items movers won’t move, like explosives and any other uninsurable objects. Otherwise, if you find that your expensive computer isn’t listed in the contract, you won’t be able to file an insurance claim if anything happens to it during transport.
What to Do if You Have Been Scammed by a Moving Company?
Know that it’s not the end of the world if you fall prey to any of these moving company scams. There are several things you can do to exercise your rights and fight back:
- File a complaint with the official company – Although this won’t resolve your situation if you experienced an actual fraud, the “scam” often boils down to miscommunication. A reputable mover is often more than willing to address any problem with your move. If you state your intentions politely, you should come to a mutually agreeable compromise without any issues.
- File a complaint with an appropriate organization – If you have the will to continue the fight, file an official complaint with either the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), or the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).
- File an official lawsuit – Once you’ve exhausted the other options, you can take the scammer to court. Before you take this path, consider what you have to gain if you win the case. Sadly, the reward is often just not worth it.
- Online reviews and social media reactions – It’s never been easier to expose a scammer, so if you had a genuinely awful relocation experience, leave your honest opinion on all their social media profiles. Try to be polite, and maintain a calm and professional tone, as these reactions usually get a lot more traction than typical review bombing.
If you want to hear a real relocation scam victim share their experience, check out the video below.
Learning More About the Quotes Will Help You Avoid Several of These Moving Scams
Based on federal law, you can get two types of contracts when relocating. Signing a non-binding estimate means that the final cost of your relocation may be higher or lower than initially stated. This is perfectly acceptable as customers usually want to add additional services at the very last minute, which would legitimately raise the move’s overall cost. However, the mover can’t demand you pay the whole bill on the spot if the initial estimate is exceeded by more than 10%. While you’re required to pay the original price at the time of delivery, the rest can be paid within 30 days.
On the other hand, a binding estimate has a guaranteed final price based on several factors, such as the weight of your inventory and all the services you’ve requested. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t end up with a more expensive relocation. If you forgot to mention that you have to move a piano, don’t be surprised about the extra cost at the end of your relocation. Keep track of the most commonly forgotten goods to pack when making your relocating to-do list, and you won’t have to worry about these additional costs.
Is It Better to Move Yourself or Hire Movers?
Although over 4,000 relocation frauds are reported every year in the US, statistically speaking, the chances of you experiencing a scam are very low. While some do feel safer relocating on their own, not knowing how to pack dishes will almost certainly require you to get at least some professional services. After all, if you want to move efficiently, hiring a mover is still your best option because professionals know all relocation hacks. Keep in mind everything we’ve mentioned here, and you’ll easily distinguish all the reputable moving companies in Chicago from scammers.
Who Is the Best Moving Company in Chicago, IL?
Now that you know how to differentiate a reputable mover from a fraud, you should start looking for professionals in your area. If you want to hire a local mover from Illinois, Legit Movers is an excellent company based in Chicago. We operate throughout the whole city, so whether you need a truck or just some help with the packing, our team will work hard to provide you with the best possible relocation experience. If you’re looking for excellent moving services in Chicago, remember to contact our representative and request a free on-site estimate today.