Fighting Back Against Moving Fraud

in Help Me Now!, Moving on by
Young woman's furniture arrives at her new home in extremely poor condition

Moving companies streamline the whole moving process considerably — when they’re actually doing their jobs, of course. In the midst of packing up and getting settled into your new place, things can go wrong quite easily. Finding a reputable moving company in an industry that’s sadly rife with scams and unprofessional conduct is often a matter of doing your research. Even then, a company that appears legitimate on the surface might turn out to be anything but.

In the event that you are ripped off, stolen from, or have had your possessions damaged during a move, you’re entitled to answers and restitution. Thousands of Americans fall victim to fly-by-night movers and incidents of moving fraud annually, so you’re far from alone. Let’s take a look at some of the situations that warrant taking action, as well as the avenues through which you can file a formal complaint.

Bait and Switch

So, you’ve Googled movers in your area and have settled on one that’s both nearby and offering you a great quote. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To avoid a company overcharging you, always insist on obtaining copies of any signed paperwork. Save and print emails containing your communications with the customer service team member and any price that was quoted. You should also outline your timeframe in the contract, making sure to stipulate in clear terms how many hours you’ll be requiring their services.

You can shop around and request quotes from multiple companies, obviously — but if a price sounds like a bargain, you should at least entertain some healthy skepticism. By confirming details, going over all costs (some of which can be hidden), and getting the agreement in writing, you can rest easy knowing you’re protecting yourself at every step of the way. That way, if you get a surprise on your credit card statement or the invoice has a completely different amount on it, you’ll have a paper trail that proves you’re right. If you find that the amount you are charged differs from what was originally agreed upon, you certainly have cause for complaint.

Sloppy Work

Let’s say that the movers were careless and now your stuff has been damaged. Although a small dent or two is to be expected, if your furniture is visibly gouged, cracked, and/or broken, you should immediately take photographs. Some movers are simply thoughtless, neglecting to wrap up fragile objects or properly secure boxes and larger items like your furniture, which can be thrown around by the natural movements of the truck en route and easily become damaged.

If you’re concerned about certain belongings, it might be a smart move to take pictures of them beforehand just to be on the safe side. That way, if something were to happen, you have evidence that it was in fact the movers’ fault. Other examples of sloppiness include being late (or just not showing up at all on the date that was agreed upon), parking the truck on the grass instead of on the street or driveway, and not taking their time when hauling things through doorways and around corners, thereby scuffing up walls and door frames (not to mention the objects themselves).

Theft

Another all-too-common complaint among those reporting moving fraud — perhaps the most common of all — is theft. Unfortunately, the moving and storage industry as a whole doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to fully vetting employees and running comprehensive background checks. Therefore, some questionable individuals can be found operating in the business and will often swipe your stuff on the job thinking you won’t miss it.

Electronics, appliances, jewelry, tools, and other valuable or keepsake items should be inventoried and perhaps even photographed well before moving day. During the process of unpacking, refer to these pieces of evidence to ensure that your prized possessions haven’t been pilfered. If you do notice something missing, it should be brought to the company’s attention immediately. The reality is that whenever something is stolen from you, the clock is always ticking on you ever getting it back, as it could have been quickly pawned and sold to god-only-knows who.

Lodging Your Complaint

If you’ve experienced something similar to the examples mentioned above, you’re probably wondering what steps you should take next. It’s recommended that you contact the moving company first, explaining the issue and offering to provide documentation and/or photographic proof to back up your claims. After that, the ball’s in their court to make it right. In most cases, they will probably do what they can to monetarily reimburse you or otherwise resolve the problem. However, if the moving company is in denial of what happened or just isn’t taking satisfactory action, it’s time to up the ante even more.

When you really want to drive home the message that you’re a dissatisfied customer, you can utilize the many online platforms where the business has a presence to your advantage. In this day and age, a business profile on social media and review sites like Yelp is an essential means of broadcasting that business’ reputation to the world. In other words, they’ll probably take notice of a one-star rating, and will then treat your complaint a little more seriously in exchange for an amended review.

There are also more authoritative channels through which you can file your complaint, such as the BBB (Better Business Bureau). The BBB publicly displays the details of almost every business, its BBB rating and accreditation, and finally any written reviews and warnings if there’s been an ongoing pattern of complaints filed against that company. You’ll also want to contact the Department of Transportation’s specialized moving fraud division. They can investigate your case thoroughly and can get local law enforcement involved if necessary.

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), which is DOT-affiliated, also maintains a database of moving fraud complaints. By reporting your incident to them, it may trigger a federal investigation against the moving company. There may be even more organizations or resources in your particular city that provide assistance. At the very least, you’re putting the offending company on the radar for fraud and hopefully preventing them from doing the same to others.

If you’re looking to recover lost or stolen items, or want reimbursement for damages, you’re going to want to speak with a lawyer about taking your case to court. This may or may not be worthwhile — after legal fees and associated expenses, you may end up losing more money even if you win the case. That being said, the mere threat of a lawsuit has been known to compel some companies to do the right thing.

Scams and unethical behavior on the part of such companies can make moving — an already somewhat stressful event — a total nightmare. Know that whatever the case may be, there are appropriate measures to take both before and after the move. And that’s how you win the fight against moving fraud.

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