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Avoid Moving Fraud!: 10 Red Flags to Watch out for when Hiring a Moving Service

August 30, 2021  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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They say moving is one of the most challenging life transitions a person can go through. We believe that and have definitely felt that over the last couple months. Our new home state of North Carolina has been incredible, and we can see us living here indefinitely, but getting to this point has been nothing short of a nightmare. A couple weeks ago Chris and I shared what happened with our moving company on IGTV–not for any sort of pity, but to be transparent about the moving fraud we fell victim of, and to hopefully shed some light for other people. Since then, we have received HUNDREDS of emails, comments and DM’s sharing stories of how this has also happened to you, your parents, your loved ones. It has been heartbreaking and also made us want to spread the message even more. Knowledge is power, and we can’t help but feel like if we only knew what to keep our eyes out for, we could have potentially avoided this catastrophe all together.

If you don’t follow us on Instagram and want to catch up, be sure to watch the video below where we share what has happened to us.

In summary, we hired a moving broker (red flag! more on that later), who quoted us $26,000 for our full service move. We paid a hefty downpayment (red flag). Then after the moving company arrived, the bid doubled. And AFTER they packed up all of our things and drove the truck away, we were told it was going to be $85K. They had all of our things. They drove away. We felt completely helpless. It wasn’t until they arrived at our new home a month later that we were told by the truck driver that a lot of our things were put in a storage unit and not loaded into the moving truck to come to North Carolina.

It has required lawyers and legal action and MORE MONEY to get that storage unit opened but the good news is, we did and the rest of our belongings are actually supposed to arrive via U-pack this week! The video goes into all of the details and where we made mistakes and what we learned. If you’re planning a move–please watch and learn from us!

Many people have asked us to share the name of the company so they won’t use them and sadly, that probably wouldn’t help you. The company we used has already been dissolved and probably started again under a new name, and there are HUNDREDS of moving companies scamming people.  We feel like it’s more important for us to do our best to educate our audience on what red flags to be aware of so we made a little graphic you can refer to or share with family and friends. We would love for this to never happen to anyone ever again, and the only way to do that is to share the message!

Keep in mind that these are just things to be aware of and should’t be interpreted as black and white, and some should be weighed more heavily than others. If you see one, proceed with caution. A handful of them? Beware and maybe turn around before you find yourselves stuck and deep in it like we were.

1. RED FLAG: All customer reviews are recent, and the business doesn’t show longevity

This is a sign that the company has possibly been operating under a different name before, received too many negative reviews, and has re-started under a new name with stuffed reviews. The moving company we used was even accredited by the Better Business Bureau and had amazing reviews! However, we didn’t notice that they were all recent reviews (possibly stuffed!). Look for history in the reviews and ask friends for their recommendations.

2. RED FLAG: Hiring a broker

A broker in this case is somebody who acts as an intermediary between the customer and a moving company. A broker gets a share of the moving fees, so in our case, it was in his interest to assign a fraudulent moving company to us because he knew he would get more money out of us as well. The price of our moving costs went up, and his cut of the pay increased as well. We recommend straight up asking “are you a broker?” We also did not know the name of our moving company until they showed up on moving day. Looking online, that company was already getting negative reviews rolling in but since then they’ve shut down and we assume they are already working under a new name. I know that there are probably legitimate moving brokers out there, but I wouldn’t work with one again.

3. RED FLAG: No in-person or over Zoom walk through of your home is conducted

Part of the estimation process should include some sort of a walk through. This is meant to give the most accurate estimation cost, and should be done well before any money is paid, and before any movers show up. Our movers actually had Chris and I send dimensions of all of our furniture, as well as the estimated amount of boxes. After their calculations, we were assured that he’s been doing this for over 20 years and that the price of $26,000 was fair (already double than our original estimate). With that should have come a binding estimate before they come and start moving all of our stuff. This price ultimately changed on moving day when the movers arrived because it was the first the first time the mover was seeing all of the stuff we had. If the moving company doesn’t do an in person (or over Zoom) estimation, that’s a red flag.

4. RED FLAG: Paying a large deposit up-front 

We understand the need for deposits. We work with contractors all the time and this is a very normal part of the game. Our recommendation is no more than $1,000 up front. Before our movers even arrived we paid $7,000, and on the day they left our Idaho house with all of our belongings, we had to pay an additional $63K. At this point we were questioning what reason they even have to drive across the country and deliver our stuff because we had already paid them so much money. When they arrived at our new home, we were threatened to pay another $12K or they wouldn’t unload the truck (they stopped working until we gave them cash) and when we discovered all of our things weren’t even there–we knew we’d likely never see it with how much we had already paid them. DON’T PAY ANYTHING MORE than a small deposit up front. Anything more is a red flag that they could be planning something similar for you.

5. RED FLAG: Being asked for payment in cash

Red flag, red flag, red flag. Cash is untraceable. If they don’t accept basic forms of payment like card, or wire transfers, then run.

6. RED FLAG: Price increases after the movers arrive

At this point you are going to feel like you have no other options. We definitely did. You probably have to be out of your house in a few days or the NEXT DAY, and you’ve already made it this far so I guess you just pay the extra money? No. Not true. If they’re asking for more money than what was agreed upon in your contract, then walk away. They are likely trying to take advantage of you. They might even ask you to pay for the time of their movers up to that point, and for the time it takes to put all the stuff back but you can say no, and you should say no. If they didn’t give you the correct numbers then that’s on them. If they push back and threaten holding onto your stuff until you pay, it might be time to get the police involved.

7. RED FLAG: Not honoring the binding estimate contract after they’ve taken your belongings

If they come and evaluate your belongings, and if they give you a binding estimate, and if they don’t raise the price once they have taken your stuff, they’re likely not trying to take advantage of you. Hopefully you wouldn’t find yourself in this position if you were already on the look out for other red flags. You shouldn’t be expected to pay in full until you have your stuff.

8. RED FLAG: Movers taking your belongings to a storage unit without disclosing its location

To be honest, we didn’t even know that some of our stuff was tucked away in a secret storage unit until we were in North Carolina. The driver who delivered all out stuff actually tipped us off and even gave us one blurry photo he had. Our piano, and table, and treadmill, and countless boxes of unknown belongings were kept in there. We still don’t know if they were ever going to tell us about this unit, or if they were hoping to hold the stuff ransom to get more money out of us. If you ever hear mention of a storage unit without your consent, I would jump in the car right away and follow them there. Again, possibly a time to call the police. Because the storage unit was set up in their name, we weren’t able to access it without taking legal action (that takes time!).

9. RED FLAG: No tracking options given

Ideally there should be a way to track your stuff. Our only way of knowing where our stuff was, was by calling the mover directly and asking for information. He was always extremely hard to get ahold of.

10. RED FLAG: No delivery date given

If they don’t give you a delivery date–red flag. Your contract should even include a clause of what should happen if they do arrive late. An incentive for them to be on-time. To our relief we were given a delivery date, and they did arrive on that date (they technically arrived a day early and we had to negotiate and pay extra for them to hold it for one more day).

Again, these are red flags and you should proceed with caution if you see these when you’re deciding which moving company to use. Definitely walk away if you see even a few of these. Not worth the risk, and you should be able to feel really comfortable and confident with the people moving all of your belongings.

Other things to note is that you might be in trouble if they didn’t bring the right size truck in the beginning and said they’re going to have to get more trucks or put your stuff in a storage unit. And also if they end up hiring more people to help with the move and expect you to pay the difference in that.

Most people only make a move like this one or two times in their entire lives. Military obviously being the exception, but these companies know that. They know that your stability and reality is grounded in this move and you’re likely to get desperate–might have to take out a loan or max our your credit cards. Moving fraud can ruin peoples lives and again, we just don’t want to have to see anybody going through what we did.

Since we posted the video, we do have an exciting update on all of our stuff in the storage unit. We had no jurisdiction over the unit because it wasn’t in our name so we filed a court order to get it opened. After our mover was served, we were able to negotiate that the locks be removed and a crew of family and friends (my heart) arrived with a trailer and they loaded everything in. It was such a happy moment after all that we had been through and we slept really well that night. We hired U-Pack (a moving option that 3 members of our team used and had a great experience with), and we received confirmation yesterday that the truck was picked up and is in transit! Celebrating all the wins with this one.

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What do you think?

  1. Lindsay Dunn says:

    Ugh! Watching your video makes me want to cry as we’re in a very similar situation right now. Our stuff was supposed to have been delivered 2 days ago and the company isn’t answering our calls. My husband spoke to him via text on Friday and he mentioned his crew has/had covid but he never reached out to us, we’ve had to reach out each time. They’ve been a nightmare from day 1. We’re in Missouri, our stuff is in storage in Texas!

  2. Jen C says:

    I’m so sorry that you had to go through this nightmare. A nightmare that you probably were hoping that you would wake up from. Thankfully you are receiving the rest of your things from the storage unit and that you had family and friends to help. Thank you for your story and bringing awareness to this moving fraud.

  3. ChrisKC says:

    I’m sorry you went through this we learned a lesson the hard way about moving companies too during a corporate relocation.

    I alarmed to learn you had relocated to North Carolina….at one point it was on our radar because it’s very pretty and real estate is affordable but it is a state with a very dirty secret: the environment. I first learned about it in the documentary on Netflix called What The Health. You can do some research but I wouldn’t advise drinking the water. Here is one article there are many more: https://waterkeeper.org/news/north-carolina-is-no-1-in-a-dangerous-pollution-category/

  4. Rebecca R says:

    BBB accreditation doesn’t actually mean anything because it’s a paid-for accreditation. The Better Business Bureau is a for-profit business whose business model is selling accreditation and services to other businesses. It’s not un-biased or monitored by any government body. DO NOT let yourself be swayed by BBB ratings.

  5. suzanne says:

    Wow, so sorry this happened to you. I think the biggest red flags were that no one came to look at you home before moving (given that you have such a large home and amout of stuff), that like you did not have a contract (at least I don’t think you did) and finally the cash only part would have stopped me from moving forward.

  6. Claudine says:

    Grateful came across your story of nightmare of movers as putting what you had to endure. Red flag lists we dont think about as anxious about moving forward. Your story was heartbreaking and I am so very sorry you had horrible experiences. Grateful you were able to retrieve your items back that’s a blessing. I am getting ready to move 4 states over. I don’t drive so for me moving company. I have checked if BBB approved as now will look at your red flags more. My daughter family as her in laws moved 6 states so lost 5 drivers right there. Will look at U Pack. I furniture only little table, bed, TV; kiddie table; 13 -20 boxes as one lamp. My entire area is 900 square feet. I wish you all the very best in life as you begin a new adventure in your new home. Sorry I couldn’t get video to work.

  7. Rosee says:

    For people who can’t afford movers. Rent a truck (any day but Sunday,) call the Church of Jesus Christ in your area and let them know you need help moving, They will always help, they are good at it, and they are extremely trustworthy. They send fit helpers to your old place and to your new place. They will help you pack, load boxes, unload, and unpack, no strings (or payment!) attached; but they might not turn down a donut or slice of pizza.

  8. Karen L. says:

    Chris and Julia, That “measuring” work they told you to do was all a part of the ruse and distraction on top of all the rest. We have never done that in a move. Loading a truck goes by weight which is estimated by the number of case goods, etc. which their representative comes to look at in person prior to any contract. Just another thing to show that group’s shadiness and bad intent.

  9. Lori R. says:

    Did you get the piano??!!!

  10. karen sunday says:

    I watched the video and told my husband about it I said I think it sounds like a Tony Soprano moving scam it sounded so gangster pretty sure its felony fraud and I hope they get caught!!!

  11. KARA AMUNDSON says:

    –These people will claim to underbid “or meet the competitors’ price.” Nope.
    –They may also ask for money order…also untraceable.
    –They will frequently claim to have a high insurance policy for your goods…but, in fact, this is not legal in interstate transport.
    –Likewise climate-controlled vans. If United doesn’t have them, neither does Mystery Movers.
    –They’ll procrastinate with assigning a transport service…though you set your date two months prior.
    –I’m feeling fortunate that I dodged the bullet of putting my goods on the van, but many people have has to wait, pay extra, etc only to discover their
    items to have been destroyed.
    Interestingly, when I was still trying to get my move going, someone 3x answered the (only) company phone and said, “You should find another mover…this is a scam.” WOW.
    I *ALMOST WENT* with “American Plus Movers”. No doubt they’re on the phase-out.

  12. David Yates says:

    I was scammed by us standard van lines out if south Florida. BEWARE.
    US Standard Van Lines
    550 Fairway Drive Suite 102
    Deerfield Beach FL 33441
    Phone: 877-222-4550

    • KARA AMUNDSON says:

      Also Clematis Dr. in Florida. Basically any company out of Florida is suspicious… I just spoke to a guy from United and he confirmed my suspicions, that Florida is a hotbed of bad actors in this “industry. ”
      Ever since my near miss with a scam mover, I’ve been getting loads of spam calls from Florida!

  13. Merry says:

    We moved a couple states away last year. I used one of those online brokers, no visualization of my items. I think it was going to be in the $1400-1600 range since we didn’t move a whole lot (only furniture we moved was 2 beds, no major appliances, etc). $700ish up front. We asked for details on the actual movers once the broker booked them and it turned out to be one of the companies you read about in the news with demands for extra money, hostage loads, broken/missing items. I did not sleep that night. I tried to separate the items I thought I could stand to lose if the worst happened and that pile got so small it wasn’t worth letting those people come out to my house. I called the broker as soon as they opened and told them to cancel the truck. We lost that $700ish deposit but I felt better losing that instead of losing all my stuff. Luckily, we had a pickup truck that was capable of pulling a U-Haul trailer.

    We bought a house this summer and decided to rent a U-Haul truck and hire labor to load/unload and it was cheaper than hiring a moving company – and I didn’t have to lose sleep worrying!

    • KARA AMUNDSON says:

      Ditto. I lost a bigger deposit but they were hours away after much inconvenience to me so I gave ‘m the ol’ one-two: canceled some $ AND the truck! I’ll be ok.

  14. Rachel says:

    Oh I’m so glad your stuff has been rescued and will be arriving soon!!🙌🏼

  15. Joan Mest says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your horrible move, but glad all has worked out. Summer is the craziest time to move as most parents want to able to transition school aged children and get them aclamated to their neighborhood. With that being said, truck space is at a premium price generally from mid May through Sept. This is my 21st year working for the same locally owned business since 1959. Our hearts ache when people call and tell us their movers don’t show up or price goes up. We always tell people that no reputable moving company will ask for a non redundable deposit. I’m blessed to have learned as much as I have over the years. The age old adage still rings true, “if it sounds to good to be true, it is”.
    Stay positive!

  16. Patty says:

    I am so, so sorry you had to go through this! We moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City in 1996, but our move was completely coordinated and paid for by my husband’s company. Now it was a long time ago and I’m not sure how many companies move people anymore but I doubt moving companies would do this with a corporation involved. Thank you for the information though. Glad you finally got the rest of your things back!

  17. Mom says:

    I couldn’t get the video to play

  18. Km says:

    Oh my gosh, there is an add for getting moving quotes on this post. Thought you should know.

    • Laura says:

      I’m reading this in Hong Kong and there is an ad for local movers here! (And a company I’ve never heard of, at that.)

      • Kim B says:

        You know what — I’m getting the same thing reading the post here in Paris ! Déménagements etc etc

  19. Ajt says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Sorry that you had such a horrible experience, but your willingness to share will help many others.

  20. Sharon says:

    I do feel less confused about all the references to this situation now that you have written this post – thanks for keeping nom-instagrammars in the loop. I appreciate how you are willing to give your cautionary tale and am thankful you are getting your stuff back!! So sorry to hear about the huge loss of money, I do hope you will be able to recoup what you can and make peace with your losses. What a stressful experience. Glad it is almost over!

  21. These are such great tips and red flags, I absolutely hate that ya’ll had to go through this, but am so glad you are using your platform to minimize others going through it! I also hope you are able to sue the moving company and get some of your money back!!

  22. Cathy says:

    It’s so heartbreaking to hear of this terrible news! Have any commenters had an issue with a local move? (Within the same city?). I just moved apartments locally and I feel blessed that it went smoothly – bc I didn’t do much research!!

  23. DWF says:

    We used U-Pack and our Elders Quorum. We packed everything ourselves and they had that truck jenga-ed up in no time flat. Seriously, it was like 20 minutes. I highly recommend U-Pack and it’s way cheaper than PODS. Sorry they defrauded you. Probably no way to recoup money since it was cash.

  24. Karen Peterson says:

    Luckily, when we moved from California to Washington, we dealt with a moving company that was reputable. We were terrified that we would be scammed, but they stuck to their bid and delivered our furniture and other belongings on time.

  25. Amity says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I recently read an article that had similar red flags about moving companies it was dated from 2015. This kind of thing has been going on for along time. I’m sure your speaking out will help many avoid this problem.
    But my question is do you have any advice on how one should handle any of these red flags once they have your stuff? Like they just finished packing the truck and ask for extra money. What do you do in that moment? So stressful!

  26. Meredith says:

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this! Thank you for sharing this story. Moving is one of those industries that is really opaque— it’s hard to tell what’s normal and fair, especially because most of us only move occasionally. I used u-pack containers for our cross-country move and can vouch for them as well. They even worked with us to schedule a same day drop off and pick up to accommodate our DC apartment building’s 4-hour max time that one could reserve the loading dock (couldn’t leave the container on the street due to frequent car break ins on dark/deserted back street).

  27. Cheryl says:

    We just made our last major move. It was very expensive so O called one of the “broker” companies. The guy I was talking to was giving me the hard sell amd was full of compliments and “spoke to his supervisor and got me a better rate if I pay today”. I called the major moving companies and it really wasn’t that much more expensive. Someone came out, took an inventory, gave me a binding estimate that could only go down if the weight was less. If it was more, no additional fee. Our stuff did end up in two loads but the truck driver was the same for both and he was super concerned that we had everything and that nothing was damaged. Yes, I hated paying more but I felt like it would be worth it. The other thing we were able to do is hill a large U haul with all of our storage bins , most of our kitchen stuff amd more. We also packed ourself. No matter what, it is stressful. The Uhaul did save us several thousand dollars and I felt good knowing we had most of the irreplaceable items in our possession the whole time.

  28. Sarah says:

    One thing I think is important to note is, there seems to be a big difference between the actual movers and the coordinating point of contact. I’ve moved multiple times with a moving company, experienced what you did on a smaller scale, have had many of these red flags with the coordinators- and in every instance it seems like the physical movers are running a second scam too! I’ve been blackmailed into giving higher tips in exchange for not raising the quote for bs reasons almost every time. In my latest move, they grabbed more than we agreed upon (I was going to move the delicate things myself), then blackmailed me in exchange for that “favor”. Ended up costing me $400 in tips alone on top of an almost $2k bill for a small apartment. And I considered that move the least scammy I’ve ever had!! It’s crazy that such a shady industry exists. I’m so glad to hear you got your stuff back, but the amount you paid is incredibly unfair. Thank you for using your platform to spread the word

  29. Lisa Echsner says:

    Just moved my recent college graduate from Louisville, KY to Austin, TX.
    Used a broker and while mine cost nowhere near what yours did it was a nightmare. I will say the people that picked up did a great job packing things – nothing broken – event glass top tables. But they did almost double the price!
    It ended up going to Birmingham, AL – and once there I could not get a move date that it was going to get to Austin. So ended up going to Birmingham, renting a truck and picking up from the moving company. We wanted it there and did not want to wait. So we picked up and drove to Austin.
    The moving company asked why I wanted to pick up and I told them that I wanted my stuff and was afraid of it getting there and them wanting more $$$’s!
    Never again – I was afraid of the broker and thought I did my homework, but I was wrong. Live and learn!! If and when she comes home we will certainly do it differently, and so glad to know about U-Pack!!

  30. Leslie Garrelts says:

    I’ve been following your nightmare and honestly when you first posted about it, my heart sank for you guys. My husband and I have owned a successful, local moving company for almost 20 years and needless to say, we’ve seen this happen.
    I was a little nervous to read your red flags because even great moving companies have different policies to protect themselves. (for instance: we require half down on a long distance move) Believe it or not, we’ve been scammed hundred of times over the years by people writing fake checks, etc. But all your red flags are great advice! I hope it causes people to do a little more research in the companies they hire. Best of luck to you all, glad to hear the rest of your belongings are arriving soon!

    • Leslie Garrelts says:

      A piece of advice for those who are moving long distance and looking to hire movers: hire a local company who does long distance moves. Our company will have the same employees that pack and load the customer, to drive and unload the customer the very next day (or however long it takes to drive the distance). There’s no transferring the loads/trucks/offsite storage. When we load someone, they are the only load we have for the truck and it gets delivered the next day.

  31. Molly says:

    I watched your video a couple of weeks ago and read this blog this morning, and I’m so appalled that a business can get away with this and still survive. I’m very sorry you had to go through this, but thank you for sharing and putting yourself out there in the hopes that it helps the next family moving!

    Love your blog!

  32. Amanda says:

    I hate how it seems that there isn’t a good way to find a good mover. People’s entire belongings are relying on this service and it just seems like such a gamble. Ill definitely use your tips if/when I ever make a distance move, but the process still me nervous.

  33. Svaha says:

    I feel like we are dealing with this with our pool remodel. We were told that it would be finished in 3-4 months, but it has now been 5-6, with no end in sight. We feel helpless because all the other pool companies didn’t even respond to us, so we don’t even know if we could switch to another service. The only good news is that we haven’t paid any money yet.

  34. Ally says:

    I thought you mentioned that you were initially quoted $13k and then it was bumped up to $26k? Even $26k makes my stomach turn, but I’m pretty frugal. Still a major red flag that they gave you a quote without seeing how many items and furniture you had. Homes can contain such a wide range of items that the square footage does not given an accurate estimation. Hopefully you are able to recoup at least some of the money you paid, best wishes!

  35. Sienna says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you guys. That’s insane! It only cost us $20k to get a full service pack and move all the way from Colorado to Australia.

    • Corinne says:

      Yes same, we paid about $10k from SE Asia to Australia with a full shipping container. Can’t believe the initial quote let alone the final figures. I guess sea is cheaper??

  36. Eve says:

    Oh my word! What a traumatic nightmare. I am so sorry for what you’ve been through. Thank you so much for sharing your (painful) story with us.

  37. Sarah says:

    So very glad that your remaining belongings are on the way and sorry you’ve had to go through all of this.

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