Planning a move: Tips to avoid a rogue mover scam

Planning a move: Tips to avoid a rogue mover scam

There are stories from coast-to-coast about people who thought they were hiring a professional mover, only to discover they were scammed by what’s known as a rogue mover, someone who charged them double or tripled the written estimate. Some watch the truck drive off with all their possessions and then never see them again.

What’s frustrating is all of this could be avoided if consumers simply would check on the federal website, protectyourmove.gov, which lists all licensed movers around the country. Of course, consumers also should consult Angie’s List to get reviews about local movers.

Moving is a stressful time. People typically are moving because of a life change – relocating for a job, losing a job, getting divorced, getting married, a death in the family. Understandably, people want to minimize the cost of moving, so they look for the best price. But, the lowest cost estimate isn’t always the best deal.

Consumers need to take a step back and think through why the estimate is so low. We’re not talking about shipping a box of cookies to Uncle Elmer in San Diego, we’re talking about shipping all your worldly goods and entrusting complete strangers to load, move and unload your household.

Here’s how a rogue mover typically works:

  • Company gives an estimate over the phone or online. 
  • On the day of the move, the company shows up with a rented truck with no company logos and workers aren’t in a uniform.
  • They require a deposit up front, or they ask for the full payment up front.
  • Once all the possessions are loaded into the truck, the company demands more money citing the estimate was only a portion of the charges, or that possessions weighed more than what had been estimated.
  • If the consumer refuses to pay the additional amount, the company will remove all the possessions on to the curb, or hold the possessions hostage until the consumer agrees to pay. Sometimes the mover will agree to a lower fee if the consumer pays in cash.
  • In worse-case scenarios, the company will drive away with all the goods, and the consumer will never see their items or the company again.

I don’t care which mover you hire, just hire a reputable mover. Here are some red flags consumers should watch out for:      

  • Refusing or avoiding on-site estimate. Often unscrupulous movers want to give you an estimate over the phone or online. The most accurate estimate will be at your home, where the mover can see all of your possessions. Moving costs are based on the weight of your items. One box of linens weighs a whole lot less than a box of books.
  • Demanding cash or a large deposit before the move. Reputable movers do not charge up front for moves. You pay when the move is complete.
  • The moving company does not have a local address, information about registration or insurance.
  • The answer the phone with a generic greeting, such as, “movers,” or “moving company.” This is a sign that they could be operating on several names, which is common among rogue movers.
  • On moving day, they show up with a generic truck or even a rented truck. Unless you’re OK with taking a chance that your items will be packed without damage, delivered where they’re supposed to be and cost what you told it would be, you’re better off sending them on their way and calling a reputable mover, even if it mean delaying your move a few days.

Moving is stressful enough, don’t add to it by hiring a mover who isn’t licensed and in good standing on protectyourmove.gov or Angie’s List.


Maggie Sopko McConnell is the owner of Sopko Moving & Storage, Inc. in Manville, N.J. and an agent with Wheaton Worldwide Moving. She grew up in the moving business taking over the 60-year-old family business from her father in 1980. Family owned and operated since 1946, Sopko Moving provides storage and moving services throughout the New York City area including local and long distance moves.

As of June 17, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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