(WHTM) — Moving can be one of the most stressful times there is. That stress can leave you vulnerable to rising scams.
“Moving scams are right up there with online shopping scams in terms of their prevalence,” Miranda Marquit, Chief Data Analyst for hireahelper.com said. Her company connects people with movers in their area.
She says moving scams this year are projected to cost consumers more than one and a half million dollars, that’s 42% higher than last year.
One reason for that is an increase in people moving. The scams are also easy to pull off.
“When you’re moving, you’re stressed. You’re doing a lot of comparison shopping, you’re trying to find a good deal and you’re kind of desperate to get the thing done. And it just makes a little more people more susceptible,” she said.
In one typical moving scam, the so-called movers take your deposit and then never show up on moving day.
“Another type of moving scam is where they give you a really low quote, they do show up, and you pack up all of your things. But then when it comes time to unload your things at the destination, all of a sudden your move costs much more. They hold your possessions hostage until you pay an extra fee,” Marquit said.
But the most common moving scam is a simple one.
“You’ll have folks reach out to you and say, ‘Hey we can help you change your address.’ They’ll claim to do this service for you for anywhere between $50 and almost $100. The reality of this situation is you can go down to your local post office and they have a little change of address packet for you, and that’s free,” Marquit said.
To avoid becoming a victim, you have to do your homework.
“The first red flag is when you are comparing moving services, watch out for somebody that seems very, very inexpensive,” she said.
Marquit recommends comparing three to five different moving companies. She also says to avoid movers who don’t visit beforehand.
“You want to look for a company where somebody will come in and actually look at your items, go through, and in a professional manner give you a quote. So make sure you’re working with somebody who does that,” she said.
Finally, be wary of the types of payment they’ll accept. If they only take wire transfers or payment apps, avoid them — those aren’t refundable.
If you do fall victim to a moving scam and your items are being held hostage, Marquit said there may not be much you can do.
“Unfortunately there’s not a ton you can do. If you want your stuff back you may have to immediately pay for it. But you can complain and you can file a report,” she said.
The bottom line is, to do your research on any moving company you hire and check online reviews. You can also check to see if they’re certified within the state.
While doing the move, keep an inventory of all the items you have, and keep any valuables with you, not the mover.