Moving fraud is an increasing reality for many real estate clients who look to moving companies for help when buying, selling or renting.

Complaints of fraud against moving companies have increased recently, particularly during the moving boom of 2020-2021. At the outset of the pandemic, many households chose to move amidst the freedom which came from remote work, relocating away from high-cost coastal areas to low-cost inland metros, no longer troubled by a long commute.

Consumer complaints of moving fraud nearly doubled from 4,300 in 2020 to 8,300 in 2021, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Scammers have a few tells. Real estate clients ought to look out for red flags before they settle on a moving company.

Be aware of the following warning signs, including when the company:

  • offers only vague information;
  • does not provide their FMCSA registration or insurance;
  • has generic phone, email, and other communication methods;
  • has no online presence;
  • claims to have been around for decades but provides no proof;
  • does not do onsite pre-moving inspections;
  • does not offer written estimates and offer prices which sound too low to be accurate;
  • demands cash and payments prior to move;
  • has only have glowing and recent reviews (likely left by themselves);
  • is overly pushy and demanding;
  • offers blank documents to sign;
  • does not provide exact addresses or other straight forward information; and
  • does not provide a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, even though they are required to do so, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

For example, in 2021, East Freight Logistics, brokered by Gold Standard Moving and Storage, operated without a license and defrauded multiple households in California, according to CBS Los Angeles.

The company hounded unsuspecting clients with unwarranted calls, and in a particular case showed up three days late with a rental truck. The many people swindled by this company are unable to get refunds, and even as their clients have been waiting months for their belongings — the fraudulent company has ceased paying storage fees, allowing storage facilities to auction off their clients’ personal items.

Clients who relied on East Freight Logistics have lost their cherished and sometimes irreplaceable belongings.

Fraudulent moving companies will attempt to drain the client of more money by issuing:

  • padded bills of lading;
  • low-ball estimates to suck in victims;
  • threats to hold onto belongings until they receive a much bigger estimate; and
  • bumps” to the weight of a shipment to spike prices.

Take a closer look at the rights and responsibilities for movers when looking to move or assist someone else’s move.

Choosing the right moving company

To ensure a smooth move, real estate professionals need to remind clients they have rights. Moving companies cannot wrongfully hold belongings or siphon movers out of money.

Movers and real estate professionals alike — look online for credible websites for moving companies. Be wary of websites which do not freely offer needed information about the company. When most of their reviews are overly glowing, generic, and generally recent, then they’re most likely not reviews to rely on. Contact places with reputable and feasible reviews which appear authentic. Better yet, only contact companies with reviews from people you know and trust and compile a list of reliable moving companies. Encourage your clients to compare estimates between companies. It’s natural to be curious and worried about the handling of personal goods.

Real estate professionals: helping clients stay vigilant of fraudulent moving companies can make the difference between a smooth and a horrific moving experience. Clients will remember the ways you helped them, especially when it saves them from the cost of losing their personal belongings. This orchestrates a path for client loyalty that expands to their social circle — creating a network of potential clients.

This knowledge is valuable for any real estate professional to have, especially when ensuring the safety of a move. Homebuyers and tenants appreciate the safety blanket of a well-informed agent. Real estate agents are able to make a difference by finding a few trustworthy local movers to recommend to their clients.

To file a fraud complaint against a household goods moving company, visit the FMCSA.

Related FARM letters:

FARM: Your moving checklist

FARM: An easy, breezy summer move!