Common International Moving Scams and How to Avoid Them

Moving to a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges, including the risk of falling victim to moving scams. These scams can range from fraudulent moving companies to deceptive practices that can cost you both financially and emotionally. Unfortunately, moving scams are on the rise, and individuals who are in the process of relocating are particularly susceptible.

In this guide, we will walk you through common international moving scams, why they’re becoming more prevalent, and most importantly, how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Why Moving Scams Are on The Rise

The digital age has provided scammers with new opportunities to prey on unsuspecting individuals. With the ease of creating fake websites, online advertisements, and social media profiles, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between legitimate moving companies and fraudulent ones. Additionally, the global nature of the internet allows scammers to operate across borders, making it even more challenging for law enforcement to track them down.

12 Big Moving Scams of the Year

Shady Brokers

Some brokers may offer you the service at low rates and in exchange they ask for a nominal deposit fee. After making the payment, they disappear. Beware of such brokers or moving companies. The best way to understand their credibility and authenticity is understanding that they are either affiliated or members of any of the following:

  • Membership in FIDI (Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux), a global federation of international removers.
  • Registered International Mover Certification (RIM) from the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).
  • Affiliation with Overseas Movers Network International (OMNI).
  • ISO 9002 certification, indicating high-quality practices and performance.
  • Licensing with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
  • Positive ratings and reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.

Bait-and-Switch Pricing

This scam involves offering a seemingly attractive low estimate upfront, only to dramatically increase the price once your belongings are loaded onto the moving truck. Scammers might claim there were unforeseen challenges or additional items not accounted for in the initial quote.

Hostage Load

In this scam, once your belongings are on the moving truck, the movers may demand a significantly higher fee than what was originally agreed upon. They might refuse to unload your items until you pay the inflated amount, effectively holding your possessions hostage.

Unlicensed Movers

Rogue movers operating without a valid license or insurance may offer low prices to attract customers. However, they might disappear with your belongings, leaving you with no legal recourse in case of damages or loss.

Fake Reviews and Ratings

Fraudulent moving companies often create fake positive reviews and high ratings on various platforms to appear trustworthy. Be cautious if you notice an unusually high number of positive reviews that lack detailed information or sound overly generic.

Incomplete Inventory

Some dishonest movers intentionally omit certain items during the inventory process. Later, they demand additional payment for these “missing” items, leaving you with little choice but to pay up to get your belongings.

Demanding Large Deposits

Requiring an unusually large upfront deposit is a red flag. Legitimate moving companies typically ask for payment upon delivery or a reasonable deposit to secure your booking.

Weight Discrepancy on Arrival

During price discussions, a salesperson might inquire about your budget and the volume of your belongings. They may then provide a quote within your budget to secure the job. However, upon delivery, the moving company could claim that your shipment’s weight exceeds the initial estimate, leading to higher costs.

To avoid this situation, exercise caution if a company doesn’t offer an in-house estimate and refrain from revealing your budget upfront. An in-house survey estimate is crucial for accuracy. It ensures the company understands the size of your items and brings the necessary equipment.

Last-Minute Price Surges

Scammers might claim unexpected fees or price hikes right before the moving day, catching you off guard and putting you in a difficult situation. Legitimate movers provide transparent pricing from the start.

No Written Estimate

Legitimate moving companies always provide a written estimate detailing the costs and services. If a company avoids giving you a written estimate or contract, it’s a clear warning sign of potential fraud.

Fake Credentials

Fraudulent movers may display counterfeit licenses, certifications, or memberships to appear legitimate. Always verify the authenticity of such credentials with the relevant authorities.

DIY Scams

Scammers might rent fake moving trucks and offer their services at an unrealistically low cost. Once they have your belongings loaded, they can vanish with your items, leaving you stranded without your possessions.

What are the red flags to watch out?

Being vigilant about potential moving scams can save you a lot of trouble. Watch out for the following warning signs:

  • Unrealistically low estimates: If a quote sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • No physical address: Legitimate moving companies have a verifiable physical location.
  • Pressure to make quick decisions: Scammers often try to rush you into making hasty choices.
  • Lack of transparency: Legitimate movers will explain all charges and procedures clearly.
  • No official paperwork: Always ask for written estimates, contracts, and receipts.

How to Report Such Scams?

If you believe you’ve encountered a moving scam, you can take the following steps:

  • Contact Your Local Authorities: Report the scam to your local law enforcement agency.
  • File a Complaint: Report the incident to relevant consumer protection agencies or organizations.
  • Leave Reviews: Share your experience on review websites or platforms to warn others.
  • Notify Moving Associations: If the scam involves a supposed moving company, inform relevant moving associations.

Protect yourself from falling victim to moving scams with these tips:

  • Research Thoroughly: Investigate moving companies online and check their reputation through reviews and ratings.
  • Get Multiple Estimates: Obtain quotes from at least three different moving companies to make an informed decision.
  • Ask for In-Home Estimates: Legitimate movers typically offer in-person assessments before providing an estimate.
  • Check Licensing and Insurance: Verify the mover’s license and insurance information with appropriate authorities.
  • Read Contracts Carefully: Understand all terms and conditions before signing any agreements.
  • Avoid Large Deposits: Refrain from paying large upfront deposits; pay upon delivery instead.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it’s better to walk away from the deal.
  • Use Reputable Platforms: Opt for well-known, reputable moving platforms or companies.
  • Secure Your Belongings: Keep valuable and important items with you during the move.

Choose The Right International Moving Company – International Air and Sea Shipping

International Sea & Air Shipping is a licensed and accredited international freight forwarder specializing in the safe and efficient shipping of household goods, personal items, and vehicles. With membership in esteemed organizations like the BBB, IAM, AMSA, and EUROMOVERS, we demonstrate a commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Our in-house operations, from packing and loading to customs clearance and delivery, ensure a seamless international moving experience. Our experienced team and customizable services, including options for specialized handling of car shipping and artwork and antiques, make us a reliable choice for those seeking a reputable and comprehensive solution for your international relocation needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I always choose the cheapest moving option to avoid international moving scams?

Not necessarily. While cost is a factor, choosing the cheapest option without considering the legitimacy and reputation of the moving company could expose you to potential scams. It’s important to strike a balance between affordability and reliability.

How can I find trusted international moving companies?

Start by conducting online research to find a list of moving companies that specialize in international relocations. Look for companies with established websites, positive customer reviews, and clear contact information. Also, customer reviews and ratings are essential in evaluating a moving company’s reputation and service quality. Look for companies with a substantial number of positive reviews and take note of any recurring issues mentioned in negative reviews.

What credentials should I check when looking for a moving company?

Verify the moving company’s licenses, insurance, and certifications. Ensure they are registered with relevant government authorities (differs from country to country) and have appropriate insurance coverage.

How can I ensure the estimates provided by the international moving companies are accurate?

Reputable movers typically offer in-home assessments to provide accurate estimates. Be wary of companies that offer quotes without assessing your belongings in person.

What should I do if I have any doubts about a moving company?

Trust your instincts. If a moving company raises any red flags or makes you uncomfortable, consider exploring other options.

Remember to be diligent in your research, compare different options, and choose a trusted international moving company that meets your specific needs and requirements.

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