PHOENIX -- More than 35 million Americans move each year. Moving can be a stressful and expensive experience, and it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you become the victim of an unscrupulous moving company. Moving scams can result in lost or damaged possessions, hundreds or even thousands of dollars in “extra” fees, and hours/days of wasted time.
“Moving is stressful enough and Arizonans should be able to trust a moving company with their most valuable possessions,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Arizona consumers need to be wary of moving scams and know their rights.”
Moving scams can include false advertising, undisclosed fees, possessions being “held hostage,” and low-ball prices. Some movers will quote a low price, load all of a consumer’s household goods, and then refuse to unload the goods until the consumer pays a higher price. These “hostage loads” are illegal and put consumers in an impossible position of either paying a scammer or risking the loss of their possessions.
In 2017, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office successfully advanced legislation to protect Arizona families during the moving process. Arizona law now requires movers to accurately disclose information about fees, charges, and insurance before loading your goods. It also prohibits movers from adding additional costs on the back end and refusing to deliver goods unless they provided consumers with an upfront, written estimate and the consumer has not paid that previously agreed upon amount.
Follow these tips to reduce the chances of being scammed during your move:
- Thoroughly research moving companies. Before hiring a company, check on a business’s complaint history and reputation with organizations like the Better Business Bureau. Start your research early. Read online reviews. Do you see consistent red flags from real customers?
- Check mover’s registration. Interstate movers are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and have a U.S. DOT number. You can confirm your mover is registered by checking the FMCSA’s website or calling the FMCSA at (202) 385-2423. Arizona has no registration or professional licensing requirements for movers.
- Beware of extremely low estimates. Dishonest moving companies will often give you a low estimate over the phone or in online postings to get your business and then demand far more after your goods have been loaded onto their truck. This is illegal.
- Ask about charges or additional fees. Moving companies may charge additional fees for travel time, packing materials, stairs, or gas, and/or have minimum charges. Make sure you receive a detailed upfront written estimate.
- Move valuable items separately. If you have valuable items like cash, electronics, or jewelry; important medical items like medications or inhalers; or confidential items like bank statements, move those items yourself.
- Make sure you have proper insurance. Most moving insurance is based upon weight and not the value of your goods, so your expensive heavy items may not have enough basic coverage if damaged in the move. Most insurance companies will require you to purchase additional insurance if you want to cover the cost of any mishaps beyond the basic level of coverage. Read the insurance coverage and ask questions before signing any contract.
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, you can file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. You can also contact the Consumer Information and Complaints Unit in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763; in Tucson at (520) 628-6648; and outside of the metro Phoenix area at (800) 352-8431. If a moving company is holding your goods "hostage", contact your local police department and file a complaint with our office immediately.