The removalist industry can be somewhat of a wild wild west and it’s not so unusual to become a victim of a moving scam. While there are some rules that all removalist businesses must abide by, some items are not governed. If you don’t watch out you will have a nightmare of time moving home or office for there are plenty of sharks out there. These dishonest removalist companies are well aware of the situation you will be in on the day of the move.
They are well aware of the fact that if you cancel out of the move on the day of the move, there is almost no chance of you finding a replacement removalist. Knowing this, many bad removalists will make plenty of unreasonable demands, which you simply can’t refuse. You can educate yourself through this CBC Marketplace program on how dishonest removalists prey upon unsuspecting consumers. Moving company scams: What you need to know.
Luckily, there are some early warning signs that will help you identify potential moving scam and avoid some of the worst moving companies. Watch out for these 6 warning signs of dishonest movers, don’t get caught off guard!
Moving scam indicator 1: Suspiciously low prices / price baiting
This is one of the oldest tricks known to men, but many still fall for it. If the price for the moving job looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Unlike the banking industry where every aspect of the business is closely governed and monitored by government bodies, the removalist industry has a little more freedom in many respects.
There’s no real guideline or limit on whether a business charges certain extra fees. A removalist business is free to charge extra for stairs. In fact, some items like pianos or pool tables require extra effort and usually require extra fees for effort and insurance purposes. This sort of thing doesn’t become an issue unless a business hides these fees from you, by either not mentioning it, or mentioning it when it’s too late to refuse the service. Simply put, they’ll draw you in with a low price, and once you’re locked in you will get a bill that is much more expensive.
Some of the most common hidden extra fees include:
- Weekend surcharge.
- Fuel surcharge.
- Depot fee.
- White goods fee.
- Stairs fee.
You can see from the CBC video, how quickly and easily extra fees mount up even though the customers were promised “no other fees” over the phone. It’s difficult to dispute with these dishonest removalists once they’ve loaded up your items into their trucks, as your items have become a hostage.
So, if you’ve come across a price that is too good to be true, you’d better do your homework to ensure that you won’t be slapped with extra fees when your guards are down. Thanks to paying attention and dedicating some of your time in the preparation phase, you can avoid moving scam and eliminate potential bad moving companies.
Moving scam indicator 2: No written estimate or a copy of the contract in advance
Your removalists should provide you with a written estimate well in advance. It doesn’t matter whether the estimate/quote is in digital format or on paper, but it’s important that it lists the number of items and fees that you’re being charged for. Shifty removalists will often avoid sending you written quotes or contracts in advance. These dishonest removalists prefer to tell you a verbal quote and then, later on, add on charges. Have a look at these examples.
Don’t fall for these cheap tricks, and withhold paying for a deposit until you receive a written quote or a contract whether they’re in the form of email or on paper. The very last thing you want is to have your removalist show up on the date of the move with a contract asking you to sign on the spot. This isn’t usually what an honest removalist does. You want to sort out the written estimate/quotes well in advance. If left til too late, you won’t have a choice to find another removalist.
Dishonest removalists companies like to hide away their dishonest practice by hiding away their extra charges. You may see one price on their website, then if you scroll down you may find there are lots of conditions with additional costs. Be alarmed if these fees are hidden amongst a wall of texts, and or if they’re in extra fine and smaller print. Here are some examples:
- *Weekday discounted price – Weekend price extra.
- **Additional charges for whitegoods.
- ***Price displayed for properties with no stairs – Stair charges apply.
It has gotten even more ridiculous with these hidden conditions nowadays. In some cases, you’ll have to hover over some information icon to display hidden fees and conditions.
Do your homework and try to spot hidden conditions regarding the price.
Moving scam indicator 4: No proof of insurance, no mention of insurance
The very last thing you want is having your valuables damaged or being destroyed in any shape or form. You want to ensure that your movers are fully insured for the unlikely event something goes wrong. Insurance also costs money. Many unregistered businesses that operate via online classifieds often have no insurances. If your furniture or expensive items were to be damaged, these businesses may not be able to reimburse you for the damages.
Ask yourself whether you’d be willing to go through all the trouble of disputing damages and chasing down for reimbursement from an unregistered business or an uninsured business. It can cost you hundreds or even thousands for trying to save you $20-30. Do yourself a favour, ask for proof of insurance, especially if the moving company never mentions anything about insurance. Thanks to this, moving scam can be quickly discovered!
Moving scam indicator 5: Cash deposits / Unreasonably high deposits
Deposits are a necessity. Bookings must be made in advance, and to ensure that these bookings are honoured, deposits have to be made in advance. There is no real set rule on deposits. Some businesses charge a flat percentage of estimate, whereas others charge $100-$200 depending on circumstances. Here are a few things that you should actively avoid as they are a clear indication of a possible moving scam:
- Cash deposit request without a receipt.
- Additional deposit on the day of the move.
- An unreasonable amount of deposit.
Your deposits in most cases should be made in advance to lock in your time slot. This way the removalist locks away your item slot and book in new businesses according to the available time slot without having to worry about the cancellation. You should have a record of your deposit whether they are a direct bank transfer or a card payment. Avoid cash deposits, on the day of the move, especially without any receipts.
If you’ve already paid for a deposit in advance of your moving date, you should not be asked for a second additional deposit on the day of the move. (unless there is a change in circumstances) You’ve already made an agreement and you have already paid a deposit. You’ve honoured your part of the bargain, and there is no need for you to enter into a new contract.
Moving scam indicator 6: Suspicious online reviews
Online reviews such as Google reviews have become very popular reflecting their ease of accessibility. However, if you’re not an internet savvy person, you might be tricked into believing a dishonest online review without ever realising it. It might be tempting to just go with any company that has a 5 stars rating, but in reality, there’s a lot more to it than just a star rating. Take a look at the following example. This business has a google rating of 5 Stars.
Now let’s have a look at Easy Peasy Removals Google Rating for our Ormond Depot:
As you can see both movers have 5 stars Google rating. However, a 5-star rating from 26 reviews is not quite the same as 2 reviews. Having more than a couple of dozen reviews makes the review rating more reliable. Shady businesses usually use their personal accounts to rate their business 5 stars. You just can’t fake a 5-star rating with two dozen reviews.
Or look at our 122 reviews from customers who used our Sandringham depot for their Melbourne Bayside removal:
“Who” reviews the business is also important on Google reviews. Here is a review from someone who regularly leaves reviews on businesses. 73 reviews and 70 photos – making this review more credible than from a person who only has one review.
Let’s say that there is a shady removalist called “John Doe’s Removals,” and the only reviews that you see are 5-star reviews from John Doe, and Jenny Doe – you can safely assume that the review and/or the Google rating can be misleading, especially if they both only have one reviews each. That is not to discredit all accounts with only one review. Always look for reviews by active reviewers with many reviews under their belt, as it’s almost impossible to fake these reviews.
Shady businesses, including scammy moving companies, do the following to mislead their customers.
- Have a 5-star Google rating from a small pool of reviews (2-3)
- Reviewers of the business are mostly related (Joe Citizen & Mary Citizen)
- Reviewers of the business have only ever reviewed one business ever, that is the business you’re looking up.
So despite the popularity and also helpfulness of Google reviews and other review platforms, sometimes they can be misused. Thanks to our advice, you’ll easily spot and avoid a possible moving scam based on the three points above.
Moving can become a true nightmare if you end up with the wrong kind of movers. Once you realise there’s something wrong, it is often too late. However, if you watch out for the 6 warning signs of a moving scam, you can help protect yourself and avoid bad moving companies. With the correct set of knowledge, you can now avoid dishonest movers.