Moving can be a stressful and expensive experience. Unfortunately, it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you become a victim of an unscrupulous moving company. Examples of harmful conduct by unscrupulous moving companies can include false advertising, undisclosed fees, lowball pricing with later surprise increased charges, and even possessions being held “hostage” in exchange for extortionate new amounts.
Some movers will quote a low price, load and move all of a consumer’s possessions, and then refuse to unload the possessions until the consumer pays a higher price. These “hostage loads” are unlawful and put consumers in an impossible position of either paying a scammer or risking the loss of their possessions.
Arizona’s Attorney General is warning Arizonans to be aware of potential scams.
“As the peak moving season arrives, I urge Arizonans to take steps to protect themselves as it may save you money and heartache down the road,” said Attorney General Kris Mayes. “Consumers should be present throughout the loading and unloading process, carefully read all documents before signing them, and safeguard valuables.”
AG Mayes encourages consumers to follow these tips to reduce the chances of being scammed during a move:
- Thoroughly research moving companies before signing a contract. Before hiring a company, check the company’s complaint history and reputation with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and read any online reviews.
- Check the mover’s federal registration for inter-state moves. Interstate movers are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and have a U.S. DOT number. You can confirm the mover’s registration by checking the FMCSA website at fmsca.dot.gov or by calling the FMCSA at 202-385-2423. Arizona does not have a registration law or a professional licensing requirement for movers.
- Get moving quotes in writing. Before moving, obtain at least three written estimates. Interstate (out-of-state) moves are priced according to weight and distance. Intrastate (in-state) moves are usually based on hourly charges.
- Beware of extremely low estimates. Dishonest moving companies may give you a low estimate prior to the move to get your business but then demand more money later. If the estimate sounds too good to be true, it could be deceptive.
- Ask about all possible charges and additional fees. Moving companies may charge additional fees for travel time, going up and down stairs, gas, packing materials and/or have other minimum charges. Make sure you receive a detailed up-front written estimate.
- Do not pay cash or a large deposit before the move. Beware of movers requiring a large up-front deposit, cash payment, or payment in full beforehand. Using a credit card provides some protection if there is a dispute.
- Make sure you have proper insurance. Most moving insurance is based upon weight and not the value of your goods. Your expensive, lightweight items may not have enough basic coverage if damages occur during your move. You may also want to check with your homeowner’s or renter’s policy or consider purchasing supplemental moving insurance.
- Move valuable items yourself. This includes cash, electronics, jewelry, medications, medical equipment, and bank records. Do not leave these items out during your move.
- Be Present During the Move. Be there to ask questions, give directions, and ensure that nothing is left behind.
- Do not sign blank or incomplete documents. Make sure you get copies of everything you sign. Untrustworthy movers can insert unapproved terms or fees into blank spaces on documents.
Seek help immediately if a mover attempts to hold your goods “hostage” for additional payment.
Contact your local law enforcement agency or the Arizona Department of Public Safety at 602-223-2212, 602-223-5000, and email [email protected]. Also, file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Under Arizona law, during an in-state move, it is illegal for a moving company to refuse to deliver or unload goods once you pay the “total estimated price” in the signed contract. A.R.S. §§ 44-1611 to 44-1616. Peace officers can direct a mover to deliver and unload goods being held illegally during in-state moves. A.R.S. §§ 44-1614(c).
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.