Moving is already considered to be one of the most stressful events you can encounter and the last thing you need is shady moving company taking advantage of you. The Competition Bureau Canada issued a news release about a “rogue movers” scam that seems to be popping up across the country. Here are some tips and tricks to stay wise to shady moving scams.
What’s the scam?
The moving industry isn’t regulated in Canada and while many moving companies are legitimate, some, unfortunately, are not. According to the Competition Bureau, these shady movers are posting moving ads online (Craigslist, Kijiji, etc.) for really cheap and with “no hidden fees”. They will insist that a verbal contract over the phone is sufficient and that the written contract can be signed the day of the move.
When your moving day arrives, it’s a whole different story. You will see extra charges that were never agreed upon and pressure you to agree to the new contract because, at this point, you don’t have any other options. We’ve also heard they will hold consumers’ belongings hostage until they are paid in full.
Extremely low-ball estimates: Disreputable movers may offer a false estimate to gain your business initially, then increase the cost dramatically on the day of the move. A legitimate business will often require quite a bit of information from you before giving you an estimate (how many rooms, contents of your home, etc.).
A large initial deposit: Legitimate movers will usually handle payment in one of two ways, collecting payment at delivery or by requesting a small deposit with the rest due at delivery. If a mover is requesting a large deposit up front, or the total cost up front – be wary.
Insisting on a verbal contract before moving day: Do not trust companies who provide quotes or contracts over the phone. All of the information and details of the contract should be in writing.
Name changes: Legitimate businesses will build their reputations and stick to the name that people remember them by. Businesses that earn bad reputations will often change their names to leave the bad reviews or media attention behind them. If you do a quick internet search of the business and not much seems to be coming up, they may have changed their business name recently. Also, if the moving company has a generic voicemail greeting without an official name (“Hi, thank you for calling our moving company”), there’s a chance they could be hiding from a shady past.
Tips for a smooth move
While you can never guarantee that your move will go on without a hitch, here are suggestions to make your move as smooth as possible.
Do your research: Take some time to look at some reviews of the company. Another option is to ask some friends and family for a recommendation. You can also contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have received complaints about the company.
Get an estimate: Legitimate businesses will ask you detailed questions and assess your specific needs for a move. Make sure you ask for an estimate and clarify whether or not there will be any other additional charges.
Get it in writing: Get your contracts and quotes/estimates in writing and be wary of those who pressure for verbal contracts over the phone. Make sure you read the details and all the fine print. It may also be a good idea to keep a record of all your communication with the business in case anything goes wrong.
Avoid paying cash: That way if you run into any problems you may be able to request a chargeback from your credit card provider.
Trust your gut: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The moving industry isn’t regulated in Canada. If you have a problem with a mover and you aren’t sure where to turn, you are welcome to contact us. We may be able to answer your question, we can try to offer a referral to another organization that may be better suited to assist you, or court or legal assistance may be the best option. Either way, we will do our best to help you.
Choosing a moving company
Things to know about moving insurance
Consumer checklist for choosing a moving company (Government of Canada resource)
How to protect your rights when hiring a mover & video (Consumer Protection Ontario resource)