SAN ANTONIO — It takes more than just a quick web search to find reliable movers. After all, you're trusting a stranger with all your stuff.
“They have pretty nice websites with fake reviews from supposedly happy customers and it’s hard to tell that they are really crooks,” said Steve Baker, an international investigator for the Better Business Bureau (BBB), of fake movers. “The most important thing here, if anything, is you’ve really got to do some careful research.”
Make sure to check a company’s rating with the BBB. You can also do a web search of the company on the Department of Transportation website and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to see if there are any complaints.
Plus, do a web search of the company’s name and the word “scam.” You can also get at least three estimates and pay attention to how they are calculated.
“Movers always do their estimates by weight, not volume,” Baker said.
A typical moving scheme is to give customers a low estimate that includes a certain number of square feet.
“After they’ve loaded all your goods, they announce, ‘Oh, you had way more stuff then we thought you did,’ and you’re going to have to pay double, triple, or you don’t know if you’re going to see your staff again,” Baker said. “They claim you got more square feet then you said you did. Well how do you know that? You know, they just lie about it.”
It is illegal to raise the price after your goods are loaded.
First Responders Moving in San Antonio does its estimates based on how many hours the move will take. Estimates are done remotely because of the pandemic.
“We’re having customers open their cabinet doors and send pictures of kitchens and send pictures of their bathrooms,” said John Henderson, the founder and co-owner of First Responders Moving.
First Responders Moving makes sure customers know before any boxes are loaded if the move will cost more than the estimate.
“Because some people just don’t have the budget. People are out of work,” Henderson said. “We’re very, very sensitive to peoples' situations and we just tell them right up front, 'Look, I know you’re expecting this is going to be four hours, but you have quite a bit more than what we had discussed.'"
Be concerned if a mover wants a large deposit or demands cash.
“Real moving companies are going to take credit cards,” Baker said.
He also said legitimate movers do not make you pay until after delivery of your items, except for a deposit up front.
“The crooks are going to demand money along the way,” Baker said.
Read contracts closely. You do not want to wonder if you will see your stuff again.
"The crooks usually promise over the telephone to have the goods delivered, picked up and then delivered on specific dates,” Baker said. “But then, if you look at their contracts, they actually, for delivery, give themselves a 21-day window. But it’s often longer than that.”
Look to see how broken or damaged items are replaced. It costs more, but full-value replacement liability protection offers better coverage.
“Replacement is the magic term, which is what you want,” Baker said. “They either fix it or replace it.”
Extra research up front will leave you with less heavy lifting in the end.