You’re out hundreds of dollars, a bill is on the way for thousands more, your belongings are all gone and you’re stuck on the side of the road.
Sounds like a really bad dream. But it’s not. It’s reality for more and more Canadians as moving company scams take off.
"They’re very good at what they do. They’re very good at conning people," said Nancy Irvine, president of the Canadian Association of Movers.
CAM is seeing increased reports of illegitimate moving companies with shady practices. On national moving month this May, they and the Better Business Bureau want to help consumers stay safe as we kick off the busiest moving season of the year.
One common scam involves companies low-balling customers with a price, only to jack it up once the customer’s belongings are already loaded.
They might say "you have more items than we thought," and slap on extra charges. If you refuse to pay, the company may drive away with your stuff and hold it hostage, often adding even more fees now for "storage."
Irvine says moving is an emotional process for many, and it’s easy to overlook a line on a form that validates the extra charges that are later added. It’s also easy to believe a company holds a high reputation, when in fact, it does not.
Scammers create sophisticated websites and online branding with fake but realistic-looking positive reviews. Sniffing out a good company is not as simple as it seems, but it is the number one thing Irvine recommends.
You can investigate the company with a third party, reliable source like CAM or the BBB. These organizations are devoted to stopping scams in their tracks and providing legitimate reviews and ratings for companies.
Once you do find a company with positive reviews on both these sites, double check that the company is what it says it is and not impersonating an existing, reputable organization. Doing your due diligence pays off.
"It’s a couple minutes of your time but it could save tens of thousands of dollars," Irvine said.
Other valuable tips from CAM include getting everything in writing and asking about replacement valuation protection. It can help protect you should anything be damaged, and stands as a red flag if the company does not offer details on it.
Also look for a company’s street address, proof of worker’s compensation, and GST number.
Some companies may not set out to scam customers in the worst-case scenario depicted above, but they may cut corners in other ways. To ensure you’re getting professional movers, visit CAM and the BBB online for more tips and resources.
— Trade-mark of the International Association of Better Business Bureaus used under licence.
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