Allowing someone one doesn’t know to drive away with their belongings is among the many stressful aspects of a long-distance move — especially if that move is complicated or maybe prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, some consumers find their stress compounded by fraudulent movers who charge them many times the amount quoted, subject them to unreasonably long delivery windows, hold their items hostage for additional undisclosed fees and leave them with damaged goods.

An in-depth investigative study by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) finds that scams are widespread in the moving industry, particularly when it comes to interstate moves.

The BBB receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year, with many complaints describing how experiences with dishonest moving companies have turned into financial and emotional nightmares.

The study highlights the risk to consumers who do not do their research before hiring a mover.

According to the study, a fraudulent moving company initially may:

• Be helpful on the telephone

• Have a well-designed Web site

• Claim to have well-trained workers as well as satisfied customers

However, the red flags begin when the company claims to be unable to make an in-person inspection and estimate.

While it may claim to be local, it is based out of state and is paying for a local post office box address. 

An initial low-ball quote soon balloons as the company claims – often based on improper calculations – you have more belongings than originally estimated.

The bad actor may demand additional fees after loading and un-loading the truck, and it may not deliver your goods until days or even weeks after you move in.

In fact, the company you originally paid may not even be the company conducting your move – it may have hired local temporary workers who rented a truck, or it may have acted as a broker with another company.

The best way to avoid such a scam, BBB’s study states, is to do careful research before hiring a moving company.

Specifically, the report advises looking up a mover’s license number on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Web site and its BBB business profile at BBB.org.

What follows are some things to do if one becomes the victim of a moving scam:

• File a report with local police.

• Contact MoveRescue at moverescue.com or (800) 832-1773.

• Go to BBB.org to file a complaint or report a scam on BBB Scam Tracker.

• File an online complaint with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or call 1-888-368-7238. While the regulator typically does not represent individual victims, it does track complaints and will request the mover’s license number.

• File a claim with the insurer in the contract.