worried woman relocating

Top 5 Moving Scams to Be Aware of When Moving in Los Angeles

Written by: Michael Vaughan

Even if you’re not relocating for the first time, it’s never too late to learn more about some of the most important moving scams you can experience in Los Angeles. Although scammers represent a relatively small number of professionals in the field, there’s always a chance you could come across one sooner or later. To help you learn how to spot fraudulent activity, we selected the top five most common frauds you should be aware of when relocating in LA.

Considering thousands of relocations occur within LA every year, it’s not surprising that it sees its fair share of scammers. Thankfully, they represent only a fraction of the total number of relocations, meaning you’ll almost never have to come in contact with them. However, it would be best if you still took some time to inform yourself about the most common frauds, as that’s the easiest way to avoid falling for one. If you want to go for affordable and reliable professionals, don’t hesitate to contact our company and request an estimate.

How Do Moving Scams Work?

If you want to learn how to avoid scammers, you’ll need to know how they operate and choose their victims. Most fraudulent Los Angeles movers prey on uninformed and unsuspecting customers, as people usually don’t expect they’ll be dealing with a scammer in the first place. They often pick someone with children, people relocating with pets or those who have to pack to move in a hurry, as these individuals are most likely to get distracted during the preparations. Apartment hunting in LA takes a lot of time and energy, so it can be easy to overlook even some more common signs of fraud.

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How Do I Not Get Scammed When I Move?

Scammers are known to be very discrete, so you’ll have to conduct thorough research before deciding to hire any of the local movers in Los Angeles. However, someone relocating for the first time likely won’t know what to look for. Thankfully, the following relocation tips will help you learn to spot signs of fraudulent behavior pretty quickly:

  • Check their history and online presence – The simplest way to confirm whether the mover is legitimate or not is to do a quick search on the internet. Not finding anything under a specific name should be a huge red flag, as literally, all professional movers in Los Angeles have a functional website.
  • Verify their licenses – Both federal and state laws dictate that all commercial vehicles operating in California must obtain a Motor Carrier Permit, a CA number, and a US Department of Transportation (DOT) number. Getting any one of these will allow you to check how long their licenses have been active and how many times they’ve changed their name. If they fail to provide this information, there’s almost no chance they aren’t scammers.
  • Look up their third-party references – You can’t be sure that the mover you’re planning on hiring knows how to pack glasses and other fragile items if you haven’t checked the reactions of their former clients. However, companies often publish only the best reviews on their websites, so it might be better to look for feedback elsewhere. Yelp, Google Reviews, and other similar platforms will give you a much better picture of the business and its practices.
  • Make sure they are thorough when providing an estimate – After requesting a quote, you’ll have to answer all sorts of questions during your call with the potential service providers. Some relocations might even require an on-site estimate, so if you notice that the representative is trying to close the deal without getting into all the details, their initial offer will be way off the final price of the move.
  • Test out their relocation skills – Spotting a scammer is a lot easier once you start asking them some questions about some relocation-related tasks. If they can’t tell the difference between packing plates and securing pots and pans, you certainly shouldn’t let them pack furniture or move large items.
  • Observe how they behave on-site – Do the movers wear appropriate working clothes? Does the truck have the company’s logo on it? Did they provide you with the “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet? All of these questions will help you determine whether or not you’re dealing with a legitimate local moving company in Los Angeles.

Now that you know how to spot a scammer, let’s go over some of the most common relocation frauds in Los Angeles.

A couple about to hire a local moving company in Los Angeles
How do I know if a moving company is legit? Do some research on it

#1 Low-Ball Bid Has to Be the Most Common Moving Scam

Considering the low-ball bid is the defining example of relocation fraud, it’s not surprising that it’s also the most common one. If you happen to come across an estimate that seems too good to be true, you’re likely dealing with one of the fraudulent Los Angeles moving companies. Many scammers purposefully offer significantly cheaper rates in the beginning only to increase the price once they get hold of your belongings, effectively holding them as lien. The worst thing about the whole situation is that refusing to pay them up means you might never get to see your stuff again.

Getting a Free Quote from Several Moving Companies in Los Angeles Will Help You Avoid This Scam

The best way to avoid this type of fraud and all the relocation stress that comes with it is to get estimates from several companies at once. A scammer will usually be significantly cheaper than all the other service providers you come across, allowing you to spot them easily. However, companies that offer more affordable estimates are not necessarily fraudulent. There are plenty of reputable cheap movers in Los Angeles, but they get booked pretty quickly, meaning you’ll have to be fast if you want to hire them for your next move.

A man looking to book a Los Angeles moving company
Comparing prices among several professionals will allow you to spot a scammer easily

#2 Frequent Name Changing Is Another Fairly Common Scam Sign

When a scammer gets caught in the act, or they can no longer get anyone to move with them, they will try to erase their shady past by changing the company’s name. This is a relatively common type of fraud in LA, as someone who used to work in East LA could quickly disappear and transfer their operations to Beverly Hills or one of the Hollywood neighborhoods. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to avoid. As we previously mentioned, you only need to search the company’s name on the internet to see if they are reputable or fraudulent.

Check How Often the Name Was Changed Before Booking a Relocation

While this is something you should certainly look into, be aware that not every service provider who goes through a name change is fraudulent. Unlike a scammer who does it as soon as they are exposed, a legitimate Los Angeles moving company might do it as a form of rebranding. To be completely sure who you’re dealing with, go on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website and check the mover’s USDOT number. This will allow you to see how often they’re changing their name, so if they did it more than five times in the last couple of years, it’s better to avoid them than risk getting scammed.

A woman trying to book some local movers in Los Angeles
Thoroughly check the company's information before deciding to book a move

#3 Signing a Blank Contract Could Leave You Without Some of Your Most Valuable Goods

Even if you’re confident that you’ve hired the best movers in Los Angeles, you should never sign a blank contract. Professionals are only liable for things that are written down, meaning if anything goes missing or gets damaged during the move, you won’t be reimbursed. That’s why inspecting the bill should always be the final thing to do before relocating. If you fail to notice that some belongings are not listed, don’t be surprised when they are not delivered to your new home. However, be aware that there’s a whole list of items movers won’t move, and the entire thing could be a simple misunderstanding. Thankfully, you can avoid these awkward situations by learning more about the company’s non-allowables before hiring them.

Blank Contracts Allow Scammers to Add All Sorts of Unnecessary and Overpriced Services

Besides allowing the scammer to take almost any item they see fit, signing a blank contract enables them to overcharge you for even the most basic services. Packing books will cost nearly as much as securing a computer, and we can’t even imagine how expensive relocating a piano could be. This fraud is very similar to the first entry, as both increase your relocation expenses exponentially, so do everything you can to avoid them.

A person signed a contract with a LA moving company
Always get everything in writing and get a lawyer to go over the contract one more time before signing it

#4 Paying a Large Deposit Before the Relocation Leaves You Vulnerable to All Sorts of Fraudulent Activities

Although it might seem obvious to some, many aren’t aware that a legit mover will never require you to pay a large deposit before the relocation begins. In fact, you shouldn’t have to pay anything before the goods are delivered to your new home. Handing out a large chunk of money right from the get-go will take away any control you might have had over the process, potentially losing you the entire household inventory. The worst thing about this fraud is that it’s tough to track, as scammers usually request payment be made in cash only. Fortunately, you can avoid this uncomfortable situation by always paying with a credit card and refusing large deposit requests.

A person paying for moving services in Los Angeles
Paying for the relocation with a credit card will leave a trail that you can follow in case you do get scammed

#5 Many LA Scammers Use Volume Instead of Weight When Charging You

Charging by volume instead of weight is another fairly common situation you’ll need to look after when relocating within LA. While a mover who uses this method is not necessarily a scammer, a volume-based bit could lead to all sorts of discrepancies. Inexperienced workers will likely not be able to pack clothes as well as a highly-trained team, meaning that there’s always room for the prices to go up from their initial estimate. To avoid potential problems, remember to ask the sales representative how they base their pricing before booking a move. If they use volume instead of weight, do some more research on the company to determine whether or not it’s legitimate.

Weight Discrepancies Are an Easy Way for Scammers to Get Even More Money Out of You

While charging by weight is undoubtedly safer, it doesn’t make you immune to this kind of fraudulent activity entirely. Weight discrepancy is one of the newest frauds on the LA market, meaning there’s a solid chance you’ve already been scammed without even knowing it. To give you an example of how this works, remember that your belongings are not weighed directly. Instead, they weigh the truck before and after goods have been loaded, with the difference being the estimated weight.

Here’s where the fraud happens, as the scammer will weigh the truck before filling the fuel tanks, load the cargo, and then refuel. Considering a gallon of fuel weighs about 6 pounds, and some vehicles can hold up to 400 gallons, you could very easily end up with an estimate that’s significantly higher than the one you agreed upon. Although this is usually hard to discover, a final bill that differs by more than 10% from the initial estimate is almost certainly a fraud. Fortunately, you’re only required to pay the price you originally signed upon on the spot, while the rest can be disputed later.

A row of trucks on the road
Trucks are often used as a scamming tool

What to Do When a Moving Company Scams You?

If you’ve already fallen prey to a relocation scam, don’t despair. Although it might seem like the end of the world, there are still several ways you can deal with this very uncomfortable situation:

  • File a complaint with the sales representative – While this won’t do much in an actual fraud, it might solve the problem in case of a misunderstanding. After all, a bad reputation could ruin even a good business, so a legitimate mover will do everything to find a compromise that’s agreeable to both parties.
  • File complaints with appropriate government agencies – If you’re not satisfied with the response you got from the company’s customer support, report them to the relevant authorities. Try contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the California Moving and Storage Association (CMSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
  • Take them to small court – Filing an official lawsuit is the next step, but be aware that the legal process takes time and is often very tedious. Most simply don’t have the necessary resources to continue fighting, but you shouldn’t give up on it either. If you have a strong case, winning is likely not that far off.
  • Expose them on social media – Scammers hate publicity, so exposing their fraudulent activities on social media and posting a truly unfavorable review is a great way to get back at them, as this will prevent them from tricking anyone else.To learn more about reporting frauds and who to notify when you get scammed, check out the video below.

Hire Us, and You Won’t Have to Worry About Experiencing a Moving Fraud in the City Ever Again

As you can see, most of the fraudulent activity is either very obvious or easy to maneuver around. You’ll just have to look at each potential LA moving company with eyes wide open and try to note anything out of the ordinary. Don’t give up on all professionals just because of a few scammers, as hiring someone to assist you is the easiest way to move efficiently.

If you want to hire someone reliable and affordable, All in Moving is here to help. We offer some of the best residential moving services in Los Angeles, so you’ll have a hard time finding a better offer for the same price. The same goes for commercial moves, which cost significantly less compared to any of our competitors. Considering apartment hunting in LA can be pretty time-consuming, you’ll also want to book a packing service and leave all the preparations to our incredible team. If you’re interested in learning more, our sales representatives will gladly answer any questions you may have and provide you with a free quote on your next move. You only have to contact us.

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