Mobile scams target moves between provinces
A noted increase in the number of moving scams targeting those looking to relocate east, with the Better Business Bureau confirming that some fraudsters have loaded people’s belongings into trucks, to hold them for a hefty ransom.
The scam targets victims who cannot allow movers to enter their homes to check shipment sizes, a common problem during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) released a joint update regarding what the two groups are calling “fraudulent moving companies that have been identified and are deliberately underestimating quotes from move for consumers, ”adding that scams are particularly prevalent in provincial moves from Ontario to the Atlantic provinces.
Kristin Matthews, a marketing and communications specialist at the Better Business Bureau, said victims were fueling the scam by clinging to these unusually low estimates in an attempt to save money.
The scam begins when a consumer contacts the fraudulent business online. They often receive multiple quotes from various companies (all shell companies of the single parent company) all around the same amount of money, but still less than the usual moving / shipping costs.
On moving day, the fraudulent company arrives with a truck or moving team from the moving company the client has booked with. The crew then quickly began loading the items onto the truck, even demonstrating excellent customer service until shortly before everything was loaded.
“All of a sudden, the driver is in a rush to leave and gives the consumer time to quickly sign the document without having time to read it or leaving a copy,” Matthews added.
The driver and crew then try to get away from the property quickly, the truck fully loaded and with all the paperwork, before the customer realizes what is going on. Mathews says days or even weeks later, the customer is contacted by the company and asked to pay, but not for the amount stated.
“Once the items are in the hands of the movers, that’s when they charge up to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars more to return their items to people,” says Matthews.
Matthews explains that the reason for the sudden price change is a claim “that the shipment weighed a much higher amount and filled the whole truck.” Every day the customer doesn’t pay, the scammer adds storage fees and will continue to do so until the “ransom” is paid, she said.
Some were able to pick up their items, according to Nancy Irvine, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Movers.
“Through the efforts of local community groups working in conjunction with CAM and BBB, there has been some success in returning products to consumers at no major additional expense to them,” Irvine said.
Matthews says the first thing people should do to protect themselves is get everything in writing. “If you’re looking to get estimates, get at least three quotes written with different movers.”
Know your mover
Mathews encourages people moving to:
-Check the moving company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau and the position with the Canadian Association of Movers, including complaint history and verified customer reviews.
-Ask the mover for the protection of the replacement assessment
-Get all quotes in writing
-Talk about money
-Look at the red flags. If a mover doesn’t provide replacement appraisal protection details, the business street address, proof of worker’s compensation, or a GST / HST number, find another mover, says Matthews .