Senior Moving Scams: What You Need to Know

Senior Moving Scams: What You Need to Know

Welcome to part 2 of helpful relocation information for seniors, courtesy of Caring.comYou often hear seniors are vulnerable to scams. In fact, according to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, older Americans lose $2.9 billion per year on financial scams. Unfortunately, the moving business is no stranger to widespread scams. Moving scammers typically target older customers since they’re likely vulnerable and wealthy. With the stress of the move, unsuspecting seniors are easily preyed upon by moving scams and fraud.

The best protection against moving scams is to become an informed consumer who does their due diligence. If you have elderly loved ones looking to move, you must take proactive steps to protect them from rogue operators looking to steal their hard-earned money.

Common Senior Moving Scams

There are several types of moving scams, and they’re becoming increasingly more common and more sophisticated. Knowing these deceptive practices will allow you to spot red flags from a mile away and prevent yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim.

1. “Guesstimates” Over the Phone
Many moving companies can provide a rough estimate of your moving costs based on several factors. However, the most reputable companies will insist on an in-person inspection for accurate quotes. On top of mileage, movers need to verify critical information like the size of your apartment/home and shipment volume. Arriving at a precise quote takes a lot of back and forth between you and the moving agent.

If a mover gives you a quote over the phone and says an on-site inspection isn’t necessary, you’re likely dealing with a moving scam.

2. All Cash Payments or Large Deposits
Putting down a large cash payment or deposit up front puts you in danger of not seeing your money or belongings again. Some legitimate companies will ask for a small deposit before the move, which is relatively common during busier months (i.e., summer). Then, customers pay the remainder after delivery.

Typically, consumers should pay the agreed-upon amount on the contract after the company has successfully moved their belongings. Avoid paying in cash and use a debit/credit card, so you’ll have transaction records if you wish to file a complaint. Companies that require a large deposit should be crossed off your list immediately.

3. Frequent / Numerous Name Changes
Sometimes, all it takes to identify a scam company is to make a quick Google search of its name. Fraudulent and predatory moving companies will likely have bad to scathing reviews. As a result, many scam companies go through frequent name changes to get away from negative reviews. Check with places like the Better Business Bureau and consider it a huge red flag if you see a moving company that went through numerous name changes.

4. The Bait and Switch
Many senior scams and frauds exploit the urgency and stressful nature of relocating. With the bait and switch tactic, a moving company will reel you in with what appears to be great but often too-good-to-be-true quotes, and you end up hiring them – this is the bait.

The switch may come a few days before the move. The company will demand more money than initially quoted based on various, and likely bogus, fees and operation costs. With your whole life packed in moving boxes and you’ve already sold the house or your lease is up, you have no choice but to accept the new price and proceed with the move.

5. Hostaged Goods
This scam works very similarly to the bait and switch tactic. Rogue or scam movers will provide an attractive estimate of your move. The more sophisticated scammers usually give a reasonable estimate but still low enough to get unsuspecting victims on board. Similar to bait and switch, the moving company will ask for more money after the delivery. Sometimes, the overall price will double or even triple the original estimate.

If the customer refuses to accept the new charge, scam movers won’t release the shipment, essentially holding your belongings hostage. Only the most daring rogue movers will attempt this tactic and will have no problem driving away with your goods in tow if you refuse to pay.

6. Blank or Partial Contracts
Misleading contracts are often the foundation of moving scams. Fraudulent movers usually give you a blank or incomplete contract to sign, with many critical details conveniently left out so they can charge you more at the end of the move. A legitimate contract should have vital information such as estimated price, extra costs, and moving day information (pick-up time and estimated delivery date), among other things.

7. Fake Movers
Some scam movers have companies that simply don’t exist and will happily take your money without completing the move or outright stealing your belongings. While every business starts as a new company at one point, you should be wary of new ones with many red flags.

For instance, scam moving companies will often have a generic website with no address, no online reviews, no certifications – nothing to validate its legitimacy. In some cases, fake movers will use rental trucks without branding or U-Hauls.

Senior Moving Scam Warning Signs

Below are some of the most common warning signs that you’re dealing with a fake or scam moving company:

Not registered with the FMCSA: Search the FMCSA database for any potential mover. Companies registered with the FMCSA have details you can review, including complaints.

Full of negative reviews: As you research moving companies, read their customer reviews. A company with mostly negative reviews is a huge red flag.
Large payment upfront: Legitimate companies will only ask for a 20% or less deposit amount, which rarely happens. Typically, you only have to pay after delivery. If a company asks for a significant down payment before the move, it’s likely a scam.

Unusually cheap rates: Be suspicious of extremely affordable estimates that are too good to be true. In reality, moving is costly. Don’t fall for cheap rates because it’s only to get you on board, and they may charge you double by the end of the move.

No office or physical address: Check the prospective company’s website and look for information about its main office or address. Ensure it’s an actual address via Google Search, not just a vacant lot.

No in-person estimates: If a company claims an in-person inspection is unnecessary, they’re probably scammers. Moving prices go beyond the distance that needs to be traveled. Legitimate companies will insist on in-person inspection to provide accurate quotes.

Cash-only payments: Most companies will accept cash-only payments, along with credit and debit. It’s a huge warning sign if a moving company will only accept cash payments since they don’t leave a paper trail.

Tips to Protect Against Senior Moving Scams

Now that you know about scam tactics and rip-off maneuvers by shady moving companies, how can you protect yourself and your senior loved ones from becoming a victim? Below are some tips to ensure a successful, scam-free relocation:

Ask Your Family and Friends
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a great mover. If you know a family member, friend, neighbor, or just about anyone you trust, who has moved recently, you can ask them for suggestions on moving companies. Ask them about their experiences with the moving company, their pricing, the quality of the services, and whether or not they can recommend the mover. In addition, you may also get in touch with your real estate agent since they generally have a network of reputable vendors, including movers.

Check for Licenses
The law mandates that all moving companies must have a license; in some states, local movers must also be licensed. Before transacting with any moving company, check if it’s registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) using this lookup tool. In addition, you may also check for the company’s registration and licenses using the U.S. Department of Transportation database.

Inquire for Federally Required Information
As per Federal Law, movers must provide a document called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” which is provided while you plan for your move. Find another mover if a company doesn’t offer you this document.

Insist on In-Person Estimates
A reputable company will always send a representative to survey your home and belongings to provide an accurate quote. Ask all prospective companies for an in-person inspection, which is not negotiable. This is also an excellent way to collect quotes from several companies so you can compare and negotiate prices—request a written or digital price quote, so it becomes binding.

Read the Contract Thoroughly
Read your agreement from top to bottom, including the fine print, and ensure it contains all vital information and is accurate. Don’t sign anything unless you’ve gone through the contract many times – double or triple-check if you have to. As mentioned earlier, never sign an incomplete or blank contract, even if it’s from a reputable company. If you have any questions or concerns, take it up with the moving company.

Avoid Cash-Only Payments and Large Deposits
Deposits higher than 20% and all-cash payments put you in a vulnerable position where you may not see your money again. Avoid companies that require cash-only payments or significant deposits. If possible, pay using a credit card since it’s insured, so you have protection in case something goes wrong.

Make an Inventory of Your Possessions
The best way to account for everything is by making a list of all your packed boxes and everything in them. Furthermore, it’s highly recommended you label and number all your moving boxes, so you’re not only keeping track of all your things but also making it easier to unpack later on.

Do’s and Don’ts of Senior Moving Scam Protection

Do research your prospective companies, and check with the FMCSA and USDOT for proper registration and licenses.

Do get referrals and recommendations from friends, family, neighbors, and real estate agents.

Do get at least three estimates from several companies so you can compare.

Do read reviews and feedback from previous customers via third-party websites like BBB, Yelp, and Google.

Do pay using credit cards so you can dispute charges.

Do ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand, and always clarify with the moving agent.

Do get everything in writing, especially the final estimate.

Do mark and label all your boxes, and make a written master list of all your belongings.

Do ask about the mover’s claims and insurance policies.

Don’t hire the very first moving company you come across.

Don’t deal with companies that don't offer on-site estimates.

Don’t hire companies with too-good-to-be-true moving estimates.

Don’t contact a company without a legitimate-looking website and office address.

Don’t accept large deposits and cash-only payments.

Don’t sign a blank or incomplete contract.

Don’t agree to last-minute changes in shipment prices.

Don’t proceed with the move if the company uses unmarked trucks or U-Hauls.

Don’t hire a company that can’t provide a federal document called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.”

Steps to Take If You are a Victim of a Senior Moving Scam

Moving to a new home is already on its own, so the last thing you want is to become a victim of senior moving scams – but it happens. If you’ve fallen prey to fake or fraudulent movers, don’t panic. As a victim of shady moving companies, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights.

1. Review the Contract
Your first step is to confirm whether there was a misunderstanding. Review the contract thoroughly and check if there’s anything you missed. This is to ensure that the agreement didn’t include fraudulent activities you just experienced before filing a complaint.

2. Understand What Constitutes a Scam
Most commercial moves have been successful without issues. However, some minor inconveniences with your move may not constitute a scam and don’t warrant an official complaint or legal action.

Before you file a complaint and contact the authorities, the following events don’t constitute a scam or fraud:

Minor damages to appliances, furniture, and other belongings.

Minor loss of items (e.g., a box of supplements, an old shovel).

Delivery delays for a few days – you may file a claim for compensation, but delays are not considered a scam.

Negligible increase in estimates – often due to miscalculations in the estimate.

3. Call the Company
It pays to give the benefit of the doubt before you escalate to reporting to the authorities. Again, this might all be a misunderstanding. Call the company and file a complaint if you feel like you’ve been deceived or misled. A reputable company will always offer to resolve the issue and come to agreeable compromises. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a scam moving company, this step won’t help you.

4. File a Complaint With the Appropriate Agencies
There are several agencies where you can file complaints against moving-related scams.

Better Business Bureau (BBB): BBB is a non-profit organization committed to advancing marketplace trust for businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. You can file a complaint here. File a Complaint | Consumer Complaints | Better Business Bureau® (

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): This organization regulates the trucking industry in the United States. Use the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database to file a complaint. NCCDB - National Consumer Complaint Database (

Bureau of Consumer Protection: The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is an agency that prevents deceptive and fraudulent business practices by collecting consumer complaints and conducting investigations. Report fraudulent moving practices here.

American Trucking Associations (ATA): The ATA is the largest national trade association that oversees the trucking industry, which includes all movers across the country. File a complaint via the ATA General Complaint form. ATA Complaint Form.pdf (

5. Report to Your Local Police Station
Although local law enforcement has limited reach for dealing with moving scams, filing a police report for any harassment or damages you’ve experienced is still a good idea. Depending on state laws, the police can help mediate if you want to recover your hostaged goods.

6. Share Your Experiences
Your bad experiences with a company can serve as a cautionary tale to other people. Therefore, consider sharing your story by leaving reviews on public-facing websites like Google and Yelp. Review platforms, including Consumer Affairs, TrustPilot, and BBB, are also great places to share your experiences.

Resources to Report Senior Moving Scams and Assist Victims
Below are some helpful websites for reporting moving scams and general resources for a successful senior relocation.

A sub-agency of the Department of Transportation, the FMCSA regulates the trucking, moving and storage industries, and handles interstate moving scams.


2. FMCSA Moving Fraud Guide:

A comprehensive guide on how to protect yourself from moving scams and fraud.


State offices where you can file a complaint about any violation of consumer laws, including moving scams.


Any complaints made in the BBB website will be forwarded to the company, and they’re expected to respond within 14 days.

1 (703) 276-0100

A comprehensive library of articles about professional moving, with tips on how to avoid scams.

6. MoveRescue:

A consumer advocacy group that provides resources to raise awareness about fraudulent moving practices.

A collection of state level agencies for reporting intrastate moving scams and frauds.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long in advance should I contact movers?

If you’re already planning to move and have a date in mind, the best time to call a moving company is as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll want to give at least eight weeks or two months to book a mover. This is especially true for summer moves since it’s peak moving season, and companies are extremely busy.

How much do senior moves cost?

The answer depends on the size of the move, your destination, and the services needed. In general, senior moves tend to be more expensive since they’ll likely require additional services like packing/unpacking, loading/unloading, furniture assembly, etc. The best way to know how much you’ll spend on moving is to request a free estimate. Most companies will have free online or over-the-phone estimates; some will even send a representative for on-site estimates.

When is the best time for seniors to move?

The best time for seniors to move is when they’re active, healthy, and independent. Relocating can be physically and mentally taxing, especially for seniors. Being in good health can make all the difference between a smooth and successful move and an exhausting, stressful one. Season-wise, summer is the best time to move because of favorable weather conditions. However, remember that moving companies get extremely busy during summer.

What is a senior move manager?

Many companies specialize in assisting seniors with moving, also referred to as senior move managers, senior move facilitators, or simply senior movers. They help older adults and their families to relocate to a new, often smaller, residence. They usually go beyond the basics of moving items and packing/unpacking by devising a customized plan for seniors. Senior move managers can provide services like developing an “age in place” plan, helping to downsize, cleaning, discarding unwanted items, and overseeing the moving process.

Are movers obligated to fulfill “guaranteed” quotes?

Movers are only obligated to fulfill quotes if the quote is binding. The written estimate should indicate whether the quoted prices are binding or non-binding. The “guaranteed” quotes over the phone or online are never binding unless the estimates are in writing. Moving companies are legally obligated to follow the estimates with written binding agreements. It’s also worth noting that movers are not required to provide a quote to the customer, so always ask for estimates in writing.

If you made it this far, congratulations. Now that you're armed with this valuable information courtesy of, we don't think you'll be getting scammed anytime soon. If you have questions about buying, selling or investing in real estate, we're here to help.

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