PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning of an increase in moving scams during the summer months.
"We had to pay an extra $3,000 on the spot," Allen Abbott, who is from Chicago, told WPTV.
"They're taking advantage of vulnerable people," Jane Kline, who is from Texas, told WPTV.
Abbott and Kline are two of the many people who reached out to Contact 5 after recently hiring a moving broker based in Palm Beach County for a move across the country.
"I'm out $3,800. I don't have a mover. I'm trying to get my house on the market," Susan Van Handel in Wisconsin said.
Because the company is a broker, the actual move is outsourced to other companies in the area.
In each of the cases, Contact 5 has heard about how the broker gave the customer an initial estimate over the phone — without seeing their belongings — and then the price skyrocketed the day of the move.
"He redid the numbers and he said it's gonna cost you $27,000. So, we go from $5,000 to $16,000 to $27,000. I'm like, 'What?'" Kline said.
Cases like these have Attorney General Ashley Moody sounding an alarm.
She sent an alert earlier this week that contained some summer moving scam warning signs.
☀️Summer Scams Series☀️— AG Ashley Moody (@AGAshleyMoody) July 25, 2022
People are moving to Florida in droves, and many will spend the next few weeks relocating before the new school year begins.
Check out our new Consumer Alert to learn how to spot and avoid moving scams⬇️ https://t.co/D7xcrptidm pic.twitter.com/vIkxS9UAYF
"To avoid these types of moving scams, be cautious of low-ball sight unseen estimates," Moody said.
That's where the company gives you an estimate over the phone without actually seeing your belongings, meaning the actual cost of the service may increase exorbitantly on moving day.
Other common signs of moving scams that consumers should watch out for, according to Moody's office, include:
Speedy Estimates: Be wary of someone providing an estimate without going through closets, cabinets and other storage areas—they may be trying to offer a lower quote and then hold items hostage until more money is paid before delivering.
Demanded Deposits: Understand that money is generally paid upon delivery of items, not before. If a company is demanding a deposit before the move, it may be a scam.
Business Name Changes: Do thorough research on a company before hiring — including asking for legally required information, like this federally required information packet that must be provided to consumers. Sham companies may not provide this information and change business names regularly to avoid being known as a fraudulent business.
Unexpected Fees: Make sure to ask about any potential fees that may arise before agreeing to pay. Although not always a scam, fees may be added on to moving costs for a variety of reasons. Moving companies could charge extra fees for consumers who live on a second floor or above, did not provide boxes or moving materials, and for other unforeseen obstacles.
Faulty or Unavailable Paperwork: Be sure to obtain all the proper paperwork and check for validity. If a company promises insurance, be sure to review the policies.
"We gave them pretty much the same exact amount of stuff in the original estimate, and we were told during the drive that our estimate went up from around $4,500 to $11,000," Abbott said.
Contact 5 is aware of two moving brokers in Palm Beach County that are using these tactics. We are not naming the companies for right now because we are still trying to track down the owners and give them a chance to speak with us.
Moody's office told Contact 5 that since January her office has received approximately 700 complaints about moving companies across the state, and 50 of those involve moving brokers in Palm Beach County.
Attorney General Moody announced in March a more than $20 million judgment in Broward County which secured a lifetime industry ban against a deceptive moving business operating several scams under multiple company names.