Although most people now know not to believe mysterious callers and texters who demand money for outstanding taxes they know nothing about, not everyone is aware that scammers lurk in more unlikely–and more insidious–places.
Since many families and students are scrambling to move before school starts in September, the Competition Bureau of Canada is warning people to beware of what it calls “rogue movers,” a dishonest group of “movers” best known for holding customers’ belongings hostage for outrageous amounts of money.
According to the Competition Bureau, rogue movers typically find victims through popular buy and sell websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji and attract customers by offering low prices and the promise of “no hidden fees” for moving services. The scammers are known to deal with victims by phone, insisting a verbal agreement is sufficient and claiming paper copies can be signed the day of the move.
When the movers arrive, they present victims with a very different contract with unexpected clauses and extra charges, such as warehousing and pickup fees. They pressure victims to sign the contract or be left without a mover.
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In some instances, the fraudsters will hold people’s possessions hostage until they pay another amount for their delivery. This leaves victims scrambling to find the money, worried that their belongings will be lost or damaged.
Because moving is already stressful, the Competition Bureau offers the following tips:
- Look for certification: Some provinces require professional movers to have specific permits or registrations. This is a good starting point to find a legitimate company. Consult your provincial consumer protection agency for more information.
- Check the company roadmap: Take the time necessary to research the company and consult multiple reviews. Contact your provincial consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau to see if they have received complaints about the company.
- Get an estimate: Legitimate companies will send representatives to assess your needs, ensuring your quote is detailed and complete. This is an opportunity to inquire about any surcharges, insurances or additional fees and to ask questions.
- Get it in writing: Do not trust companies providing quotes or contracts over the phone. Get both in writing before the move and take the time to read the information carefully. Ask questions if clauses are unclear and keep records of responses.
- Trust your instincts: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or your provincial consumer protection agency to help others who might consider hiring the same company.