How to Detect Scam Movers

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Moving is never easy. There are a lot of complications involved with a change of address. Sterling Van Lines has been the leading pioneer for 30 years in the moving industry and specializes in small moves

What to look for

The news is sometimes filled with stories of moving scams and scam movers. We’ve prepared this page to help consumers understand what to look for.


  1. You find three times more stuff than your customer “told you over the phone!”
  2. You won’t let your customer witness the weighing of his goods!
  3. You demand cash at pick up!
  4. Your credit card machine is “broken” or “down”!
  5. You don’t seem to know where your customers’ goods are!
  6. You find yourself quoting customers in terms of cubic feet!
  7. You won’t guarantee anything in writing!
  8. Your price is 1/3 of REAL movers’ prices!
  9. You can’t name the tariff you use to quote with!
  10. You find yourself talking to your customer with your cigarette still in your mouth!

Detecting Rogue / Scam Movers

  1. Did the “mover” “quote” you by cubic feet?

    If so, it is a virtual certainty that they are not operating from any known tariff. By law movers must have and subscribe to a published tariff. The tariff has all charges laid out and accounted for. You should find another mover.

    Definition: TARIFF: List of charges for moving services published and filed with the Surface Transportation Board (DOT).

    This definition is gleaned from existing data and experience in the moving industry. The American Heritage Dictionary defines tariff as: “n. 1. A list or system of duties imposed by a government on imported or exported goods. 3. Any schedule of prices or fees.

    In order for a mover to get authority to move, he must first file a tariff and it must be approved. Most U.S. movers are using the existing tariff called the 400N. This is because it is a monumental task to formulate all the possible charges for all the possible moving services in all the possible cities of the U.S. This tariff must be published and available to the public for inspection.

  2. Can the mover tell you what tariff he is quoting from?

    If not, you should run screaming into the night!

  3. Does the mover demand a deposit or ask for half the money up front?

    Standard movers do not demand half of the money up front. Their service speaks for itself. Unless you require a very specific day or time it is highly unusual for a standard mover to need a deposit.

  4. Did the “mover” give you a guaranteed price?

    If the mover guaranteed a price for cubic feet *, now you must know how to determine cubic feet, very few people know this or take the time to do it. You are thus under the complete mercy of the “mover” and you could be taken advantage of. This should not be debated after the “mover” picks up your things. If they are criminal, it is too late. The best rule if you are quoted in this fashion is to find another mover. If you really want to keep working with that mover there are a couple of ways to solve this:

    — If you have a decent size move, say, more than 2 bedrooms, have the mover come out and give you an estimate. If they won’t, have another mover who may be closer to you come out and see your things and give you an estimate. You want to know how many cubic feet and how many pounds the mover saw. That mover should be able to fix a price for you and the “mover” who would not come out may be able to fix a price now. The point is, now you have data that you can share with other movers to get a quote.

    — If you have a smaller move, will the “mover” allow you to list your items and guarantee the price to move those items, in writing?

    *Definition: CUBIC FEET: Length X width X height. Example: 2′ X 3′ X 4′ = 24 cubic feet. In inches the equation is: 24″ X 36″ X 48″ = 41,472 cubic inches. To convert to feet: 41,472 ÷ 1728 = 24 cubic feet.

    All movers want to know your cubic feet so they can convert them into pounds. The equation is generally 7 pounds per cubic foot so in the above example 24 cubic feet would convert to 24 X 7 = 168 pounds.

    Why are pounds important? The known tariffs are based on mileage and pounds. You always have the right to have your things weighed at a certified weigh station. You can witness the light weight (before pick up) and the heavy weight (after pick up). You meet the driver at the closest scale to your home, and follow him back to your home, and then to the scale after pick up. You will have a certified weight ticket, and will know the exact poundage. Standard movers will be perfectly willing to accommodate you.

  5. Is your “estimated” cost significantly lower than other estimates from major moving companies?

    Your costs between movers should not vary that much; if you have an “estimated” cost that is too good to be true — it is too good to be true. The normal method of operation of these “movers” is to quote very low, sound very nice and professional, and then on the day of pick up you will be informed that you have a significant amount more than you reported and the cost will go up — usually about 2-3 times the original estimate.

    By following the above guidelines you should be able to avoid “rogue movers”.

Remember You Have Rights

Unfortunately, only ethical movers follow the rules and allow you your rights. There are many, many good movers out there. Most movers are good people and want to help. They do not need laws to enforce ethical business practices. The only effective way to avoid trouble with your move is to detect a criminal mover before they are allowed to touch your items.

© 2002 SVL, INC., All rights reserved

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See what some of our happy customers have to say

As a moving company, we are proud of the work we do in helping people to move- and thought we would share a few words from our customers.

Small Move Testimonial
Nothing but excellent things to say about Sterling Van Lines! Moving is stressful enough -- Sterling Van Lines definitely made the process easier for us!B.P. Small Move
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They moved a very old 1886 Steinway Baby Grand across the country and they did a wonderful job. Sterling had the best price as well. Tim D. Piano Move
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Sterling moved some antiques from PA to NV for my family. My main concern was that the pieces arrive intact and in good shape, and they certainly did.Shani C. Antique Move
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