Years ago when people wanted to know how much it costs to move to Puerto Rico, they would go to the Yellow Pages and call the local movers in their city and get estimates. Today, almost everyone goes to the internet to do their research. Although this is a great tool, when it comes to moving, the crooks and scam artists have found it a haven to promote their scams on people like you. Many of these crooks have multiple company names and websites. When one gets your name, they send it to all of their companies so it seems like you are getting several movers to give you a quote when in reality, it is the same scam mover.
Here is how it works. These scam movers have developed very sophisticated websites that make you feel that you are dealing with a legitimate mover. Some have even joined national moving organizations such as the American Moving and Storage Association and the Household Goods Forwarders Association, to make them appear more legitimate. I encourage you to look for the new designation by the American Moving and Storage Association called 'ProMover'. This designation is one that says the mover has signed a code of ethics and that they will deal with their customers honestly and will make sure that they will stand behind what they commit to.
They have trained their people to sound like you are getting a really great deal up front. But that is when the scam begins, Here is what happens next.
1. The truck arrives (usually a rental truck), hopefully on the day scheduled, and the crew loads most of your belongings and then says there is more here that was on the original estimate. They then tell you it will now cost a lot more to complete your move, usually in the thousands of dollars. It is now too late to dispute this because they have your goods on the truck. Even if you want them to remove your goods from the truck, they will require you to pay a huge fee, in cash, to unload your belongings. They will threaten to sell your goods if you don't comply to their demands.
2. You look at your contract and hidden in the initial contract you may or may not have signed, is a waiver of an on-site estimate to verify what you are shipping. This is how they say they can raise your price because they say you have added stuff. Even if you have added one box, they will raise your price substantially. They don't explain this clearly when you book you move with them.
3. Now they start adding the additional charges such as packing paper, tape, pads, boxes, shrink wrap, unloading out of the residence and a myriad of other items that you thought were included in your price. Once you read the hidden language of the contract, you are essentially up the creek without a paddle. Since you are stuck, you agree to pay the extra charges and hope for the best and that this is all they will charge. You moving scam rep assures you it is. Now the next scam starts.
4. Since you used their online calculator and it said you had 300 cubic feet, you now find out that they say you have 380 cubic feet. They now declare that your price is an additional $2,000.00, as an example. Once again you are stuck paying this or they threaten to hold your goods hostage.
5. You have paid the extra money and you goods arrive at your home in Puerto Rico. You think what else could go wrong, You thought you bought "Door to Door" service. The delivery crew says that you get delivery to your door. If you want it inside the house it will now cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to deliver into the house.
6. You have now paid thousands of dollars in additional costs to get your goods and you find out that there has been damage. The scam movers use every tactic they can to not pay for your claims. They become rude and obnoxious until you finally give up.
These are examples of what happens every day to individuals that use these scam movers. Many of them do not put their addresses in their website because they have multiple companies owned by the same scam mover owner. You may get what you think are multiple bids from different companies, but in reality you will end up getting scammed by the same company. This happens a lot.
How can you protect yourself?
Here are some of the things you need to do. First, do your research and find out if there are complaints about the company you are choosing. Go to these websites below:
Next, if these things happen, do not use this mover or let them load your goods.
1. The mover requires you to pay an upfront deposit for your move. Legitimate movers do not require you to pay any deposit to move you.
2. If a rental truck shows up to load your goods, don't let them in your home. This is the first sign of the mover not being legitimate. The truck is required to have the name of the company, the city it is based and their DOT (Department of Transportation) number on the side of the truck. If it does not, do not use them.
3. The mover does not have a copy of the contract or bill of lading with the crew. All legitimate movers will have these forms. The bill of lading is your contract and this will spell out what you have agreed to. A word of caution though, the scam movers have a new bill of lading developed by an attorney that makes them look legitimate, but have hidden language that lets them change the costs for your move and once you sign it, you are essentially over a barrel because it gives them protection in court. NOTE: DO NOT SIGN ANY BLANK FORMS OR BILLS OF LADING.
4. If your mover has not provided you a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move", do not sign a contract with them. Note: This brochure is not required on moves to Puerto Rico, but Premier Van Lines feels that it provides good basic information that will help you choose a mover.
5. This is really important. Make sure your shipment is done by weight, so you can verify the charges. If you do it by the cubic foot you will not have any way to verify your charges. This is the most common scam they use.
6. Look for wording such that give the scam movers the opportunity to cheat you such as you waiving certain provisions and you have received copies of a l documents when you have not.
7. Most importantly, make them put everything in writing. Ask the moving company representative to spell everything out such as delivering into your house in Puerto Rico. Does the price include all packing of boxes and the cost of all boxes and related material such as paper and tape. Does it include all pads to wrap your furniture. Ask if you can view the weighing of the truck and have them put it into writing. If you do not want to view the weighing at origin, make sure you can have a reweigh at destination that you can witness if the weight goes over the estimate.
8. Always make sure you are paying by weight. Most legitimate movers do have a minimum density factor on your final weight if loaded into liftvans. This will usually not apply on full container loads. Full container loads may have a minimum charge.
9. Make sure that you have a signed contact for insurance or valuation is writing. Do not let the mover say just sign here and everything is covered. Be careful when a mover says we are bonded and insured so you are covered. This usually means that if the truck is in an accident, you may have coverage, but it will not really cover you fully. You can check with your homeowners insurance agent and see if you have coverage there, but it usually does not cover regular damage, but only covers you if there is an accident with the truck or steamship. Talk to your agent and make sure what is and is not covered.
10. Ask how you shipment is being moved. Are they loading your belongings into liftvans or into your own steel container. Again, have this put into writing. Some scam movers pick up your goods and load your belongings mixed in with other peoples belongings. You do not want this to happen.
There are many scam movers out there waiting for your call. You need to be diligent to protect yourself. You have my commitment to 100% truthful and make sure you have all your questions answered and that you fully understand what your moving costs are. I may have repeated some of the information here, but it is because it is really important to make sure your are aware of what could happen.
If you have any questions, call one of our Puerto Rico Move Coordinators and we will always tell you the truth about your move. You can even call me directly at my office number: 877.668.8625.