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Poll 10 Canadians and odds are at least a few of them have stories about a moving scam, and most can recount a bad experience with a moving company. In fact, moving companies are some of the most complained-about businesses in Canada, according to the Better Business Bureau.

But as much as dealing with a moving company can be rife with frustration, moving is a stressful experience, and sometimes you need to delegate. The process of purchasing a home can move fast, especially if you are buying Toronto real estate. If this is the case, contracting out moving your belongings from point A to point B can take a huge responsibility off your already full plate.

To avoid a frustrating experience with your movers, arm yourself with knowledge and do your due diligence to avoid scams. Here are three common ways Canadians get caught up in a moving scam, what red flags to watch out for, and how to avoid getting duped.

1 – Underquoting Your Load

One of the most common scams perpetrated by moving companies is to underquote your moving project. Underquoting commonly happens with companies who give you a quote over the phone, or who do a cursory examination of your belongings on site. Often the mover will underquote you and when it comes time to pay for their services, will increase their rate – often by several hundred per cent.

Avoid being underquoted by obtaining multiple quotes from companies who quote based off a thorough examination of your belongings. Avoid any over-the-phone quotes, since these are rarely accurate, and instead request one in person and in writing. Make sure to mention any specific circumstances that may affect your quote, such as living on the top floor of an apartment building without stairs, or all of the boxes of belongings hidden on the top floor of your three-level Toronto townhouse.

2 – Holding Belongings Ransom

If your moving company underquoted you for their project, they’ll often increase the price and refuse to unload your belongings until you pay, or they may even refuse to deliver your belongings to your new home until you agree to the new price. This strategy is known as holding your belongings ransom and is another common tactic used by shady moving companies.

Fortunately, once a company uses this tactic, the customers they rip off tend to be pretty vocal about it. You can avoid companies that use this tactic by asking for and checking references, doing a diligent search for reviews of the company online, and checking the Better Business Bureau for complaints. If the company has good reviews online, make sure to read them. If they have dozens of five-star reviews without any comments or the written review seems phoned in, this can be a sign of a scammy company.

3 – Contracting Out the Job

Finally, some Canadians will hire a moving company only to find an entirely different firm at their door on the big day, or worse, showing up on delivery day. This happens when the original firm contracts out the move to a third party and is most common for long-distance moves or when demand is higher than expected. Working with a third party company for your moving needs can lead to sloppily packed belongings that become damaged during transit. Since the company that moves the belongings is not the original contracting company, it can be difficult to obtain compensation for damages.

To avoid a third party mix-up make sure there is a clause in your contract that specifies the original contracting company will perform the move – even if it’s a long distance. You could also visit the business’s office to assess how many trucks they have on hand at any given time. If the address listed for the business is a home with a single truck parked outside, the odds of the job being contracted out are higher. If the business has an office address and many trucks, the business is likely to be more reputable and less likely to contract your moving project out to a third-party.

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