Scams to look out for when moving abroad
If you’ve ever moved abroad, you know how much planning goes into a move. But just when you think you have everything in line, the worst surprise can be finding out you’ve been scammed. Luckily, if you know what to look out for, your relocation won’t turn into an expensive nightmare.
Unfortunately, thousands of people fall victim to moving scams each year. These can take on various forms and can happen even before you begin packing your things. Here are the most common ones to look out for:
Simple money grab: This is when a moving company gives you an estimate (usually one significantly lower than other estimates) and requests a deposit, only for the movers to never show up at your house.
Holding hostage: The most common type of scam actually happens when a company is already in possession of your things. You may receive a bill that is double or triple the amount of the original quote, with no solid or traceable reasons for the price hike. The company will then simply refuse to deliver your belongings until you pay the new price.
How to avoid them
There are a few simple but crucial ways you can avoid a moving scam:
- First of all, make sure the company’s website has an address and information about their insurance and registration. Some companies may even disguise themselves under the name of a legitimate company, but by checking these you can make sure they’re reliable.
- Compare quotes and receive in-home estimates (never over the phone) from several movers. You should also be skeptical of a mover that requests a deposit.
- Ask about the possibility of hidden fees that you may have to pay at delivery and have them included in the contract.
- For overseas moves, make sure you look into both companies involved in your move: the one transporting your goods to the nearest port, and the one picking up your shipment in your destination country.
If you’re worried by how long this list is, don’t fret. While there are many scams that can be used to trick you when renting abroad, there are also many ways to spot them. The most common types are:
Permanently Vacant: A scammer shows you an apartment for rent, collects an application fee, and never rents it out to you.
Phantom Rentals: Fake listings for places that don’t exist or aren’t for rent.
Bait-and-Switch: You sign a lease for a property that is not the same as the one advertised.
Hijacked Ads: A fake landlord posts advertisements for a real property with altered contact information.
Already Leased: A scammer collects application fees and/or security deposits for a rental property that is already leased.
Missing Amenities:A real rental property is advertised as having amenities that it lacks in order to collect higher rent. The landlord attempts to get you to sign the lease agreement before you notice the missing amenities.
How to avoid them
As long as you do your due diligence and pay close attention to the listings, chances are you won’t be scammed. But just in case, here are some tips to stay safe:
- If the user’s address is in one country but their bank account is in another, the listing is probably a scam.
- Search the caption and user to see if the listing has been posted on other sites- if it has, are they the same?
- Make sure a website uses http and has the lock sign, and stay away from unknown sites.
- Research market prices before you look! That way, if a listing is below the market price, you’ll know to investigate more.
- Follow the golden rule “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
- Beware of landlords who pressure you to make immediate decisions, most professionals allow you time to decide for yourself.
- Look out for vague descriptions and grammatical mistakes.
As scams of all kinds become more sophisticated, and harder to spot, you’ll want to have a few tools up your sleeve. Research carefully, ask questions, and talk to other expats. It’ll take some extra time and effort, but it is always worth it!