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Avoid Bandit Movers
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Avoid Bandit Movers

Calls to the CMSA consumer information line regarding 'Bandit Movers' are at an all-time high. Eighty percent of the consumer calls are from victims of 'bandit movers' - 'movers' who appear to be legitimate in advertisements or on-line but, in fact, charge below market value prices, engage in unlawful practices, bully consumers into paying outrageous prices once the move is underway, and threaten to sell the personal goods if their demands are not fulfilled.

Most of the abuses result from moves booked on-line. Consumers are subject to potential fraud if they book a move over the phone or on-line without doing their homework. The CMSA suggests the following strategies to validate the legitimacy of a mover:

  • Verify the license number with the CMSA or the Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS), the state agency that regulates the moving and storage industry. Touching base with the CMSA is best because the association's professional team knows its members -- about 500 moving companies statewide. Furthermore, if the consumer has a problem with a move performed by a CMSA member, the trade association will intervene on the consumer's behalf.

  • Visit the physical location to ascertain the company's level of professionalism.

Additionally, CMSA members are licensed, maintain professional liability insurance and workman's compensation insurance (a must because if a member of the moving crew is injured while on your property you could be held liable if the mover does not have appropriate insurance coverage), provide training for their staff to ensure a professional move, maintain clean moving vans and equipment, and adhere to a strict professional code of conduct to uphold the industry's standards for service, pricing and professionalism.

May we also suggest that you plan and coordinate large moves at least a month in advance to give yourself time to properly investigate movers and obtain written estimates. Also, take a few moments to visit the other menu topics in this section of the CMSA website. The information provided will help you avoid serious issues with you. relocation.

Tips to Avoid Moving Company Fraud

  1. Don't book your move on-line or over the phone without verifying that the mover has a location in your area. Drive by the location. Go in and meet the company's personnel. Use your instincts to discern if the company's personnel appear to be professional and trustworthy. Let your commonsense guide you ... but don't stop there!

  2. Verify the company's license. All movers are required by law to demonstrate their legitimacy on all their documentation.

  3. Verify the license number with the California Moving & Storage Association (CMSA) or the Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS).

  4. Obtain written estimates for moves of three or more rooms. Legitimate movers are price competitive. Make sure the estimates are based on the same factors (i.e. move and pack; move only, etc.) If a company provides an unusually low bid ... beware! The company could be illegal, or they may have made an error while estimating your move. If the latter is the case, the price will likely escalate on moving day.

  5. Illegal movers may charge by the cubic foot. Legal movers charge by the hour (local moves), and by weight/mileage (distance moves).

  6. Bandits "rip off" innocent consumers by charging exorbitant fees for extensive and unnecessary packing on items that should be pad wrapped. Furnishings should be wrapped with shrink wrap or protected with special moving blankets.

  7. Bandits will intimidate consumers to tip the crew. Tipping is not customary, but it is accepted when the customer has received exceptional service.

How to Avoid Headaches on Moving Day
The Do's and Don'ts of Moving


  • Don't confront the driver about the bill. Get your questions answered in advance with a customer service representative or a manager of the moving company. If you start the move with an adversarial tone, no one will have a good day!

  • Don't micro-manage the move. It's a good idea to stay nearby and to monitor what is going on. However, professional movers know what they are doing. They are specially trained to handle your personal goods with care and speed.

  • Don't ship perishables (anything requiring refrigeration) or hazardous materials (propane, gasoline, aerosol cans, etc.) on any kind of move.

  • Don't be unprepared on furniture placement at destination. The mover will re-arrange furniture but remember that you are being charged by the hour.

  • Don't forget to tell the mover about all of the possessions they will move. Remember to specify the conditions at destination (i.e., elevators, stairs, delivery conditions for van placement) which could result in extra charges.

  • Don't expect the mover to perform plumbing or handyman services. You are responsible for unhooking your household appliances including ice makers.


  • If more than three rooms must be moved, ask for a representative from the moving company come to your home, apartment or office. To provide an accurate estimate, the mover must see your possessions and the layout of the location. This will give them insight as to the type of personnel and equipment that will ensure a smooth and successful move.

  • Book a move weeks in advance. This lead time will give the mover the opportunity to schedule the proper equipment and labor to ensure a successful move.

  • Use the free services of the California Moving & Storage Association to find legal movers in your area. The association includes an on-line profile and directory of nearly 500 movers throughout California.

  • Take the time to read and understand the documentation. For local moves (up to 100 miles), the hourly charges begin when the moving van arrives at origin and concludes when the services have been completed at destination. The drive time between origin and destination is doubled to compensate for the time to deliver the equipment and labor to origin; and from the moving destination back to the terminal. Distance moves (over 100 miles) are billed by weight (per 100 lbs.) and mileage.

  • Keep a copy of all your documentation in the event it is necessary to file a damage claim.

  • Buy professional packing supplies from the mover or another supplier. Your possessions can be damaged in transit if they are stored in inappropriate boxes and carriers.

  • Use Styrofoam packing chips, bubble wrap, and un-printed paper to protect breakables.

  • When doing your own packing, help your mover to be successful by packing heavy items, such as books, in smaller boxes. Light items should be packed in larger boxes. Visit your mover to see specific-use boxes for books, dishes, lamps, paintings, clothing, etc.

  • Be courteous and professional to the crew. They are moving your possessions. While it is not necessary to offer them water or sodas during the move, these acts of kindness are important for establishing a positive relationship with your moving team.

Happy moving day!

For more information or assistance call
(562) 865-2900 or (800) 672-1415

Updated: June 2021

California Moving & Storage Association 1998-2013
10900 E. 183rd St., Ste 300, Cerritos, CA 90703-5370
(562) 865-2900 - (800) 672-1415 - (562) 865-2944 Fax