Before I move on to other posts I want to do (and considering my absence, I have quite a few of those), I want to describe a very unpleasant experience I had last week and some lessons I learned.
Last Thursday I moved to a new place. I’m pretty used to this by now as I move, on average, slightly less than once a year – so this wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. However, this time things were quite unusual.
In order to get moving quotes from various companies, my wife filled the details of our move using some online form. She’s already done this before. Hell, who doesn’t? This is similar to the way you can get auto insurance quotes from several companies – I offer this on three of my own sites – you can do the same thing with moving companies. We got many offers, invited three to our home to give final proposals, and agreed to go with one.
It turns out that one of the companies that sent an offer which we immediately eliminated (obviously a total scam based on online reviews) figured which company we were going to go with. Then they called them, impersonated my wife and canceled our move claiming to be her. The next day they sent their people who claimed they are the representative of the moving company we called. The day before the move they also called my wife and warned her about “scams” so if anything looks out of the ordinary, she should give them a call to make sure things are fine.
Considering these, it took about an hour and a half for us to figure out we are dealing with criminals and not who we were supposed to. Thanks to Google, we also found out, in real time, what is next to come: based on dozens of online reviews, this company takes your belongings then hold them hostage until you pay, in cash, an outrageous sum (several times the amount you were promised – assuming you hired them in the first place). All these, however, were based on people who actually hired them. We never did – they got to our place in a criminal fashion. We never saw any review that mirrored our story either.
We called the police and the original moving company. After they arrived (the police sent 5 cops!) we heard that neither has heard of a similar case before (though I’d be surprised if we were the first). By then it seemed that it would be better to finish what we started – not our preferred choice, but the police took the movers’ details and assured us that they won’t try to hijack our items.
It was pretty stressful, but eventually the move ended despite fears we’ll never get our belongings OR get only some OR will have to pay a crazy sum. Or even worse.
Both my wife and I use the net all the time. We’ve always been very careful with our identities. Like I said, I even offer a similar service myself. Scams and frauds are one thing, criminal activity is quite another. It is important to emphasize we weren’t the only victims here, the original moving company was cheated as well (and who knows how many times?).
Despite being so careful, this unfortunate scenario still took place. So I ask, how could this have been prevented?
For starters, even if someone calls to confirm your order/move/etc, do not trust this but rather call the company yourself to confirm it.
More importantly, I think that from now on, it might be a good idea that whenever I’m asking for quotes, not to give my real name (or to alter it in a way that would be noticeable if someone were to use it). Of course, once dealing with a company, preferably in the flesh, I would use my name. Had we done this, if some criminal company were to call us or come to us using these details it would’ve been immediately obvious.
The final option is to avoid using such services.. but I think to have this attitude means going back to the stone ages. We may as well not be online at all. And the same thing could’ve happened had we done everything using phones.
Note that there’s more to this story though I can’t share it for various reasons (just yet).
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