Shift Gears on Fraud: How to Recognize and Prevent Car Shipping Scams?

April 11, 2023 / Posted in Car Shipping
Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking

Relocating to another state can be a very stressful and overwhelming experience, as you have to make many decisions related to planning your relocation. One key decision is deciding how best to transport your vehicle across the country. Unfortunately, car shipping scams are on the rise. To help prevent them from happening to you, it’s important to recognize what constitutes auto transport fraud. This blog post will provide advice on how to avoid car shipping scams!

Open trailer truck from auto transport company shipping cars across the country overlay
Learn how to choose a legitimate car shipping company and avoid scammers

How to recognize an auto transport scam? Look out for the common red flags, such as suspiciously low quotes, lack of licenses and contracts, uncommon payment methods like upfront fees, and poor customer service with bad communication. Be sure to do thorough research on every company you’re considering and check if they are a legitimate business.

The Rise of Car Shipping Scams – Why They Happen

In recent years, there has been a significant rise in car shipping scams. This type of relocation scam involves dishonest individuals or companies offering car transportation services that either never happen or result in damaged vehicles. The reasons for the increase in these scams are multifaceted.

One major factor is the growing demand for auto transport services due to the rise of e-commerce and the increasing popularity of purchasing cars online. This demand has created an opportunity for scammers to exploit unsuspecting customers.

We must also mention that vehicle transport is a crucial part of relocating to a new state, and seeing how many Americans are going through the cross-country moving process these days, it’s no surprise that auto transport has become an important part of the relocation industry, just like packing assistance.

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Additionally, the anonymity provided by the internet has made it easier for scammers to create fake websites and social media profiles, making it harder for customers to verify the legitimacy of a transport company.

Furthermore, the lack of proper regulation and oversight in the auto transport industry has made it easy for scammers to operate without fear of consequences. As such, it is important for consumers to be vigilant and do their due diligence before entrusting their vehicles to any long-distance moving company – you don’t want to remember this relocation as traumatic.

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Do your research before hiring any company - it's very important!

How to Avoid Car Shipping Scams – Recognizing the Red Flags

Amidst all the reputable cross-country movers who can ship cars and other belongings to another state for you, some scammers are looking to take advantage of your vulnerability and anxiety about the move.

They are known for placing you in tough, compromising situations leading to loss of money and vehicle damage. We will identify common red flags to watch out for when selecting an auto transport company, so you can learn how to choose a company that won’t turn out to be a huge relocation mistake.

Suspiciously Low Quotes

If the quote offered by the auto transport company seems too good to be true, well, it probably is. One of the many ways that car shippers scam clients is by offering unreasonably low quotes in a bid to entice customers.

They will bait you with a low moving cost, and once you sign up, they will reveal huge additional hidden fees, which will eventually become twice the initial agreed quote. To steer clear of this red flag, research extensively on typical car shipping costs and avoid quotes below the industry standard.

Lack of Proper Documentation

A failure by relocation companies to provide you with the necessary documentation is a considerable red flag. Proper documentation is an essential aspect of every auto transport company. Scammers may forge or provide clients with invalid licenses and insurance documents to make their business appear legitimate.

Before settling on any company, confirm their licensing, insurance, safety ratings, and their USDOT number through the US Department of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Payment Methods and Upfront Fees

When selecting a company, it’s essential to understand its payment methods and weigh its cost-effectiveness. Be wary of companies who demand a full payment upfront, as this could be a possible scam.

A trustworthy auto transport company should only charge a deposit, and the remainder should be paid on delivery. Before hiring a company, establish all the payment policies and requirements to avoid any surprises.

Ineffective or Non-Existent Communication

Communication is key in every business engagement, and vehicle transport is no different. A reputable transportation company should provide efficient and timely updates on the status of your car. Scammers will avoid prompt communication and may use language that does not mirror their online reviews.

They may also provide fake contact information that leads to a dead end or ghost you entirely after receiving payment. Therefore, before selecting a company, go through its online reviews and customer feedback to ascertain its communication etiquette.

Steps for Researching and Vetting One Car Shipping Company at a Time

Researching and vetting a company you’re considering at a time is crucial for stress-free moving. How can you do that exactly? Our relocation tips can help you – take a closer look at some of the essential steps you need to take to ensure you find a reliable vehicle transportation company that can safely ship your vehicle to its new state.

Read Online Reviews and Testimonials of Each Auto Transport Company

One of the first and most important steps you should take is to look for reviews online. Pay attention to what other customers have to say about the company, and take note of any recurring issues or complaints.

Keep in mind that not all reviews are created equal, so be sure to check multiple sources and read as many reviews as possible. This can be a good way to get a general idea of what to expect from the transportation process.

Check Their Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accreditation

Another important step is to check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation of each company. The BBB is a reliable source of information on businesses, and its accreditation can help you determine whether a company is legitimate and trustworthy – this is a great moving hack.

The BBB rating is based on a number of factors, including customer complaints and how the company responds to those complaints. You can easily check a company’s BBB rating by visiting its website and looking for the BBB logo.

Ask for Referrals

Referrals are always a good way to find a reliable company to ship your vehicle. Talk to your friends, family members, and colleagues who might have gone through a similar experience. Ask for their recommendations and any advice they may have to offer.

You can also reach out to your local car dealership or mechanic, as they may have good recommendations on reliable companies based on their expertise and experience.

An open trailer truck carrying multiple cars for long-distance moving overlay
There are a few things you can do to ensure you pick a reliable auto transport service

How to Protect Your Vehicle During the Auto Transport Process?

Although there are many benefits of auto transport, it’s still necessary to take steps to protect your vehicle during the transportation process. Proper preparation can prevent damage and give you peace of mind. Let’s discuss some auto transport tips to help you protect your car during auto transport.

  • Inspect your car before transport – Thoroughly inspect your car for any existing damage, and document it with photographs. This will help you make a claim in case of any damage during the transportation process.
  • Remove personal belongings – Remove all personal belongings from your car before transport, as they can add weight to the vehicle and increase the risk of damage. Additionally, the auto transport company may not be liable for any damage caused to personal belongings.
  • Disable or remove alarms – If your car has an alarm system, disable the car alarm or remove it before transport to avoid any unnecessary activation during transit.
  • Prepare your car for transport – Wash your car and remove any loose parts or accessories, and secure anything that cannot be removed. Fold in your side mirrors, and make sure your fuel tank is no more than a quarter full.
  • Communicate with the auto transport company – Stay in touch with the auto transport company and ask for updates during the transportation process. This will help you stay informed and make arrangements for pick-up and drop-off.
  • Inspect your car upon delivery – Inspect your car upon delivery and note any damage on the bill of lading before signing it. If there is any damage, take photographs and report it to the auto transport company immediately to file a claim.

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed?

Unfortunately, some so-called car shippers can have a significant effect on your moving budget – they can cheat desperate consumers out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It’s important to discuss what to do if you have been scammed by an alleged auto transportation business. Don’t spiral into a depression after moving – here are the things you can do in this situation.

Reporting the Incident

If you suspect fraud or scam, the first step should be to report the incident. You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on advancing marketplace ethics. To file a complaint, simply go to the BBB website, search for the company name, and submit your complaint.

The BBB will try to resolve the case as soon as possible. Another agency to which you can report fraudulent behavior is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA has a consumer complaint hotline that you can call or file your complaint online.

Seeking Legal Action

You can also seek legal action against the company that defrauded you. A legitimate car shipping company should provide you with a written contract that outlines the terms and conditions of your auto shipment.

If they fail to do so or intentionally or negligently misrepresent information in the contract, they are likely to be violating the law. In such a case, you can engage a lawyer to help you file a lawsuit.

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What if you do end up scammed? There are still actions you can take

Stay Ahead of Car Shipping Scams and Protect Your Investment With Our Long-Distance Movers

Transporting a car is a necessary part of many long-distance moving experiences, but it’s important to make sure you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your investment. With our long-distance movers from Flat Price Moving & Auto Shipping, you can trust that every step of the process will be taken with utmost care and safety.

We are dedicated to making sure that your items arrive safely for all long-distance shipped vehicles. Our auto transport company has years of experience and knowledge in car transportation and will take the time necessary to answer any questions you have or address any concerns that may arise.

When you hire our movers for long-distance moving services, you can rest assured knowing our professional staff members are protecting your precious cargo. Don’t let scams deter you from transporting an automobile to another state – contact us today, so we can help ensure a smooth delivery process!


What Are Car Shipping Scams and How Do They Work?

These scams involve fraudsters posing as legitimate auto transport companies or brokers and luring unsuspecting customers into paying for transportation services that they have no intention of providing. These scammers often ask for payment upfront, either through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, and then disappear without picking up the vehicle for delivery.

In some cases, they may even steal the car. To avoid these scams, it’s important to thoroughly research any company before handing over the payment and to only work with licensed and insured car shipping providers.

What Common Red Flags Should I Watch for When Identifying Auto Transport Scams?

When identifying auto transport scams, some common red flags to watch out for include unsolicited emails or phone calls, unreasonably low quotes, requests for upfront payments, and demands for immediate decisions. Additionally, it’s important to look for online reviews and check the company’s licensing and insurance status to ensure that they are legitimate.

How Can I Verify the Legitimacy of a Car Shipping Company Before Hiring Them?

You can research their licensing and insurance credentials, read online reviews and ratings from previous customers, and check if they are registered with reputable industry associations such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Additionally, you can ask for references and proof of successful past shipments from the company.

What Steps Can I Take To Protect Myself From Falling Victim to a Car Transport Scam?

To protect yourself from falling victim to a car transport scam, you should thoroughly research the car transport company and check its credentials and reputation. Be wary of companies that offer unusually low prices, ask for large upfront deposits, or refuse to provide a written contract.

Always read and understand the terms and conditions of the contract before signing it. Additionally, do not share your personal information, such as your social security number or financial information, with anyone you do not trust.

What Typical Payment Methods Are Used by Scammers, and Which Ones Should I Avoid?

Scammers may ask for payment methods such as wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, or cash deposits. These payment methods they require are usually untraceable and irreversible, making it difficult for victims to recover their money. To avoid falling for scams, avoid paying with these methods and instead use credit cards or other secure payment options that offer fraud protection and can be traced.

What If I Suspect an Auto Transport Company Is Trying to Scam Me?

If you suspect an auto transport company is trying to scam you, stop all communication with them immediately and do not provide any personal or financial information. Report the company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

You can also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s National Consumer Complaint Database. Additionally, if you have already made a payment, contact your bank or credit card company to dispute the charges and request a refund.

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