Don’t Let Moving Day Make You a Victim of Identity Theft
There are a number of reasons why people may choose to relocate at this time of year. College students may be heading home for the summer, or graduating and moving on to their new careers.
Some professionals may have already found another job, but the family has been holding off on the move until their kids’ school year let out. Even senior citizens who spend part of their year in one location, but winter or summer in another city, may be facing packing up some possessions and hitting the road.
No matter what your reason for relocating, it’s important to be aware of the often-overlooked scams surrounding moving. Whether it’s the actual packing and transporting of your belongings, utility scams in your new residence, mail forwarding scams that steal your identity, or bait-and-switch property rentals, there are quite a few pitfalls that can turn your exciting new move into the heartbreak of becoming a victim.
1. Beware the lowest bidder when it comes to moving your precious cargo. There have been reports of a variety of scams involving transporting your belongings, but perhaps the most nefarious is “hostage moving.” That means a giant truck and a crew of capable workers pack up all of your things for an unbelievably low price, then literally hold your items hostage until you pay more, sometimes thousands of dollars more.
2. Secure your identity during the moving phase by making sure you don’t leave any documents lying around. If you’re moving a file cabinet, fire safe, or some other easily recognized source of personal information, make sure it’s locked securely or move it yourself.
3. Get references before you let anyone on your property. In the age of online reviews, there’s no reason to hire a company that doesn’t have vetted customer opinions available to the public, whether it’s on their own website, their company Facebook page, Google, or another source.
1. College students need to be especially careful around this time of year. Their postal address may change at the university, meaning important papers can still be sent to an old address. That can make it easy for a thief to steal identifying information before anyone ever realizes that the mail was delayed or missing.
2. While a for sale sign is necessary for selling a house, it’s also a spotlight on the fact that you’re moving. That means your mail might be on hold, rerouted, or just not checked routinely. This can give an identity thief plenty of time to change your address himself, forward your mail to his own box, or outright steal your mail from your curbside box. Be aware of any periods of time where you don’t receive mail, and report it to the post office as soon as you’re aware of it.
Property and Utility Scams
1. If you’re moving any distance away, you might rent or buy a property without getting to lay eyes on it yourself. Don’t be too quick to trust online property ads, though. Be sure to investigate the address thoroughly using a site like Google Maps, and only work with vetted sources like real estate agents or property rental companies with good reputations.
2. Before paying any deposits for utilities or down payments for the property, get a credit report to make sure you aren’t being charged more than you should be due to unresolved issues stemming from fraud or identity theft.
3. If you are renting or buying from an individual, use a payment escrow company that will hold the payment until both parties agree on the terms and the property itself. That way, you won’t be out the money you sent if the listing isn’t exactly as described…or doesn’t exist at all!
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.