How To Protect Yourself From Moving Scams
Millions of Americans move every year for personal, study, or career reasons. Some people prefer organizing their relocation and moving by themselves to save money. Others give their preferences to moving companies due to lack of time, necessary experience, or not enough hands.
Unfortunately, some moving companies may turn out to be fraudulent: they can take your money and never show up, or worse - take your belongings. If you want your stuff back, scammers require you to pay double or triple the cost of your move. At first glance, they all might look quite decent, but how do you recognize scammers?
First Warning Signs Of “Rogue”
- The company’s website doesn’t include their local address and information about their registration, license, and insurance.
- They offer you low-ball estimates, best prices, limited offers, or hot deals, but pressure you to purchase and sign papers ASAP.
- If a mover refuses to make a free on-site inspection and only gives an estimate online or by phone.
- If a mover requires a large deposit or full payment in advance or insists on paying in cash.
- A company asks you to sign a blank or incomplete contract.
Also, it will be beneficial to learn about the most common moving scams.
Research You Should Do To Avoid Fraud
Get recommendations from your friends, family, colleagues, or reliable real estate agents - from people who you know and trust. Try not to rely on the advertisement, especially online ads, TV, newspapers, etc. Recommendations are the most trusted forms of advertising.
There’s also a useful option to ask recommendations on social media. For example, Facebook has built-in functionality to create a post that asks for recommendations. Here is what you need to do:
Create a Post -> click Ask for Recommendations -> select the city or area where you’re looking for recommendations.
By clicking on the audience sector, you can also choose the audience, who you would like to get recommendations from (Public or only Friends Facebook). It is an easy, helpful, and up-to-date way of getting recommendations nowadays.
Search movers on the Internet.
If your friends couldn’t recommend any reliable movers or never had moving experience before, try googling reputable movers and make a list of them according to Yelp, Google My Business, and Trustpilot reviews.
Also, look up their USDOT number. If you succeed in finding a valid USDOT number, it means that the company is eligible to work as a moving company. All the companies that operate commercial vehicles transporting passengers or hauling cargo in interstate commerce must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and must have a USDOT Number.
Make a list of at least 3 moving companies.
Ask for their USDOT number, Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation, and Certificate of Insurance (COI). Remember, that there is a small fee for COI requests. Avoid movers that can’t provide their registration and licensing information. Ask if they have their own trucks. Skip companies that can give only a phone or online estimate.
Check mover’s reputation.
Check the companies for complaints with the local Better Business Bureau. If possible, engage on social media with people who left reviews about the mover and ask them about their moving experiences.
Get written or digital estimates.
Obtain estimates from the movers you chose, compare them, ask all your questions about the providing services, their prices, and total cost. Read their contracts carefully before signing anything. Remember that the right contract includes all the costs in writing, extra fees, pick-up and delivery dates, and responsibilities of both parties.
Beware of companies that require a large deposit or full upfront payment including the companies that insist on paying in cash only. It is acceptable if you leave a small deposit, but it shouldn’t exceed 20% of the quoted price. Make sure you get a receipt as a confirmation of your payment.
Helpful tips for your move
- When the mover visits you to make an estimate, point out everything that should be moved. This way, you will get an accurate estimate.
- Make an inventory of your belongings. Take photos or videos of them to capture their condition before transportation.
- Thoroughly read your contract. If the mover leaves some fields blank, such as the total weight or volume of your items, don’t sign this document. Also, never sign a paper releasing a mover from liability for missing or damaged items.
- If you have valuable or fragile goods, pack them well, and purchase extra insurance.
- Get the driver’s name as well as your contact manager.
- The company should provide you a copy of the moving procedure. If there’s any problem after your move, for example, some of your goods are missing or damaged - contact the mover right away.
To avoid being scammed, you’ll need to be vigilant. If the company you’ve chosen meets all the requirements and passes the tests mentioned above, it’s safe to book your relocation. In any case, you should know your rights and responsibilities when you move.
In recent times a growing number of complaints show that some moving companies are unlicensed, uninsured fraudulent firms. If you think you’ve been scammed, movers violated the law, lost your goods, or illegally kept them - call the consumer protection agency and complain to the BBB.