Moving houses is an equally stressful and exciting experience, especially if you will be moving to another state. However, nothing spoils the experience more than getting scammed by your chosen moving company. Whether it is paying more than the agreed price or having your belongings taken hostage, no customer wishes to conduct business with fraudulent movers.
Hence, be vigilant and cautious as you scan the web for moving companies. Keep the following tips in mind to help you discern which movers to go for and avoid falling into a moving scam.
Run Background Checks on Movers
Unknown to many customers, there are laws in place that legitimate moving companies have to adhere to—especially for long-distance moving. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) requires interstate movers to register first before they can legally operate.
When looking for movers, do not be dazzled by a professional-looking website or social media page. Always make sure that they are licensed first. There are multiple sources that you can use to run background checks:
- American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) — They have an up-to-date list of licensed local and interstate movers, which you can use to screen your shortlisted movers.
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) — They are a private organization that shows information on various charities and businesses. Customers can check movers’ profiles and their ratings.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) — They oversee interstate movers and keep tabs on fraudulent companies. They have an online database in which you can check for a mover’s registration status and complaint history.
Once you have determined they are legitimate moving companies, you can then proceed to learn more about their services and find the best fit for your needs.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
The guidelines on local and interstate moving can vary significantly. Hence, long-distance movers are required by law to inform you of your rights and responsibilities. They could hand you a physical FMCSA booklet or direct you to their website, which should have a detailed description of all you need to know.
Learning about your rights and responsibilities will give you a better vantage on the entire moving process and help you avoid falling for scams. If the mover does not inform you of them, skip them and look for a more reliable moving company.
Keep a Lookout on Warning Signs
While scams can differ from one situation to another, there are red flags that you can spot. Keep an eye out for any of these warning signs:
- The moving company does not have a local address listed down.
- They have no information about their registration nor their insurance options.
- They do not hold in-house inspections before giving quotations.
- The interstate moving company only does volume-based quotes instead of weight-based ones, which are harder to manipulate.
- The movers show up in rental trucks rather than vehicles that have their brand.
- They ask you to sign an incomplete or even blank form, reassuring you that they will fill it in later.
- They require an upfront payment of more than 20 percent of the quote, contrary to AMSA guidelines.
- Instead of giving you a written quote, they say that employees will determine pricing after loading.
For added protection, avoid using cash. Opt for a credit card instead, which will serve as your last line of defense if an issue ever comes up.
Have Everything Written Down
A well-laid-out document is crucial for any successful transaction. It should contain the following:
- A clear breakdown of services and accompanying fees (e.g. packing services, moving with storage, shuttle services)
- An inventory of your belongings, which also details their conditions
- The actual contract itself between you and the mover
- Other logistical information (e.g. pick-up and delivery dates)
Make sure to read the document carefully. Do not hesitate to ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.
Document Everything Thoroughly
Documenting the moving process is extra work, but it will be invaluable to you if a conflict arises between you and the mover. If anything happens to your belongings, you will have evidence to back up your written claim for loss or damage.
Thus, set aside time to take pictures or a video of your belongings before they are moved, keep copies of the contract, and take note of any problems on the moving company’s inventory copy before signing. If you document everything properly, it would be harder for the moving company to deny responsibility.
Nowadays, fraudulent moving companies are becoming slicker, so it is crucial to remain vigilant. After all, your moving experience highly depends on the mover you transact with. Thus, make sure to hire a reliable and professional moving company that always has you and your belongings’ best interests at heart.