Moving can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. But if you’re unlucky enough to do business with a rogue moving company, that adventure can quickly turn into a nightmare.
The good news is that the vast majority of moving companies aren’t out to take advantage of anyone. But why take a chance, especially when it comes to a whole household of possessions?
Choosing a less-than-reputable moving company is often cited as a common moving mistake to avoid. Here are five red flags to watch out for that will help you avoid a moving scam. If you see any of them, you know you need to keep looking for other movers.
The moving company doesn’t insist on coming to your home to perform an inspection prior to giving you an estimate.
Moving companies charge by weight, and, in order to give you an accurate estimate for charges, a professional has to come to your home to perform a walk-through. If a mover offers you an estimate—either over the phone or via email—based on a few general questions, consider it a warning sign. They’re likely to give you a low-ball quote so that you sign on, but when it’s time to deliver your goods the movers can hold you hostage until you pay more.
Requiring payment in full ahead of time, or asking you to fork over a sizeable down-payment.
A legitimate moving company doesn’t ask for money up front. Instead, you’ll receive a bill after services have been rendered. By agreeing to pay any amount of money in advance, you’re basically giving up any leverage you have to ensure that your belongings make it to their destination. Don’t rely on faith when it comes to movers. If they want your money before hand, something’s fishy.
By law, movers are required to give you this information any time they transfer your belongings over state lines. In some cases, even movers who are performing in-state moves will go to the effort to ensure you get a copy of the pamphlet. Remember, crooked movers don’t want you to know your rights; therefore they won’t make any effort to help educate you. Take this as a sign that you should part ways and find another moving company.
You’re given blank or incomplete documents to sign.
Although this falls under the category of “good old-fashioned common sense” there are still plenty of people who fall victim to this ploy. Call it whatever you want: a false sense of security, blind trust, or naiveté. Either way, attaching your signature to a blank contract can leave you open to all kinds of troubles including drastically increased delivery fees and the discovery of missing belongings. Always read and verify all documents that you’re asked to sign.
The moving company providing an interstate haul isn’t registered with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).
You can look this up for yourself simply by visiting www.fmcsa.dot.gov and entering in the company’s name. Registered movers have specific DOT (Department of Transportation) numbers—make sure the truck leaving with your goods has the same DOT number as the DOT number on your bill of lading (contract between you and your mover).
As a best practice, always do your homework prior to doing business with any moving company. You can find a history of customer reviews, ratings and complaints by visiting the Better Business Bureau website. Ask for customer references and call them. The U.S. Department of Transportation also operates a consumer-protection website, www.protectyourmove.gov, where you can find further information about avoiding moving scams and how to file an official claim against a mover.