How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving to a new state? Join the club--last year over 3 million Americans crossed a state line to a new home. Some of those moves were across the country and others might have been across the street, but every single one of those families had to uproot everything they owned, load it onto a truck, and hope for the best. If you're planning a move, there's no doubt you've been online to research moving companies and have gone down the rabbit hole of horrible move stories on review sites. How do you manage your move so that you're not a victim of moving scammers, and that your belongings arrive at your new home safe and intact?

The first thing to do is to learn the lingo of the shipping and transport industry. It's a lot easier to make good decisions if you understand the vocabulary of the business and the different business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, helps you familiarize yourself with Mover-speak so that when you hear terms like cubic weight, accessorial charge and linehaul, you’ll know what they refer to.

The FMCSA website is a great starting point in general, as it also outlines the rules of the road, if you will, that licensed carriers abide by. Any carrier you're considering should be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and have a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can search any complaints against a company on that site. The ones on Yelp and Reddit are more entertaining, but any issues filed with the DOT tend to have a higher level of legitimacy than complaints that are likely the result of the consumer just not paying attention.

In an ideal world, you'd hire movers a couple of months ahead of time, and leisurely pack, manage the family, and be completely ready when the guys on the truck show up. Real life isn't so tidy, and that's what moving scammers count on when they're promising you the moon--you're busy and focusing on a thousand things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency--here's a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we'll deal with the paperwork later. This is a surefire way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back on Craigslist.

Instead, ask your realtor for a referral for a moving company. Or, if you know anyone who's moved recently, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so go ahead and ask your friend in Nebraska who they used, even if you live in Connecticut. Use the FMCSA website to find companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've narrowed it down to a few options, get written in-home estimates.

Be sure to review the FMCSA publication, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move". When hiring a professional mover, it's a federal law that you're given this 25-page brochure (or a link to it) that outlines your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is crucial that you recognize an untrustworthy mover BEFORE they have your household goods. Remember, not all movers have your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS handy as you are talking to your potential mover.

Be wary of movers who:

  • Charge a fee to provide an estimate.
  • Provide an estimate that sounds too good to be true....it probably is!
  • Don't provide written estimates or who say they will determine your charges after loading.
  • Ask you to sign blank documents.
  • Have no physical address on their website or paperwork.
  • Have a poor record with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Do not have a Department of Transportation (DOT) license or the license is expired.
  • Do not have an Motor Carrier (MC) license or the license is expired.
  • Have a DOT or MC number that is less than 3 years old.

It's better to be safe than sorry. So, make sure and check out your moving company before they load your belongings onto their truck! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you're trusting these people with what's effectively your life, do your research and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you.