How to Avoid a Moving Scam
By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
Start by learning the jargon of the trucking industry. It is a ton easier to make sound decisions if you comprehend the terminology of the business and the various business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, helps you familiarize yourself with Mover-talk so that when you hear words like storage-in-transit, accessorial charge and linehaul, you will understand what they mean.
The FMCSA website is a terrific beginning point in general, as it also outlines the guidelines, if you will, that motor carriers abide by. Any carrier you are considering needs to be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and possess a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can look for any complaints against a company from that website. The ones on Yelp and Facebook are more entertaining, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of validity than complaints that are likely the result of the customer just not paying attention.
In a perfect world, you'd hire movers several months ahead of time, and leisurely pack, manage the family, and be completely on the ball when the movers show up. Real life isn't so tidy, and that's what moving scammers bank on when they're promising you the sun—you are busy and focusing on a million things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here's a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we will talk about the details later. This is a definite way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back off of Craigslist.
Instead, ask your realtor for a name of a moving company. Or, if you know anyone who has moved in the recent past, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so you can ask your cousin in Oklahoma 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 couple choices, 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 is a federal law that you are supplied with this 25-page pamphlet (or a link to it) that outlines your rights, protection, and industry regulations.
It is important that you recognize a rogue mover BEFORE they have your household goods. Keep in mind, not all movers have your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS closeby as you are talking to your potential mover.
Be wary of movers who:
- Charge a fee for an estimate.
- Hand you a quote that sounds too good to be true....it probably is!
- Don't provide written estimates or who say they will determine your total after loading.
- Ask you to sign blank documents.
- Have no physical address on their website or paperwork.
- Have a bad 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, be sure and validate your moving company before they load your things onto their moving van! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you're trusting the moving company 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 when you move to Atlanta.