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. Many those moves were across the country and others could have been across the street, but every single one of those families had to pack all their stuff, put it onto a truck, and hope it reached their destination. If you are contemplating a move, there's no question you have been online to research moving companies and have gone down the path of horrific move anecdotes on different websites. How do you supervise your residential move so that you are not a victim of moving fraud, and that your belongings arrive at your new house in Atlanta safe and secure?

The first thing to do is to learn the vocabulary of the trucking industry. It's much easier to make good decisions if you understand the language of the business and the diverse business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, aids you to familiarize yourself with Mover-talk so that when you hear words like auxiliary service, valuation and linehaul, you’ll understand what they mean.

The FMCSA website is a terrific starting point in general, as it also depicts the rules of the road, if you will, that licensed carriers follow. Any carrier you're considering must be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and carry a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can view any issues lodged against a company on that website. The ones on Yelp and Google are more amusing, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of truth than complaints that are likely the result of the customer just not paying attention.

In an optimal world, you would hire movers several months ahead of time, and unhurriedly pack, take care of the family, and be 100% ready when the moving van shows up. Reality is not so easy, and that is what moving scammers rely on when they are promising you the moon—you're sidetracked and worrying about a million things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here is a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we'll handle 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 suggestion of a moving company. Or, if you are acquaintances with anyone who has moved not too long ago, ask them who they used. National moving companies usually have locations all over the country, so go ahead and ask your friend in Oklahoma who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to search movers registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've narrowed it down to a few options, schedule a time to get written in-home estimates.

Make sure to read the FMCSA publication, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move". When hiring a professional mover, it is 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 a dishonest mover BEFORE they have your household goods. Keep in mind, not all movers have your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS handy as you are interviewing your potential mover.

Be wary of movers who:

  • Charge a fee to provide an estimate.
  • Hand you an estimate that sounds too good to be probably is!
  • Don't provide written estimates or who say they will determine your charges after loading.
  • Ask you to sign blank paperwork.
  • Have no physical address on their website or documents.
  • Have a poor grade 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 check out your moving company before they load your belongings onto their moving van! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you're trusting the movers with what is effectively your life, do your investigation and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Atlanta.