How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving across the country? So are lots of others--last year over 3 million Americans moved to another state to a new house. Many those moves were across the country and others might have been across town, but every single one of those families had to pack everything they owned, load it onto a moving truck, and hope it reached their destination. If you're contemplating a move, there's no doubt you've been researching moving companies and have gone down the rabbit hole of horrible move stories on review sites. How do you handle your residential move so that you're not duped by moving scammers, and that your things arrive at your new residence in Houston safe and secure?
 

Start by learning the lingo of the transportation industry. It is a ton easier to make sound decisions if you grasp the terminology of the business and the diverse business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, can assist you to familiarize yourself with Mover-speak so that when you hear terms like storage-in-transit, accessorial charge and linehaul, you will comprehend what they mean.

The FMCSA website is a terrific commencing point in general, as it also spells out the rules of the road, if you will, that licensed carriers follow. Any transportation provider you're considering must 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 on that site. The ones on Yelp and Reddit are more fascinating, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of validity than complaints that are likely the result of the consumer just not paying attention.

In an ideal world, you'd employ movers a couple of months prior to your move, and casually pack, supervise the family, and be totally prepared when the moving van shows up. Reality isn't so easy, and that is what moving scammers rely on when they are promising you the moon—you're sidetracked and thinking about a hundred things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here is a rough estimate and a handshake and we will handle the paperwork later. This is a sure way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back from Craigslist.

Rather, ask your realtor for a name of a moving company. Or, if you are acquaintances with anyone who has moved recently, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies normally have locations all over the country, so you can ask your Uncle in Oklahoma who they used, even if you live in Connecticut. Use the FMCSA website to look up movers registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've reduced down the list to a few options, obtain written in-home estimates.

Make 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 provided this 25-page pamphlet (or a link to it) that spells out your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is crucial that you spot an untrustworthy mover BEFORE they have your household goods. Don’t forget, not every mover has your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS closeby as you are interviewing your potential mover.

Be wary of movers who:

  • Charge a fee for a quote.
  • Hand you an estimate that sounds too good to be true....it probably is!
  • Don't provide written estimates or who say they will calculate your charges after loading.
  • Ask you to sign blank paperwork.
  • 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, make sure and check out your moving company before they load your belongings onto their moving truck! 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 investigation and select a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Houston.