How to Avoid a Moving Scam
By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
The first thing to do is to learn the vocabulary of the transportation industry. It is a ton easier to make sound decisions if you grasp the language 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 bulky item, you will comprehend what they mean.
The FMCSA website is a good starting point in general, as it also outlines the rules, if you will, that motor carriers abide by. Any moving company you are considering must be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and possess a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can view any issues lodged against a company on that site. The ones on Yelp and Reddit are more fascinating, but any grievances filed with the DOT tend to have a higher level of truth than complaints that are probably the result of the consumer just not paying attention.
In an ideal world, you would hire movers a couple of months ahead of time, and unhurriedly pack, take care of the family, and be completely on the ball when the guys on the truck show up. Reality is not so simple, and that is what moving scammers count on when they are promising you the moon—you're busy and focusing on a thousand things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here is a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we'll handle the paperwork later. This is a definite way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back off of Craigslist.
Rather, ask your realtor for a suggestion of a moving company. Or, if you are friends with anyone who has moved recently, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so go ahead and ask your Uncle in Oklahoma who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to search moving companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've reduced down the list to a few options, get written in-home estimates.
Make sure to look at 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 brochure (or a link to it) that contains your rights, protection, and industry regulations.
It is crucial that you spot an untrustworthy mover BEFORE they load your household goods. Don’t forget, not every mover has your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS on hand as you are talking to your potential mover.
Be wary of movers who:
- Charge a fee to provide a quote.
- Give you a quote 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 documents.
- Have a unsatisfactory 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 stuff onto their moving truck! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you are trusting these people with what is 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 El Paso.