How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving across the country? You are not alone--last year over three million Americans crossed a state line to a new house. Many those moves were across the country and others might have been across the street, but all of those families had to pack everything they owned, load it onto a moving truck, and hope that it arrived without issue. If you're contemplating a move, there's no doubt you have been trying to find moving companies and have gone down the road of horrific move stories on different websites. How do you manage your residential move so that you are not a victim of moving scammers, and that your possessions arrive at your new house in El Paso safe and secure?

The first thing to do is to learn the vernacular of the trucking industry. It is much easier to make good decisions if you grasp 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, aids you to familiarize yourself with Mover-talk so that when you hear phrases like storage-in-transit, tariff and released value, you will know what they refer to.

The FMCSA website is a terrific starting point in general, as it also spells out the rules, if you will, that motor carriers follow. Any carrier you're considering needs to be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and have a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can look for any grievances against a company from that site. The ones on Yelp and Google are more amusing, but any problems filed with the DOT usually 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'd employ movers a couple of months beforehand, and leisurely pack, manage the family, and be completely on the ball when the movers show up. Real life is not so easy, and that's what moving scammers rely on when they are promising you the moon—you're scattered and thinking about a hundred things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here's a rough estimate and a handshake and we'll deal with the specifics later. This is a definite way to never see your couch again, unless you want to buy it back on Craigslist.

Rather, ask your realtor for a name of a moving company. Or, if you are acquaintances with anyone who's moved recently, ask them who they used. National moving companies normally have locations all over the country, so you can ask your friend in Iowa who they used, even if you live in Connecticut. Use the FMCSA website to find movers registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've narrowed it down 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're provided this 25-page booklet (or a link to it) that contains your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is crucial that you recognize a rogue mover BEFORE they load your belongings. Remember, 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 to provide an estimate.
  • Hand you an estimate that sounds too good to be probably is!
  • Do not have 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 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, be sure and verify 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 are trusting the moving company with what's effectively your life, do your research and pick a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to El Paso.