How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving soon? Join the club--last year over 3 million Americans moved to another state to a new residence. Some of those moves were across the country and others might have been across town, but each of those families had to box up everything they owned, load it onto a truck, and hope for the best. If you are planning a move, there's no doubt you've been trying to find moving companies and have gone down the road of horrific move stories on different websites. How do you handle your residential move so that you are not preyed upon by moving fraud, and that your belongings arrive at your new house in Little Rock safe and sound?

The first thing to do is to learn the lingo of the trucking industry. It's a ton easier to make solid decisions if you comprehend the terminology of the business and the different 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 phrases like storage-in-transit, accessorial charge and bulky item, you will comprehend what they mean.

The FMCSA website is a great starting point in general, as it also spells out the rules, if you will, that licensed carriers follow. Any transportation provider you are thinking about must be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and have a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can look for any issues lodged against a company from that website. The ones on Yelp and Facebook are more fascinating, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of legitimacy than complaints that are probably the result of the customer just not paying attention.

In a perfect world, you'd employ movers several months prior to your move, and leisurely pack, supervise the family, and be 100% ready when the guys on the truck show up. Real life is not so tidy, and that's what moving scammers rely on when they're promising you the moon—you are scattered and thinking about a million things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here's a rough estimate and a handshake and we will handle the specifics later. This is a definite way to never see your stuff again, unless you want to buy it back on Craigslist.

Instead, ask your realtor for a referral for a moving company. Or, if you are friends with anyone who's moved not too long ago, ask them who they used. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so go ahead and ask your friend in Nebraska who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to find moving companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've pared down the list to a couple 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 brochure (or a link to it) that outlines your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is important that you recognize a rogue mover BEFORE they load your household goods. Don’t forget, not all movers have your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS handy as you are talking to your potential mover.

Be wary of movers who:

  • Charge a fee to provide an estimate.
  • Give you a quote that seems too good to be probably is!
  • Do not 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 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, make sure and check out your moving company before they load your stuff 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 is effectively your life, do your investigation and pick a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Little Rock.