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Blog July 13, 2021

How to Recognize Legitimate Movers and Avoid Moving Scams

Posted in How-to / By Eleanor Stewart

Recognizing a trustworthy and reliable relocation team may be a much harder task than you initially thought. You should know how moving scams work and what fraudsters can use to their advantage in order to trick you. We will provide a list of various aspects you need to research in order to determine whether to place your trust in a mover that caught your eye. Follow our tips and let us guide you through the process.

How Do Moving Scams Work?

When you learn how to choose the best place to live and start looking for a reliable relocation team, you will quickly realize that, unfortunately, there are countless possibilities for scammers to trick their victims. Whether it’s a home relocation or an office move, interstate or a local one, most frauds are based on luring you in with the opportunity of low relocation costs.

You will also soon realize that there are so many ways to protect yourself from such tricks – don’t let scammers hypnotize you with the prospect of saving money. If you are trying to find the cheapest ways to conduct an interstate move, we strongly suggest you find a different way to move on a budget – it will benefit you in the long run.

If you agree to conditions offered by scammers, in the end, you will find yourself paying a lot more than you would if you opted for a reputable team. Falling victim to a moving fraud can have various consequences – from receiving a bill with a bunch of hidden costs you weren’t informed of to having your goods in a hostage situation until you agree to pay twice as much as was originally agreed.

Choosing teams that cost more can, paradoxically, save you money later on

Posts, Reviews, Complaints – Resources You Should Research

A thorough investigation of anyone you potentially see yourself doing business with should be on the list of things to do before you move, no matter where you decide to relocate or whether you choose East Coast movers or West Coast movers for that cause.

Start with online posts, reviews, and recommendations, and try to read as many as you can. If a company has none, consider it a moving scam alert – you should avoid working with them at all costs. However, be especially careful with the online world because it is very easy for fraudsters to create a fake website with tons of positive reviews. That is why it would be best to make personal contact with some of the company’s previous customers. It is significantly less possible to be tricked by personal references of an earlier client than from an online review.

Another good method for avoiding scammers is asking for their license and USDOT number – it’s a unique license number provided by FMCSA. If they don’t have one or don’t want to give it to you, keep on looking.

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Get Tips on Moving Companies in Your City and Cross Out the Suspicious Ones

If you opt for a relocation company in your area, make sure to listen to every little gossip about it. Especially pay attention to what the realtors are saying – they are, after all, involved in the relocation business. Try to find out which companies are the best and why, but also if some of them have a problematic past and dissatisfied customers and if representatives take good care of their customer’s belongings.

Search for Relocation Services Through Independent Resources

You can also find highly reliable sources by visiting Better Business Bureau (BBB) and searching for reviews and complaints from the company’s previous customers. And even better – you can get a general rating of each team. Keep in mind that each review and complaint on BBB’s site should be legit – it is harder to manipulate other people’s references since it’s an independent website.

If you are not sure whether you are supposed to trust online reviews or if your decision should be based on different types of recommendations, check out the following video.

How Do You Avoid Moving Scams – Shady Behavior and How to Catch It

If you want to move safely, you need to have a keen eye and be prepared to catch sight of every little detail when hiring movers. Pay special attention to the following suspicious behaviors from your potential long-distance moving company and their representatives:

  • Don’t agree to do an in-home estimate – cross-country movers will do whatever they can to send a representative to your home in order to get as much information about your household inventory as possible and provide a precise quote.
  • Aren’t interested in the details of relocation – to make an estimate that will be close to the final cost of relocation, a reliable team will want to know the mileage, whether you want any other service on top of their basic cross-country moving services, whether you have an additional stop on your relocation route, the size of the move, and so on.
  • Don’t want to give you their location – a trustworthy team will have an online website that lists the physical location of their offices. However, scammers will often rely only on creating a site.
  • Don’t want to provide you with their DOT number – the Department of Transportation Number is provided by FMCSA. Every registered commercial vehicle must have it. Reliable long-distance movers will be happy to forward it to you if they have nothing to hide.
  • Don’t want to discuss the capped price – you have every right to ask for the highest possible expense of your relocation. If they refuse or don’t offer anything in writing, that’s a clear sign you should be suspicious.
If a mover doesn't want to know about your inventory list, take it as a red flag.

How to Avoid Fraudsters and Spot Scam-Related Details

When it’s time to move, learning how to avoid moving company scams can be life-saving. Fortunately, there are some relocation hacks you can use – they can help you determine which movers can earn your trust and which ones you should avoid at all costs.

Discover Secrets Hidden in Names

If there is a lot of evidence of a company’s scamming ways in the form of negative reviews and alike, fraudsters can decide to start the same business with a different name. So they wouldn’t scam you, ask for their business license, from which you can learn several important facts. Be sure to check if the name has been changed recently, but also check the date of registration. If the date is recent, investigate the reasons for that. The best-case scenario is that they are an inexperienced, young firm (that fact can also go against your best interest).

Huge Deposits Are a Big No

Insisting on a big deposit is a tactic scammers use frequently. If you pay them a hefty sum upfront, don’t be surprised if they don’t show up again – they found a way to get some free money. In addition to that, be sure to never use cash as a way of payment because that kind of money transfer is more difficult to trace.

Estimate Various Estimates

Like every good businessperson, you need to compare the offers presented to you. You can’t learn much about a team if you observe it independently from all others. However, when you contact several different companies and compare their estimates of your household inventory, you can decide if someone’s bid is unreasonably low. Offering lower estimates than others is one of the ways for scammers to trick you and convince you to do business with them.

Accept Only the Quote Based on an Inventory List

A trustworthy relocation team will base their quote on the inventory list of your household goods, not on square or cubic feet. Suppose you want to load and move large items – untrustworthy movers will grab the opportunity to arrange your goods in a way that they occupy more space than needed. That goes for every item you possess – if you decide to pack technology or want to pack a bed, know that fraudsters will try to steal your money by making those objects take up more physical space.

Get Everything in Writing

Don’t let any part of your agreement stay strictly verbal – document everything. Reputable relocation companies will give you a detailed list of each service they provided you with in writing. If you are relocating when pregnant or have to pack in a hurry, you will want to hire their packing service. The price of your relocation will go up – but with reliable teams, you will be informed of that ahead of time.

Imagine finding someone that will pack your fragile items for free so you don’t have to agonize over how to pack glasses or, for that matter, how to pack silverware, only to later realize that it wasn’t free at all. Similarly, suppose you decide to move a piano, or you need a professional’s help to clean your home before relocating – a reliable team will inform you of the extra fee you’ll need to pay in both cases. A scamming one will offer a very low estimated price but charge everything in the end, usually even more than the trustworthy one would.

Everything that is in the contract should be discussed before you sign it. If you are relocating with kids and need a mover to help you with packing toys, notify them about it so they can add the cost of their assistance into the contract. Read the contract from top to bottom and ensure that it contains every service you previously requested and nothing more. Familiarize yourself with the federal law regarding the insurance policy – don’t let them charge you mandatory insurance, which is, by federal law, free.

Before signing, read the contract carefully and never sign a blank one.

How Do I Know if a Moving Company Is Legit?

The best way to ensure that the team is legitimate is to research some formal databases provided by recognized institutions such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or the American Moving and Storage Association. FMCSA is responsible for regulating the whole field of interstate relocation, and AMSA can give you information about relocation companies, both local and long-distance, which operate on the highest level. Besides that, make sure to carefully read Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, a booklet that every reliable mover should provide.

FMCSA and AMSA can give you official insight into the company's business - research them online

What to Do if You Have Been Scammed by a Moving Company?

If fraudsters get to you and succeed in their evil plans, do not despair. There are ways you can still resolve the issue – you just need to file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or the Office of Inspector General. You can do that by visiting their website or by calling their customer complaint number.

Contact official institutions for help if you were a part of a scam

Edit Your Reliable Relocation Company Checklist

Some of the previous tips are regarded as common sense. However, the more people discover scammers and their ways, the more scammers become innovative in panning their frauds. So make sure that on your checklist for choosing a trustworthy mover, you have all the information we gave you above. The more fields a firm checks, the higher is the chance you will be working with legitimate professionals who will help you reduce the relocation stress.

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