How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving to a new state? So are lots of others--last year over three million Americans crossed a state line to a new home. Many those moves were across the country and others might have been across town, but every single one of those families had to box up all of their possessions, load it onto a truck, and hope for the best. If you're thinking about a move, there is no doubt you have been online to research moving companies and have gone down the road of terrible move tales on various websites. How do you handle your residential move so that you're not preyed upon by moving scammers, and that your belongings arrive at your new house in Wichita Falls safe and sound?

Start by learning the vernacular of the trucking industry. It's a ton easier to make solid decisions if you understand the language of the business and the various business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, helps you familiarize yourself with Mover-talk so that when you hear phrases like storage-in-transit, valuation and released value, you’ll understand what they mean.

The FMCSA website is a good starting point in general, as it also depicts the rules of the road, if you will, that motor carriers adhere to. Any carrier you're considering should be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and possess a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can search any grievances against a company on that website. The ones on Yelp and Google are more amusing, but any grievances filed with the DOT tend to have a higher level of truth than issues that are probably the result of the customer just not paying attention.

In an optimal world, you would hire movers a few months beforehand, and unhurriedly pack, manage the family, and be completely prepared when the guys on the truck show up. Reality isn't so easy, and that is what moving scammers bank on when they're promising you the moon—you're scattered 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 talk about the details later. This is a definite way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back off of Craigslist.

Instead, ask your realtor for a name of a moving company. Or, if you are acquaintances with anyone who has moved in the recent past, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies commonly have locations all over the country, so you can ask your friend in Iowa who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to search movers registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you have narrowed it down to a few options, schedule a time to get written in-home estimates.

Be sure to review the FMCSA publication, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move". When hiring a professional mover, it's a federal law that you are supplied with 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 load your possessions. Don’t forget, not every mover has your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS closeby as you are talking with 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 total 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 is better to be safe than sorry. So, make sure and validate 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 the moving company with what is effectively your life, do your homework and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Wichita Falls.