With 15+ tabs open in a browser, you are looking for a moving company to trust. Every article you read says “beware of moving scams” or “avoid moving company scams”. What are scams in the transportation and shipping industry? What tricks are typically used to drive potential clients’ attention?
10 practical tips below unlock secrets on how to detect moving scams and how to find out a professional moving company.
Undoubtedly, you’ve requested estimates from several moving companies as most experts recommend. No wonder the lowest price seems the most attractive. But when the rate is suspiciously lower than the market average, take it as a warning. Rogues often entice people by low prices, take deposits and… disappear. One more trick of dishonest companies is holding the stuff hostage for extra money.
Estimation by Phone
Most movers offer online calculators on websites to let you get a general idea of estimated costs. In the meantime, you may find “movers” offering to calculate expected costs by phone — they will find many reasons to avoid in-situ estimation. Sometimes they send a representative, who darts a glance at your home and announces a price.
Yet still, moving companies that do care about their reputation always recommend requesting in-person estimation and they provide this service free of charge. Why? Because they are professional and they are truly concerned about their reputation in the market which is essential for the success of their business. By the same token, a representative will take notice of all details, such as bulky furniture, larger appliances, or artwork that require special packing or additional tools to facilitate carrying.
Small upfront payments are a common practice in the moving industry. Typically, companies ask for a deposit of less than 20%, or from $100 to $500. In most cases, small deposits are taken just to reserve a specific date for a client. If a company requires a large cash deposit, it is a very indicative sign that you deal with fraud.
Important: Do not agree to cash payments — credit cards allow more control over transactions.
A license must be the first and most significant thing to check about a moving company. All companies offering interstate relocation should be licensed; however, in some states, local movers are also required to obtain a license. The FMCSA database provides regularly updated information about moving companies. Besides, the USDoT website has a search tool to check whether the company is fully legitimate, and has a license, insurance, and official registration.
Use a USDOT number which is usually available on a company’s website to ensure that movers are fully legit. The search tool on the USDoT platform will display the company’s history records, registration data, and a list of official claims if there are any.
The verification process is essential for filtering out scams. Before making a deposit, make sure that the company is legal and operates in compliance with the industry standards and rules.
Additionally, a legit moving company should provide clients with the official document on customer’s rights (“Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”) issued by FMCSA.
If you pack all the stuff on your own, a company doesn’t bear responsibility for potential damage. If you hire full-service movers to pack your stuff, make sure packers are qualified enough to do their job well. Another issue in question is the packing supplies costs. Pros usually get materials via wholesalers at a lower price than you can find at retail stores. Scams use packing services as a reason for extra charges at excessive supplies prices.
Once again, before paying an advance, check the company’s license and customers’ feedback to be sure that the company is fully legitimate and reliable.
Blank Contract or Fine Print
As for any service in any industry, a rule of thumb is not to sign empty contracts or documents with unreadable fine print. You never know what can be added later to the agreement — additional fees that you aren’t aware of or potential move date modifications without penalties for the service provider.
A moving company with a solid track record would never offer you to sign a half-filled or blank contract. In fact, reputable movers also need a detailed inventory and contract to prevent any unjustified customer claims.
Low rates from crooked companies can end up with a much higher total price as scams add extra charges for almost everything, including heavy furniture or narrow passages. All aspects of the move should be specified in the contract you sign.
A huge difference with pros: they do provide the in-person estimation to check the expected difficulty of the move: staircases, narrow streets, multi-story buildings, large and bulky items, and parking slots for trucks. All these aspects are taken into consideration and calculated. Hence, you won’t face unanticipated charges or hidden costs.
One more sign of a moving company scams is their generosity with insurance promises. Typical insurance is from 60 cents/pound of the move size. For example, if you move a piece of appliance weighing as much as 100 pounds with the price of $750, you will receive $60 as coverage in case an item is lost or damaged.
Hence, when someone promises full coverage, you are most likely dealing with scams. Besides the insurance offered by movers, you can obtain additional insurance to secure your stuff.
Changes in Company’s Name
When you do research about a moving company, you may notice in the history a few name changes. This is a common practice for movers with low-quality service and negative feedback. Be prudent and stay away from such businesses. Rebranding is ok, but name changes that happen every now and then cannot be attributed to it.
Testimonials on the company’s website might be filtered, so try to find listings of movers with reviews. The BBB platform displays customer feedback; besides, there are online listings of moving companies where you can read previous customers’ reviews and comments.
Do your homework thoroughly — it is always better to be safe than sorry.