How to Avoid a Moving Scam
By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
Off the bat, learn the vernacular of the transportation industry. It is much easier to make sound 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 words like storage-in-transit, valuation and bulky item, you will know what they refer to.
The FMCSA website is a terrific starting point in general, as it also outlines 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 fascinating, but any grievances filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of legitimacy than complaints that are probably the result of the consumer just not paying attention.
In a perfect world, you'd find movers a couple of months ahead of time, and leisurely pack, manage the family, and be totally on the ball when the movers show up. Real life is not so simple, and that's what moving scammers bank on when they are promising you the moon—you're scattered and focusing on 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 stuff 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 Texas. 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 review 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 an untrustworthy mover BEFORE they load your belongings. Keep in mind, 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 true....it 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 bad 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 San Antonio.