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How to Avoid Moving Company Scams

Madhushree Kelkar
With so many companies claiming to offer best moving deals, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the genuine ones. HomeHacks will tell you how to avoid moving company scams.
Did You Know?

Moving companies rank among the top BBB complaint categories at a national level.
Just search for a good moving company online and you will get a number of results. They will offer a user-friendly website and amazing discounts which will impress you instantly. However, don't hurry to hire a moving company that will offer the least price.
Many such fraud companies offer less prices initially, but once the truck reaches the destination, they become adamant that you pay them almost double the cost. If you refuse to pay them, they will just take your possessions and drive away. At times, they flick some of your valuable items or abscond with the entire truckload of your belongings.
However, you can definitely avoid being scammed in this way by the movers. Conduct research about the reputation of these companies and spot the red flags before trusting them with your goods. Here are a few tips that will definitely help you to be alert and avoid becoming a victim of moving company scams.
Check Their Reputation
You should ask help from friends, family, and colleagues in order to find a reputed moving company. You can also consult your real estate agent for getting hold of a good agency. One of the easiest ways to check the reputation of moving companies is to check their BBB grade.
You can also have a look at the complaints registered against them and verify their status with the state and federal agencies. Most of the genuine movers will also be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Inquire if it is a member of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). Check the public opinion on their social media pages and other review websites.
Know the Right Time to Move
The peak season for business of movers is summer. This includes months from June to August. Also, as many renters prefer to move during the last days or initial days of the month, this period is very busy.
Needless to say, Fridays―being the starting days of weekends―are preferred by people who move so that they can sort their things over the next two days. Hence, try to avoid moving during this time as movers will not be in a hurry or may not combine your boxes with those of others to rush through the work.
Don't hire companies for a last-minute move decision as they are bound to rip you off a lot of money.
You can also verify if they have the proper licensing and insurance by visiting protectyourmove.gov. You can also log on to mymovingreviews.com to read what people have to say about them. Also, check the public opinion on their social media pages and other review websites.

Beware of Online Companies

There are many companies which offer online or over-the-phone estimates, and require you to fill out an inventory list. All this is offered at the lowest rates. However, beware that cheap rates do not necessarily qualify for quality service.
Also, they add many 'extras' to boost the prices later on. Hence, hire a company that has a local office and will visit your house to give you an actual estimate.

Finding Scam Companies

The easiest way to eliminate the scam companies from your list is to call them first. If the operator answers by saying "Hello Movers" or "Hello Moving Company" without specifying a name, you can understand that it can be a bogus company.
Also, check if the address mentioned on the company website is authentic. You can even get an idea about a company if the employees do not have uniforms or the truck does not have the branding of the company. This may indicate that the employees and the truck are on a hired basis.

Hire a Professional Company

Shortlist at least 3 to 5 good companies, and have their representatives give an estimate after visiting your house. You will be able to detect the fraud companies immediately after studying the vast disparity in the competitive estimates. Not only this, but also visit their offices personally to understand the level of professionalism in their work.
Also, check if the company has stringent rules about paperwork and other formalities. Check how cooperative the manager is. A genuine company will provide you a copy of all the necessary state or federal booklets related to moving.

Verify the Costs

Usually, if you are located within 50 miles distance from the moving company, their representative will come to your house, and do the valuation of goods personally. There are a few companies who will charge you a minimum amount for a few hours of work. In most cases, if you are moving within 100 miles, the charges will be calculated on an hourly basis.
However, for long distances, it will be based on the total weight and the mileage covered. Many companies also calculate the amount based on the cubic feet covered. Do not allow them to charge you on the basis of cubic feet, as you will definitely end up paying more.
It is advisable that you decide upon a maximum price which should not be exceeded, in order to avoid being duped by the company into paying a large amount as 'additional costs.'
Take Precautions

Do not just allow the movers to fill in their truck and leave with your things. Take photographs and videos of the truck and all the boxes in it. Label all the boxes, make a list of which box contains what, and keep it with you. If possible, try to follow the moving truck in your car.
Be personally present on the premises while loading and offloading the boxes. Count and verify whether all the boxes have arrived safely without any damage or theft.

Understand about Extra Payment

Many fraud companies offer a low estimate initially and then rake up the prices after the truck has reached the destination. They do not allow you to have your possessions until you pay an extra price. To avoid this, understand when you are entitled to pay more.
If they are cramming your boxes in the elevator or carrying them upstairs, they may ask you to shell out extra money.  Also, if the truck does not get closer than 75 feet in front of your door, they will ask you to pay 'long carry' fees.
You may also have to pay more for packing and unpacking of your goods and providing storage. Ask questions beforehand about which services are free and which are not.

Insurance Coverage

One of the indicators of a fraud company is that they will tell you that all your goods have been covered by insurance. Find a genuine company who will explain to you about the coverage and offer you additional insurance for the complete protection of your goods.
It is advisable that you pay a little extra and get the additional "replacement value" or "cash value" coverage. This will come in handy in case your goods are damaged or stolen.
If only the goods are damaged, it will mean that you had not packed them carefully. Hence, ensure that the box carrying them is also damaged before filing a claim. Also, check if these damages are covered under the renters' or homeowners' insurance. Know about the policies and procedures of the moving company in order to file a claim.

What to Pack

It is important that you pack all your glassware properly, and put a 'fragile' sticker on the box. Ensure that the box does not go below a stack of heavy boxes and damage your goods.
Also, do not pack precious jewelry, checks, passports, cash, credit cards, etc., and send them with the moving truck. Don't be surprised if you find that the box carrying valuables goes missing from the truck.

Movers' Contract

You must always demand to retain a copy of the contract with you. Also, a genuine moving company will give you a Bill of Lading and a copy of your 'Rights and Responsibilities.' There are two types of agreements involved in moving which are binding and non-binding.
The first one includes a written record of the advance taken and also has a fixed cost, while the latter is an estimate from the mover's end, and can change based on the actual weight, distance traveled, and services offered. Make sure you choose the right option according to your requirement.
It has to be signed by both the parties and should also bear the correct dates. Also, do not sign on a blank form, partial contract, or one that does not mention all the clauses.

Verifying the Payment

There are many companies who will demand that you pay the entire amount as deposit even before loading the truck. Do not fall for this as they can just take your hard-earned money and run away with it. This happens a lot in the case of fly-by-night movers. They will just close the shop and run away with your belongings.
Try to avoid a company which will demand a deposit. It is also advisable that you make the payment by check or credit card and not by cash. This will act as evidence in case you have to file a case against the movers.

Know the Rules and Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which belongs to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) protects consumers who intend to move their goods interstate.
It is mandatory that all the movers hand over a booklet called "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" when they are handling an interstate move.
You can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation and the BBB against the movers, if they have scammed you. In case you wish to press legal charges against the moving company, collect all the evidence and hire an attorney.
Remember, do not fall into the trap set by bogus online moving companies which promise to offer more services for less cost. Some companies may even cramp up your boxes behind those of other customers and reach your destination late with damaged goods.
Also, there are companies which will cause unnecessary delay and ask you to pay more for it. Now that you know how to avoid being scammed by movers, conduct a background research on the companies, and hire only an authentic one.