How to Avoid a Moving Scam
By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
Off the bat, learn the vocabulary of the shipping and transport industry. It is a ton easier to make sound decisions if you understand the language of the business and the different business models of moving companies. This glossary of terms, found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, helps you familiarize yourself with Mover-speak so that when you hear terms like auxiliary service, tariff and linehaul, you will know what they mean.
The FMCSA website is a terrific beginning point in general, as it also depicts the rules, if you will, that licensed carriers abide by. Any transportation provider you're pondering should be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and carry a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can search any complaints against a company on that website. The ones on Yelp and Facebook are more amusing, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of legitimacy than issues that are likely the result of the customer just not paying attention.
In an optimal world, you would employ movers a few months beforehand, and unhurriedly pack, manage the family, and be totally prepared when the moving van shows up. Reality isn't so tidy, and that is what moving scammers count on when they are promising you the sun—you are sidetracked and focusing on a thousand things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here's a rough estimate and a handshake and we will talk about the specifics later. This is a surefire 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 know anyone who's moved not too long ago, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies normally have agents all over the country, so you can ask your cousin in Oklahoma who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to look up moving companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've pared down the list to a few options, obtain written in-home estimates.
Be sure to read 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 a rogue mover BEFORE they have your possessions. Remember, not every mover has 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 for a quote.
- Provide a quote that seems too good to be true....it probably is!
- Do not provide written estimates or who say they will determine your total after loading.
- Ask you to sign blank paperwork.
- Have no physical address on their website or documents.
- 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 is better to be safe than sorry. So, be sure and verify your moving company before they load your belongings 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's effectively your life, do your investigation and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Austin.