How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving to a new state? You are not alone--last year over 3 million Americans moved to another state to a new residence. Many those moves were across the country and others could have been across the street, but all of those families had to box up all their stuff, put it onto a moving truck, and hope for the best. If you're thinking about a move, there's no question you've been online to research moving companies and have gone down the road of terrible move tales on review sites. How do you handle your residential move so that you are not preyed upon by moving scammers, and that your possessions arrive at your new home in Austin safe and intact?

The first thing to do is to learn the jargon of the trucking industry. It's a ton 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, can assist you to familiarize yourself with Mover-talk so that when you hear phrases like auxiliary service, accessorial charge and linehaul, you will understand what they refer to.

The FMCSA website is a great beginning point in general, as it also depicts the rules, if you will, that licensed carriers adhere to. Any carrier you are pondering must 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 website. The ones on Yelp and Reddit are more amusing, but any problems filed with the DOT tend to have a higher level of legitimacy than complaints that are most likely the result of the customer just not paying attention.

In a perfect world, you'd hire movers a couple of months prior to your move, and leisurely pack, manage the family, and be totally prepared when the moving van shows up. Real life is not so tidy, and that is what moving scammers count on when they're promising you the moon—you're sidetracked and thinking about a million things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here is a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we will talk about the details 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 are friends with anyone who's moved recently, ask them who they used. National moving companies normally have locations all over the country, so go ahead and ask your Uncle in Nebraska who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to look up companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you have reduced down the list to a couple options, schedule a time to get written in-home estimates.

Be sure to read the FMCSA publication, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move". When hiring a professional mover, it's a federal law that you're supplied with this 25-page brochure (or a link to it) that contains your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is vital that you recognize a dishonest mover BEFORE they load your belongings. Remember, not every mover has your best interest in mind. So, keep these RED FLAGS handy as you are talking with your potential mover.

Be wary of movers who:

  • Charge a fee for a quote.
  • Provide a quote that seems too good to be probably is!
  • Don't provide written estimates or who say they will calculate your total after loading.
  • Ask you to sign blank documents.
  • Have no physical address on their website or documents.
  • Have a unsatisfactory 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, make sure and verify your moving company before they load your things onto their moving truck! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you're trusting the moving company with what is effectively your life, do your homework and select a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Austin.