How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving soon? Join the club--last year over three million Americans moved to another state to a new house. Many those moves were across the country and others might have been across town, but all of those families had to box up all of their possessions, load it onto a truck, and hope that it arrived without issue. If you're thinking about a move, there is no question you have been researching moving companies and have gone down the rabbit hole of horrible move stories on review sites. How do you supervise your residential move so that you are not preyed upon by moving scammers, and that your possessions arrive at your new home in Denver safe and secure?

The first thing to do is to learn the vocabulary of the shipping and transport industry. It is a lot easier to make solid decisions if you understand 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, helps you familiarize yourself with Mover-speak so that when you hear words like cubic weight, tariff and linehaul, you’ll know what they refer to.

The FMCSA website is a great starting point in general, as it also outlines the guidelines, if you will, that licensed carriers abide by. Any transportation provider you're thinking about should be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and carry a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can view any grievances against a company on that website. The ones on Yelp and Facebook are more fascinating, but any problems filed with the DOT tend to have a higher level of validity than complaints that are most likely the result of the consumer just not paying attention.

In a perfect world, you would find movers a few months ahead of time, and unhurriedly pack, take care of the family, and be completely on the ball when the movers show up. Reality isn't so tidy, and that is what moving scammers rely on when they are promising you the sun—you are busy and worrying about a thousand things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here is a rough estimate and a handshake and we will handle the paperwork later. This is a sure way to never see your couch again, unless you want to buy it back from Craigslist.

Rather, ask your realtor for a referral for a moving company. Or, if you are friends with anyone who's moved in the recent past, ask them if they would recommend their mover. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so feel free to ask your cousin in Iowa who they used, even if you live in Connecticut. Use the FMCSA website to look up movers registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've pared down the list to a few choices, get written in-home estimates.

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

It is important that you spot a dishonest mover BEFORE they load your possessions. 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 for an estimate.
  • Give you an estimate that sounds too good to be probably is!
  • Do not have written estimates or who say they will figure out 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 is better to be safe than sorry. So, make sure and check out your moving company before they load your stuff onto their moving truck! Remember that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, and since you're trusting the movers with what is effectively your life, do your research and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Denver.