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  • Writer's pictureAmerican National Movers

How To Avoid Moving Company Scams

Nearly 35 million Americans move each year. Fortunately, most moves are made without incident, but complaints against moving companies have increased steadily. The best protection against these moving companies is to be well-informed. Here are the most common moving scams, the red flags to watch out for, and tips on protecting yourself.

Types of moving scams

One of the most common complaints are shipments being held hostage, damage, delay of shipments, unauthorized movers, and deceptive business practices, such as overcharges. Here are the top 11 scams and the red flags to look out for

Phoning it in

A mover who does not insist on an on-site inspection of your household goods is a mover that you do not want to work with; at the very least, you should do a virtual tour with your moving company if none of these options are offered, I highly suggest you do not hire that moving company. When doing inventory, homeowners typically have considerably more belongings than they think, and good estimators are looking at something other than specific items as much as volume; when reviewing inventory with a moving consultant, it is essential to make sure you are being as detailed as possible. Remember, your costs are mainly based on volume, not just the distance of your move.

The cursory glance

An estimator who does not offer a quick walkthrough of your home, whether in person or via video conference and take note of precisely what you plan to move will be way off the mark.

Instead, a good estimator will ask you several questions.

Thousands of individuals have their belongings held hostage by scammers who lowball your costs and refuse to deliver their belongings until they pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars; this is labeled as a hostage move.

The "required" deposit

Reputable moving companies will NOT demand cash or any large deposit before your move. You generally pay upon pick up and delivery. If you pay upfront, you have no control. When you pay, use a credit card to help you fight fraudulent activity. This is not always true for every moving company; as long as you are reserving your move on credit, then you are good to go; a major red flag would be cash-only activities.

The name change.

Some moving companies get around the Better Business Bureau by constantly doing business under new names. Always check the time a company has been in business, as this is a potential red flag for an unethical moving company.

Packing costs

If you pack your belongings, the moving company isn't responsible for any damage to them. But, on the other hand, if you let your mover pack them, you're purchasing inflated prices for boxes and other packing materials, time, and labor. Ask about the moving companies' packing experience if you go that route. Some movers are careful, but others throw whatever they can into a box with little regard for your belongings. In other words, you'll be better off packing yourself or hiring professional packers

Other extra fees

Are flights of stairs involved in your move? You will likely be charged more. Moving to or from a 10th-floor apartment? Expect fees. Have a tight street that won't fit a moving van? Expect a surcharge for transferring your belongings onto another vehicle. Ask in advance so you're not caught by surprise

The blank contract

Never sign a contract with minimal verbiage, no matter how much you like the mover. Instead, get everything in writing. Your estimate and all fees and your pickup and drop-off dates should be stated.

Read your contract thoroughly and ensure that your belongings are listed. For example, don't be satisfied with boxes mentioned as "Office Supplies" unless you see them packed up with notepads and paperclips. Likewise, if that computer needs to be labeled on the inventory form you sign before the foreman leaves, don't expect it to be in the truck when he arrives with your shipment. You can not file a claim for something that doesn't appear on the inventory list.

The "guaranteed" quote

Federal law requires one of two moving contracts you can choose from. A non-binding estimate means the company can only ask for payment of up to 10 percent of your original quoted estimate, due 30 days before delivery. A binding estimate is a flat rate; if additional services are requested, the extra fee is due within 30 days of delivery. Read the fine print. It often states that the moving company will not exceed that price unless the volume of your belongings is more than the estimate; nine times out of ten, your volume is always more than your original estimate; keyword "estimate." Moving companies may give estimates that are several thousand dollars apart, so you may feel safer with the higher estimate. I suggest always going with the highest estimate. Usually, that is coming from the most honest mover.

The mover claims that all of your goods are fully covered.

All moving companies must assume liability for the value of the goods they transport. However, two different levels of liability apply, and you should be aware of the charges and the amount of protection each group provides.

"Full value protection"

This is the most optimal plan available to protect your household goods. If you do not purchase additional insurance, then you are stuck with the standard insurance, which pays you 60 cents per pound per article on your furniture. This is a little money at all when your shipment will be transported under your mover's Basic level of liability. If any article is destroyed or damaged while in possession of the mover, you will not be happy with the outcome of your claim process.

The cost for complete value protection may vary and may be subject to v deductible levels of liability that can reduce your cost.

Under this option, moving companies limit their liability for loss or damage to the furniture of extraordinary value unless you list them on the shipping documents. A piece of exceptional value is any item that exceeds $100 per pound.

Not acting on the window of opportunity.

How many of you had relocated to another state and still had boxes unpacked? Pray that nothing inside is damaged; you have nine months which goes by faster than you think to report any damage to the moving company.

Make sure you open each box and sift through it to check for apparent damage. You should write the problem on the mover's copy of the bill of lading before you sign it. The moving company then has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim. They must deny your claim within 120 days of receiving it or make an offer to pay.

How to file a complaint

If you feel you are a victim of fraud by a moving company, you can file a complaint with the FMCSA, and other data sources are used to decide which companies FMCSA will investigate. The complaint will be entered into the database and leave a negative record on the company's file. Moving companies do not want complaints on this database as it hurts them. Moving is very difficult; while many moves go smoothly, a dishonest mover may try to take advantage. Check all of your options when hiring a moving company.

Get a written estimate.

Get several different estimates from moving companies and compare them. This is your best chance to find the best-moving company near you. The estimate should be based on an in-person inspection of your household goods or a virtual tour, as stated above.

Make sure the mover is registered with the FMCSA.

For long-distance movers, a U.S. DOT number is required by FMCSA. For in-state moves, regulations vary. You can check with your state, county, or local consumer affairs agency.

Check the mover's complaint history and reputation.

Another tool you can use is checking the mover database. Visit You can use the FMCSA database to verify a moving company and check for the mover's tendencies.

Do your homework.

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