How to Avoid a Moving Scam

By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group 

Moving - Planning a MoveMoving soon? You are not alone--last year over three million Americans moved to another state to a new home. Some of those moves were across the country and others could have been across town, but every single one of those families had to box up all of their possessions, put it onto a moving van, and hope that it arrived without issue. If you are planning a move, there is no doubt you have been researching moving companies and have gone down the path of terrible move anecdotes on review sites. How do you handle your residential move so that you're not a victim of moving scammers, and that your things arrive at your new house in Tulsa safe and intact?

Start by learning the jargon of the trucking industry. It is a ton easier to make sound decisions if you comprehend the terminology of the business and the various 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 mean.

The FMCSA website is a terrific commencing point in general, as it also outlines the guidelines, if you will, that motor carriers abide by. Any carrier you are pondering needs to be registered with the US Department of Transportation, and possess a Motor Carrier and DOT number. You can view any issues lodged against a company from that website. The ones on Yelp and Reddit are more entertaining, but any issues filed with the DOT usually have a higher level of validity than complaints that are likely the result of the customer just not paying attention.

In an ideal world, you'd hire movers a few months beforehand, and casually pack, take care of the family, and be totally on the ball when the movers show up. Real life isn't so tidy, and that's what moving scammers bank on when they're promising you the stars—you are busy and thinking about a million things, so they appeal to your sense of urgency—here's a ballpark estimate and a handshake and we will handle the paperwork later. This is a definite way to never see your furniture again, unless you want to buy it back from Craigslist.

Instead, ask your realtor for a name of a moving company. Or, if you know anyone who has moved in the recent past, ask them for recommendations. National moving companies usually have agents all over the country, so you can ask your friend in Iowa who they used, even if you live in Texas. Use the FMCSA website to find moving companies registered for interstate moves, and Google them. Once you've narrowed it down to a couple choices, get written in-home estimates.

Be sure to review the FMCSA publication, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move". When hiring a professional mover, it is a federal law that you are supplied with this 25-page pamphlet (or a link to it) that spells out your rights, protection, and industry regulations.

It is vital that you recognize a rogue mover BEFORE they have your household goods. 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.
  • Hand you an estimate that sounds too good to be probably is!
  • Don't provide written estimates or who say they will determine 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's better to be safe than sorry. So, be sure and validate 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's effectively your life, do your homework and hire a reputable moving company, like A-1 Freeman Moving Group, who will take good care of you when you move to Tulsa.