How many stories have you heard from your family and friends about losing money because someone duped them? Whenever you heard such stories, you must have prayed wholeheartedly to never get stuck in such a situation. You might run away from fraudulent activities but you can never predict who might try to make you fall for a scam and how convincingly they might do it.
When you hire movers, you are literally handing over all your possessions to them. There is a lot at stake because they know that you will do anything and pay any amount of money to get your stuff back from them. You have to be extremely careful while hiring movers because obviously, you do not want to hire rogue ones. All this might sound scary, but you can absolutely avoid getting into such situations by looking out for red flags while you interact with a mover. Here’s how to tell if a moving company is a scam.
Ways to Predict Whether a Moving Company is a Scam
As we mentioned before, there are several signs or red flags that can alert you about whether something is wrong with a company. Fraud companies can easily cheat you of money if you are being super passive or careless during the move. You need to ask yourself and the movers the following questions whenever you are trying to examine whether a particular moving company is a scam.
1. Is the Moving Company Licensed and Certified Properly?
You will be glad to know that the government is extremely concerned about all its citizens because of which it has maintained a federal agency that keeps a close eye on the trucking industry. This agency is known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Movers use trucks because of which their business is regulated by the rules of the FMCSA.
It is important for you to note that although interstate movers are mandatory required to register with this agency, local movers are free to not abide by these rules. However, local movers do have to follow the regulations set forth by the state government. If you are concerned about a certain company being a fraud, read up on whether the company is adhering to the requirements laid down by the state. In this way, you will know which movers have to be dodged.
If a company is registered with the federal agency, you can rest assured that it is a legitimate company. To check whether a company is legitimate, try to find the USDOT (US Department of Transportation) number and the MC number of the company. Along with the USDOT number, the FMCSA website will also let you know about its operating status. If the operating status says that the company is authorized, you are good to go!
Along with registering with the FMCSA, a reputable moving company will also make an effort to receive certain business certifications. If a company is certified by organizations like the American Moving & Storage Association and the Better Business Bureau, you can rest assured that you are dealing with a legitimate and reputable company.
2. Is the Moving Company Insured?
The FMCSA requires all interstate movers to offer two basic coverage options namely full-value protection and released-value protection. According to the FMCSA:
- A Full-Value Protection Plan makes the mover liable for the reimbursement or replacement of any of your possessions that were damaged by the movers during the move. You have to pay some extra fees to avail of this option.
- A Released Value Protection Plan makes the mover liable for paying you 60 cents per pound of item that is damaged. This is a very basic plan that is economical in nature. This plan is included in your quote, you don’t have to pay anything to avail of this coverage.
3. Are there Many Complaints Registered Against the Company?
If a company has been providing bad services or scamming its customers, most of the customers make sure that they register some sort of complaint against the company. Before you hire any company, you can search for the frequency with which complaints are registered against a particular company.
To find out more about this, you simply have to go online and search on the FMCSA website. Once you find the USDOT number of the moving company, you can access the complaint history of the company. You can also search for complaints against moving companies on the websites of organizations like Better Business Bureau and AMSA. If a company meets the accreditation standards of these organizations, you can trust them and not worry about them being frauds.
4. Has the Company Received Bad Reviews?
The reviews posted by a moving company on their own website tend to be rather polarized. They do not show their shortcomings to their potential customers. In this case, all you have to do is read up on the reviews of the company on third-party review websites like Yelp, Consumer Affairs, or Google reviews. If you see multiple negative reviews and a very few positive reviews, it would be wise to steer clear of that company.
It is always better to get reviews from your personal connections who might have used the services of the company before. You can also call up the company and ask them for the contact details of their references. Make sure that these references are some real past customers of this company. If everything seems transparent and good, the company can mostly be trusted.
5. Does the Company Offer to Conduct a Survey (in-Home or Virtual) Before giving you an Estimate?
Don’t get us wrong here. A company will provide you with an estimate on their websites, but these are just the ballpark estimates. You get these estimates to get an idea about how much your move would cost you. However, if you are interested in hiring the company, they will send their employees to conduct an in-home survey and give you a much more accurate estimate.
In other cases, they might conduct a virtual survey of your home. A company that expects you to sign a contract and pay them the quoted amount before the move without even conducting a survey of your home is probably trying to scam you. Remember that skipping the in-home estimate part is a big no-no.
Similarly, a good estimator will always go over your possessions in detail while conducting an in-home survey. This is because knowing exactly what you need to move can help them to calculate an accurate estimate. Avoid hiring a company whose estimator doesn’t give so much as a glance at your items. Rushing through the in-home survey isn’t a great sign.
6. Does the Company Offer Guaranteed Estimates?
Moving companies are legally required to give you their estimates in writing. You can either get a non-binding estimate from them, which means that the final price of your move cannot exceed by more than 10% of the original quote offered to you. You can also get a binding estimate from your mover which means that the quote offered to you is the final price of your move.
If the moving company doesn’t offer you your agreed-upon price in writing, run away from there and don’t look back. Many scam companies charge several additional fees to their customers after the contract has been signed. These companies tend to hold your belongings hostage until you have paid up the amount they want. Keep in mind that it is perfectly alright for companies to charge extra if you avail of certain additional services at the last moment.
Make sure that you don’t sign any blank contracts when you make a reservation. If a company insists that you sign one and they will fill out the details later, you are probably being duped. Remember that the contract that you sign should contain all the details of your move including estimate, additional fees, pick-up, and delivery dates, and a detailed inventory of your items.
7. Does The Company Charge By The Weight Of Your Shipment?
You might not know this but scam companies will often tell you that they charge their customers by the cubic feet of space occupied by the belongings in the company truck. This automatically translates to the fact that they can’t provide you with a proper estimate when you hire them (you can find the cubic feet of space occupied by your stuff only when your stuff is packed into the truck).
This means that they can charge you any amount they like once you have signed a contract with them. Always remember that a reputable moving company always offers you an estimate on the basis of the weight of your shipment. That’s why it is advisable to pay attention to what metric is used by the company while they calculate your estimate.
8. Did you Receive Multiple Calls After You Filled an Inquiry Form?
Did you know that you are supposed to get only one phone call after you fill one inquiry form? Scammers are very smart when it comes to scoring gullible customers. Once a fraud moving company finds out that you have filled an inquiry form, it will make more than three people give you a call. These people will claim to be from different companies and offer you different quotes.
In reality, these people work in the same company. They do this so that you feel that you are getting in touch with different companies and choosing the best out of them. However, you are simply being played by one company into believing that you chose a company of your choice. This is an unethical practice of trying to score more customers. So, do not hire any company that calls you if you receive multiple calls after filling one inquiry form.
9. Has the Company Changed its Name Several Times Over the Years?
Many companies tend to change their name multiple times (once they have scammed a few customers) in order to avoid coming under the scrutiny of organizations like AMSA and BBB. Read up on the history of the company and make note of any instances of name changes. Companies also change their names because they want to avoid getting negative reviews from their past customers.
Whenever you plan to hire a moving company, make sure that the company has been in the business for quite some time. Ensure that they are licensed and insured. Search for reviews submitted by their customers on the internet.
If the company is a recommendation from someone you personally know, that’s great news. If you don’t know anyone who has used their services, ask the company to give you three references (remember that these references have to be their real past customers).
10. Is the Company Professional in its Dealings?
There are several things that you can take note of when you are trying to determine whether a moving company is professional in its dealings. Firstly, check whether the company has an official online website. If the company provides you with a real office address and a business email address, that’s a good sign.
Being licensed and insured is another sign that indicates that they are serious and honest in their work. Notice whether their employees wear any sort of uniform or whether their trucks have the company logo on them. Also, watch out for an official bill of lading. It is common sense to look out for signs like these when you hire a moving company. If you feel that something is off, if your gut tells you that you should back off, we recommend that you trust your instincts.
Read Also: Mistakes to avoid when Moving
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do if you get scammed by a moving company?
If the moving company you hired commits fraud, you can get in touch with FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database online or call them on the following toll-free number: 1-888-368-7238. You can register a complaint with FMCSA irrespective of whether a moving company is a broker or a carrier. Similarly, you can also register your complaints with organizations like Better Business Bureau and American Moving and Storage Association.
Do moving companies ask for a deposit?
Legitimate movers who are well-reputed in the industry will not ask you for a large deposit before you move with them. Similarly, they also do not demand that you carry out all your transactions with them in cash.
How much should you tip movers?
If you are satisfied with their job, you can tip $4 per hour to each person working on your move. For example, if you have two movers working for 5 hours, each of them will end up receiving $20 as a tip. Apart from money, you can also offer food and beverages to your movers while they work. This will raise their morale and motivate them to work better.
We don’t want you to think that every moving company is out there to get you. There exist several reputable companies that will take care of your needs to no end. All that we want is for you to be aware. Being aware of the things pulled off by scam movers can help you avoid such fraud companies. Don’t worry and approach your moving companies confidently. Ask them the right questions (like the ones mentioned above). We believe that as long as you are well informed, you will instinctively know who to trust.
Also See: National Moving Companies