It’s that time. You’ve been looking forward to it for months. Your bags are packed, your new home is move-in ready, and you can’t wait to start over someplace new.

Then it happens – the movers arrive. Things seem well until you get the bill and it’s twice as much as you were told it would be. You reluctantly pay it, knowing the joy of your beautiful new home will help ease the sting of the inflated cost. Plus, things couldn’t get any worse… right. Then you realize in the process of moving all your items in, they’ve destroyed your antique furniture and caused extensive damage to your new home.

Now you’ve realize it COULD and DID get worse, and that moving scams are real.

Some Things You Should Know At one time, only several large moving companies had the authority of moving goods over state lines. However, in 1980, the Household Goods Transportation Act was passed. This allowed all movers to provide “binding estimates,” which caused more price competition. The price competition led to lower and lower prices, meaning less profit for moving companies. The desire to make more money ultimately led to some dishonest movers… SCAMMERS.

In researching this article, we ran across horror story after horror story. These scammers run the gamut, ranging from bad to worse. A few of the more memorable ones are:

  • A family of four from Ohio was relocating to California. They thought they found a reputable company and signed a contract for what they thought was a good deal. However, when they arrived at their new home, the movers surprised them with a new bill for much more and the family’s belongings are held hostage until they paid the new cost.
  • Another story involved a man from North Carolina who had the unlucky experience of a mover adding more costs to his signed contract after he had actually signed it, giving him no choice but to pay the bill.
  • Even worse, a young couple arranged for a mover via the Internet for what they thought would be a fairly simple, inexpensive move. However, moving day came and the movers never showed. To make matters worse, the couple paid the bill online, and their money was never seen again.

Though there are laws in place to protect or give justice to these moving scam victims, it’s much easier to do your homework and just avoid a scam altogether.

Important Tips to Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself is to do your research ahead of time – if you wait until after the move to get all the facts, you may find yourself in a sticky situation. If possible, you may want to move yourself. Rent a truck, gather your friends (particularly the strong ones) and take on the job on your own. However, for many people, this is not a feasible option and may be more trouble than it’s worth. Here are some helpful tips when choosing a moving company:

  • Find out from people you know. Ask everyone from friends, family and coworkers. These people have your best interests at heart and would not recommend someone they thought would wrong you.
  • Use the Internet cautiously. Though most moving companies found online are reputable and do fine work, there are unfortunate times when movers may try to take advantage of you.
  • Get their contact information. You should get their full company name, any DBA (doing business as) names, phone numbers, address, Web site address, e-mail address and how long they have been in business.
  • Check their references. A good company will be willing to give you responses from previous customers – good and bad! You can also check for past complaints with the FMCSA at 1-888-368-7238.
  • Ask the company for proof of insurance. You will need to verify the company not only is licensed to perform your move, but also that they are adequately and legally insured to do so.
  • Get estimates. You should get at least three estimates based on a home evaluation. Know what information should be included in a written estimate and the difference between a binding and non-binding estimate.
  • Don’t shop just on price. Though the company with the lowest price may ultimately be the best choice, don’t let price be the sole reason for your decision.

Once you have chosen a company, here are some important things to remember:

  • Get a signed contract. Make sure your contract clearly states the cost of your move, and make sure the terms and conditions are clear and are included in the contract. Federal rules and regulations on moving can be found online at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move.
  • Understand your charges. Movers quote prices by weight, by items or by the hour. If your quote is by the hour, make sure there is a clear minimum and maximum time frame to help you avoid a scam. If the quote is by item, make sure to take inventory off all of your goods and check it against the mover’s list. If the quote is dependent on weight, take inventory and try to be present while the movers are weighing your items.
  • Make sure you get “The Book.” Moving companies are legally required to give you a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” You can also get a copy at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/are-you-moving/your-rights-and-responsibilities-when-you-move.

Remember, this is not meant to scare you. In fact, the vast majority of moving clients have wonderful experiences with their movers – and most movers are reputable, honest and fair. The key is to do your research and not let yourself be a victim of a scam.