Avoid a Moving Scam

Tips to avoid a rogue mover

It's easy to figure out why you should be wary of a scheming mover -- you'll be loading up all your worldly possessions and putting them on a truck with a few workers you barely know. At best, a moving con can cost you thousands more than you budgeted. At worst, your stuff can completely vanish. Here are some tips to find a reputable mover:

Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. The best way to find a legitimate moving company is to ask around. If someone you know has had a good experience with a company, it's likely that you will too. For maximum safety, request the same crew your friends or relatives used.

Drive by the local office of the company you choose. Is their business well-kept and accessible? The quality of the building the company works from often correlates with the quality of its service. Be wary of companies that don't have offices.

Check out the company's qualifications. Check with the Better Business Bureau. You can find out if the business is BBB-accredited, a process which requires a background check. You can also find out if there has been government action or consumer complaints against the company.

Locate their operating license. Every professional interstate moving company will proudly display their U.S. Department of Transportation license and their Motor Carrier number on their website. If you don't see the license number, move on to another website. You can verify the MC number at www.protectyourmove.gov.

Another good resource is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), where you can check out your mover online at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. If you suspect a problem or have had your belongings hijacked, you can call FMCSA's toll-free hotline at 888-368-7238 to file a complaint. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other helpful Web sites include the American Moving and Storage Association's Web site, www.moving.org; and www.movingscam.com, a user-generated site that maintains a "blacklist" of scam moving companies.

Don't get estimates over the phone or Internet. Legitimate movers need to visit your home to size up your stuff and give you a real estimate.

Don't pay a large deposit up front. Companies that demand a big down payment or ask for cash only likely aren't reputable.

Get everything in writing. If the company refuses to put everything -- or anything -- in writing, you shouldn't purchase their services.

Go with your gut. You need to be sure of a company before you wave goodbye to your stuff. If a rental truck arrives on moving day rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck, you can still back out. It's a hassle to reschedule your move, but it's a bigger hassle to lose your belongings altogether.


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