Continued record homes sales coupled with the high season for relocation means more people are preparing to move. This high demand means more people are at risk of getting scammed by rogue movers or other deceptive brokers.
In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) received more than 7,000 complaints about moving scams in 2021, which is up significantly since before the pandemic.
To help avoid scammers, Sterling-based JK Moving Services, the nation’s largest independently owned moving and storage company, has developed a list of tips to help ensure a smoother move.
“It’s frustrating to hear the stories about consumers getting scammed out of money or their furniture being held hostage by unscrupulous ‘brokers’ and movers,” said David Cox, executive vice president, JK Moving Residential Services. “There are many excellent, professional moving companies, and it’s important for consumers to do their homework before agreeing to hire a mover. Moving is stressful enough without getting duped.”
Top tips for avoiding moving scams:
Be wary of Internet “brokers”
The Internet is full of brokers who promise best prices. However, they are not movers and do not have staff, trucks, facilities or systems. This often leads to frustrating move experiences for customers, and could mean lost money and stolen or destroyed property.
Start early and get three estimates. Some movers use artificial-intelligence (AI) -technology that enables very accurate real-time, “virtual” surveys of goods. AI-driven tools recognize rooms, furniture and appliances as well as their sizes and weights, ensuring more accurate estimates.
If a mover doesn’t have a virtual option, then request an in-home estimate from a trained move consultant.
Understand estimate differences
Be aware of the conditions and risks of different types of estimates:
• A binding estimate obligates you to pay the price quoted.
• A non-binding estimate bills you for the final weight of your shipped goods.
• A not-to-exceed estimate lets you pay the estimated price or the actual cost, whichever is lower, and must be provided by the carrier in writing.
Validate your mover
Check to make sure the mover is a Certified ProMover. Are they registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with a valid U.S. DOT number? Some companies will use variations of a well-known mover’s brand name for their name, so make sure you are working with the correct moving company.
Ask for recommendations on referrals from friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and real-estate agents for suggestions. Use their feedback to begin the process.
Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions about the entire move process, including the finer points of the estimate and pricing, the delivery window, and the training the movers receive. Consider it a warning sign if a mover does not want to answer or deflects questions.
Be cautious of the low price
If a price from one mover is significantly lower than all other estimates, re-check the estimate to verify what is and is not included. Remember, you get what you pay for.
Take a tour
If the mover doesn’t have a facility, then avoid doing business with them. If they do, then take a tour. Tours give insights into the company’s professionalism and confirm their legitimacy. Take note of how many trucks do they have, how well maintained their storage facility is, and their willingness to provide a tour.
Know your rights
Federal law requires movers to give you a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” prior to an interstate move, which is published by FMCSA. The agency’s regulations help protect consumers who are making an interstate move.
Help protect yourself and others by reporting bad actors. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has an online site to report fraud.