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How To Protect Yourself from Moving Scam

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How To Avoid Moving Fraud and Scam

In the age of Google, finding a moving company is often as simple as typing in a few words at your keyboard. Unfortunately, some of the “businesses” that pop up in online advertisements and search results are little more than scams—abandoned, late or never delivered possessions, increased delivery charges, bait and switch estimates and tacking on extra fees once your stuff is on a truck are all common.

To avoid being taken, you’ll need to be vigilant. If the company you’re looking at passes the following tests, it’s probably safe to book your move.

1. The company has a full website

General blogs, which are easy to buy and fill with anything, don’t count here. The company should have full descriptions of services, a company history or about page, reviews and testimonials, easy-to-find contact information complete with a physical address (viewable on Google Maps) and social media links (you should get an answer!), a URL that matches the company name and additional search results in Google. Remember, a real company wants to be found!

2. The company is listed favorably with watchdog organizations

The first two organizations that should positively rate the movers are the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. The third is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can call the administration’s hotline at (888) 368-7238 to check a shipper’s license, insurance record and complaint history. As you try to verify legitimacy, be wary of companies that are known under several different names.

While legitimate, traceable acquisitions and rebranding might account for one or two modifications, many names indicates the company is trying to obscure their shadiness from watchdogs.

3. Rates are reasonable and on par with the industry

Typical in-town or short-distance, labor only (no truck) moving services usually range between $60 and $80 per hour assuming two movers. With the truck, the rate range is $90 to $100. For long distance moves, the rate can be as low as $1,200 for a studio up to $6,300 for a 3-bedroom home. If your estimate is significantly lower, the deal is probably too good to be true. If it’s significantly higher, there likely are unnecessary fees the movers are trying to slide past your nose.

4. The company provides complete paperwork

Current regulations require legitimate movers to provide several different types of paperwork, such as an Order for Service, Bill of Lading (essentially a receipt proving they have your stuff), Rights and Responsibilities, an inventory list, a freight bill (at time of payment) and weight tickets. These documents should be complete with everything but your signature filled in, and the movers should happily give you information about their claims policy.

While you can pay in advance, the movers shouldn’t demand a large deposit as the paperwork changes hands. Informational documents also should be available from the movers, either from the representatives or through website downloads.

5. You can get extra insurance

Most movers will offer some basic coverage based on the weight of what you’re moving. Legitimate companies know that this coverage might not be enough and, subsequently, provide the option of purchasing more comprehensive moving insurance packages.

They make the differences between those options clear and even remind you that your renter’s or homeowner’s policies might also be of help.

6. The truck and other items are branded

Legitimate companies typically proudly advertise on their vehicles, putting their company logos or messages on them. Other equipment, such as pens, stationary, uniforms and dollies, also will be clearly identifiable as belonging to the company.

When you call the business, you shouldn’t get a generic "Movers" answer, either, but rather the name of the company. Again, as with website design, legitimate movers want others to know who they are and that they’re available.

7. Others speak well of the company

Not only should there be positive reviews on the website, but you also should hear good things about the movers from friends, family members or others you ask for recommendations from. These reviews don’t have to be perfect—honest mistakes are made and there’s no guarantee of pleasing everyone 100 percent.

But the reviews should give you the overall sense that there’s a reason why customers keep trusting and coming back to the business.

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