How to recognize a fraudulent moving company

Person in dark jeans covered with boxes

Man Under Boxes

Moving to a new home is exciting, but it often becomes more stressful than fun. With so many things you need to think about and so many things that could go wrong, the absolute last thing you need is a moving scam. These can range from unprofessional and unlicensed movers all the way to complex scams with them holding your possessions hostage until you pay a ransom. We will give you tips on how to recognize a fraudulent moving company and how to protect yourself from them.

Picking a good moving company

It may sound trivial, but the best way to handle a problem is never to have to deal with it in the first place. Why worry about a fake moving company if you can get someone legit from the start? Ask friends who recently moved for a recommendation. In case you don’t know anyone who moved, you can inquire with your real estate agent if they have someone they frequently collaborate with. Word of mouth carries far in any business, which is also true for movers. Finding someone reputable who has many satisfied customers will help put your mind at ease. If a company doesn’t feel right, just skip them and move to the next one. Another thing to consider while you are still in the planning stages is moving insurance; it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.

Person doing work on a computer.

Start by doing online research

Look them up online

One of the first things you can do is a bit of research from your own home. After you have picked a moving company, look them up online and search for testimonials and reviews from their previous customers. Most reputable moving companies tend to have a large presence on multiple online platforms. If they have posted photos, check to see if their employees have legitimate uniforms and if the company has its own fleet of trucks.

Check their FMCSA and USDoT number

Moving companies that perform state-to-state moving must have a U.S. Department of Transport number. You can search for them on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. Local movers don’t need to be registered on that website and are only regulated by the state, so check local requirements for moving companies if you are not moving across state lines. Even if you are moving within the same state and you have picked a local company for the job, they still might have registered for a USDoT number to expand their business and reach, so it’s definitely worth a look to see if they check out. For relocations across state lines, this is one of the best ways to recognize a fraudulent moving company.

Ask them for a quote

Look for anything that might be suspicious and ask for an explanation of anything you don’t understand. Price estimates are usually performed in-home, be wary if they give you an exact price over the phone. Be sure to know what’s included in their price to avoid any unpleasant last-minute surprises. Ask them for a price breakdown and look for irregularities, for example, if they charge by distance or volume since most companies charge by weight. Compare their quote with other companies because if their price is too good to be true, something might be wrong. A large majority of moving companies do not require a deposit, and they charge you once the work has been completed. Paying large sums upfront means something fishy is going on.

Carefully read any paperwork before signing

A person signing a document with a pen

Proper paperwork

Moving requires paperwork, and a paper trail is your best friend. Don’t pay in cash; instead, use a credit card or a check as the method of payment. Most important of all is a bill of lading. This is a receipt that has all the relevant information about your move. Do not sign it without first reading through it. The bill of lading has information about your mover, the full inventory they are carrying for you, the time and date of both pickup and delivery, and the final price of the move. Basically, it’s your all-in-one, so make sure to keep it safe and know where you have put it.

Professional demeanor

From the first moment you interact with any employee of the moving company, even if it’s over the phone, keep an eye out to see if they are acting professionally. They have moved people before, so they should know what they are talking about. Sometimes it’s good to trust your instinct, pay close attention to how they behave, and you should be able to recognize a fraudulent moving company. During the move itself, observe them to see how they handle your possessions. Regardless of how much you trust the movers, it might be a good idea to get insurance to be protected if anything gets damaged. Still, you should be handling the most valuable things yourself, such as jewelry, laptops, and passports; just pack these in your car and take them with you.

Boxes ready for loading into the truck

Get insurance and ask about liability options.

Liability Protection

Interstate movers are required to have two types of liability options. Any company registered with the FMCSA should inform you of your liability protection options. These are full replacement value protection and released value protection. They should also have their own insurance, and you can request that they prove that they are insured. You’ll know something is up if either of these is missing.

Resolve problems calmly

Before anything goes wrong, try to resolve any disputes with the movers calmly. If things do not work out for some reason, you can file a complaint or seek legal help. On the off chance that you do end up as a victim of a moving scam, immediately inform local authorities. By now, you should have emails, signed documents, and plenty of information on the moving company that you can provide to prove your case. You have worked hard to cover all your bases, so don’t panic – stress never helps make things better.

Moving scams aren’t too common, and if you follow the tips we have mentioned, you should have no problem sniffing out fakes. Now that you know how to recognize a fraudulent moving company, you can rest easy and enjoy the move to your new home.