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Avoiding Moving Frauds and Scams

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When searching for a moving company, you need to be aware of rogue movers. Rogue movers are companies that do not operate with standard ethical procedures. Since they are unregulated, unlicensed, and uninsured, they have no reason to comply with any industry standards.

Rogue movers may hold your belongings hostage, operate in dangerous or illegal conditions, or demand higher charges after agreeing to much lower estimates.

Unfortunately, many people fall victim to rogue movers. With the 40 million Americans that move every year, it is no surprise that so many people are affected by these illegal moving companies. By knowing the warning signs and being aware of the following red flags, you can avoid dealing with rogue movers.

Unprofessional phone etiquette

When calling a moving company, the person answering the phone should be courteous and professional. Be wary if he or she uses a generic greeting, such as "Movers" or "Moving Company" rather than mentioning the company name. Another sign to look out for is if you can't get in touch with anyone. If you are transferred to an answering machine each time you call them and the message on the machine is just as vague, this might be a rogue mover. Any reliable moving company would provide their name, phone number, and a short, professional greeting on their answering machine.

No on-site inspections

Avoid movers that don't agree to come to your home to perform an evaluation of your goods. If a mover insists on only giving you an estimate over the phone, then they might be a rogue mover. By giving you a sight-unseen estimate, they could be looking to make some quick money. A reputable mover would want to take the time to give you a more accurate estimate, rather than have to readjust all of the paperwork on the day of the move. Also, during the in-home estimate, you can see how your movers work and whether they are professional are not. If a company refuses to go to your home before committing, then you will have no idea what their business practices will be like.

Cash up front

Look out for movers that demand cash or large deposits before the move. If you pay a rogue mover before the move, what is going to stop them from running away with the money? No legitimate moving company would require large sums of money before any service is provided.

Know your rights

If you are undergoing an interstate move, your moving company is required by law to provide you with a copy of the booklet, "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move." Developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this booklet details the rights and responsibilities of you and the moving company. Should your mover not give this to you, then they are already violating your rights and breaking the law.

Check the website

Be sure to go to the mover's website before committing to anything. Search the site for the physical address and phone number of the moving company's office. If you can't find any legitimate contact information, then they could be a rogue mover. Also, look for any licensing information about the company. Again, if they don't have this information on their website, you may be better off using a different mover. You should also be skeptical if the company doesn't have a website at all.

Blanket insurance

Watch out for any company offering blanket insurance covering all of your belongings. When buying insurance for your move, you'll often have to get coverage from a third-party insurer. This is because moving companies themselves only offer minimal coverage. It is very rare for a mover to offer full insurance coverage, so make sure to ask for a copy of their insurance policy in writing. If the mover cannot provide you with any paperwork regarding insurance policies, they are likely to be a rogue company.

Messy office

Before committing to any company, it is a good idea to check out their office. Make note if the office is particularly messy, especially if you plan on using the company's storage facility. If things seem out of place, then you might not want to keep your belongings there. Also, if they aren't very organized, they might not be the best people to handle your move. Moving requires a lot of organization and coordination – should the company not be organized themselves, this could be a clue to how they will operate during your move.

Negative reviews

Another good way to identify a rogue mover is to check for negative reviews. Look the company up on the Better Business Bureau to find if other people have had negative experiences. You could also search online for other reviews about the company. While no company can ever please all of their customers, if there are many negative reviews, it may be best to avoid the company.

Low estimates

You should be aware of any mover that gives a particularly low estimate, regardless of whether they do an in-home estimate or not. It may be easy to give in and hire a rogue mover offering a temptingly low estimate. Even though they say the price will be low, there is nothing stopping them from raising the price later on. Since rogue movers are unregulated, they have no obligation to you or any other authority.

Unmarked vehicles

 You could also spot a rogue mover by driving to their office (if you find the address) and looking at their fleet. If they use rental or blank trucks, they are likely to be a rogue mover. Why wouldn't a moving company put their logo on their own trucks? Most companies would want their trucks to be seen by countless people on the highways. If the company doesn't want to be seen, then it is probably a rogue mover.

If you encounter any of these signs, then find another mover. You can also report your experiences to the BBB or the police, if a rogue mover has already run away with your money or possessions. By knowing these red flags beforehand, though, you can avoid the possibility of dealing with a rogue mover altogether.

  Posted by Alex Seise on August 27, 2009

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