You’ve probably heard about long-distance movers that quote people one price but then end up holding their load hostage until they pay a lot more money. Sometimes it’s a complete scam where criminals pose as moving companies for the sole purpose of extorting people out of money or stealing their belongings. More often, though, it’s a disreputable company with substandard service and predatory pricing.
If you haven’t dealt with many long-distance moving companies before, you may not know the ins and outs of the business, which may leave you in a vulnerable position. Your best defense against scammers is to thoroughly check out long-distance movers out before giving them your personal information, money, and access to all your worldly possessions. There are several red flags to watch out for that might indicate that you are dealing with one of these rogue cross-country movers.
If you can’t find any mention of a company online, not only is that a red flag, but it’s probably a complete scam. On the other hand, an established professional moving company will have an easy-to-find website and should have numerous positive reviews from satisfied customers.
While checking reviews on sites like Angie’s List, movingscam.com, and the Better Business Bureau can reveal sketchy companies, dishonest movers may frequently change the name of their business to conceal a bad reputation. Unfortunately, no news is not good news in the moving industry because rogue movers don’t like to leave an online trail.
A reputable moving company will always have a phone number and physical address listed on its website. If you can’t find this information, they probably aren’t legitimate because a real company would have a headquarters complete with offices, trucks, and equipment.
Not only should a business have a telephone number on their website, but they should also have staff dedicated to answering the phone. When you call up a moving company during regular business hours, and they never answer, that’s a red flag. They may have given you a fake phone number, or they could be hiding from other customers they’ve swindled.
A common tactic of shady movers is to offer to take inventory over the phone without ever seeing the items in your home. However, legitimate long-distance movers are required to do a visual survey of your belongings. This is because the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMSCA) requires moving companies to provide free in-home estimates. If a mover is not willing to look at your belongings before the move, that’s a serious red flag, and you should not proceed with them.
Here’s how rogue movers typically operate: they’ll steer consumers toward getting a “convenient” phone estimate. Then, they’ll later blame the customer for not accurately describing their belongings and demand additional fees at the last minute.
To prevent this scenario, always have a moving company representative look at your belongings and provide you with a quote in writing. This doesn’t have to be in-person: a virtual video estimate is just as easy as a phone call and much more accurate than a call.
Any salesperson who visits your home to provide you with a moving quote should be wearing a uniform and be willing to present their identification. This same rule applies on moving day. Not seeing a logo or company name on the truck can be a red flag if the company hasn’t already proven its legitimacy.
Also, there should be a clearly visible Department of Transportation (DOT) number on the truck, typically on the driver’s side door.
One reason people fall prey to rogue movers is that they are enticed by a low estimate over the phone or the internet. The old cliche rings true here: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a company’s goal is to provide a good value and stand behind their initial quote, they’re going to do a walkthrough of your home ahead of time and charge you at least the going rate for your move.
Some scammers will sense that this might be your first big move or that it’s been several years for you, and you aren’t sure what’s customary. Please keep in mind that, in general, cross-country movers do not charge the entire cost upfront.
Note that there are exceptions to this rule that may apply to other types of relocations. For example, some movers will ask for a deposit when making a local move within the same city. This practice protects the consumer from unscrupulous movers who might try to cancel on you if they find a more lucrative job. Paying upfront is also the norm with international moves.
Always get a written estimate before hiring a moving company. A written estimate can be either binding or nonbinding, so be sure to ask plenty of questions and read the fine print when getting quotes. Also, keep your paperwork with you in case there’s a discrepancy on delivery day. If you don’t get any kind of price quote, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be overcharged.
Checking for certification by government agencies is a good first step in vetting potential moving companies. One of the easiest ways to determine whether a mover is legitimate is to visit the FMCSA website and do a “search by company.” If the moving company isn’t listed, it means they aren’t certified, and if you hire them anyway, you increase your risk of falling prey to a moving scam.
Professional moving companies should have an MC number and DOT number listed on their websites. When you find these numbers, compare them against the FMCSA website to see if the numbers match the numbers on the website or paperwork from the moving company.
Although looking for an online presence and checking for certifications can weed out fake moving companies, even long-distance movers who are certified may be relatively inexperienced or even dishonest. Neither the FMCSA nor the DOT endorses moving companies based on registration status. This is why it’s so important to not only check certifications but also go with a company that has a long-standing reputation in the industry.
With Suddath, you can feel confident knowing we are trusted and experienced long-distance movers, with staff that we train in-house to treat your belongings and property with the utmost care. Our quotes are free, and we do walkthroughs either in person or over a video call using an app similar to Facetime. In addition, our long-distance movers take extra precautions at every step, providing specialized packaging and crating as needed.
Suddath is a professional local, long-distance, and international moving company with over a century’s experience in the industry. This experience, combined with access to United Van Line’s network of top-rated moving partners, means we can safely and efficiently move you anywhere you need to go in North America.
When you book your move with Suddath, one of our dedicated move coordinators will be assigned to your move and will be in touch with you through the entire relocation process. As expert movers with a long-standing reputation in the industry, we know how to plan the logistics of your move to ensure you get your items in the time frame you need them. Don’t trust your valuable belongings to just anyone. Get an accurate moving quote from Suddath today, and read our essential guide to long-distance moving for more helpful tips.