How to Choose a Moving Company and Avoid Scammers

Posted How-to / November 1, 2021
Gemma Collins

Gemma is an NJ local that has explored all the US states, making her the perfect person to write about moving.

There’s no bigger disappointment than getting scammed by a business you hired to do their job. Many people don’t feel comfortable trusting their belongings with movers, so they choose to move alone. However, there are ways to avoid scammers. Read about how to choose a moving company and invest your money wisely.

No matter your reasons for relocating, a safe and reliable move is your right as a consumer. The fact is that the cheapest way to move out of state is by hiring long-distance moving services because you get so much more out of them than just transporting your belongings from point A to B. However, scams happen all the time, so it’s important to recognize them. You can start by learning how much movers cost and what their legal obligations are.

Mover Scams – What Are They and How Do They Work?

When someone decides to move, their first bit of relocation stress is the dilemma of how to find a moving company. Most people who move out for the first time don’t know what to look for in a relocation firm, so they fall for the cheapest or nearest ones. That is what most scammers expect to happen, which is why they’re prepared to convince potential clients they’re the best.

Today, with many tips for relocating out of state circling the internet, there are quick ways to verify whether a business is legitimate and the experiences of people who got scammed.

In a short overview, here are some red flags that scammers typically display:

  • They don’t have a website, or if they do, it looks incomplete – every firm that wants to get any employment today has an online presence. In this day and age, running a business without advertising it online can only mean two things – they either don’t have experience or they’re being dodgy,
  • They don’t answer the phone with the company’s name or have different phone numbers,
  • No one gives you a straightforward answer on the relocation cost and estimate,
  • Their trucks don’t have the company’s markings – if the company’s trucks and cars aren’t visibly labeled as relocation vehicles, they may not be legit.

The video below is just one of the examples of how scammers work across the country. If you recognize this behavior in any companies you try to hire, it’s best to pull out of the deal as soon as possible.

YouTube video

How to Choose a Moving Company That’s Legitimate and Licensed

You don’t need a lot to find a licensed business for your relocation. All it takes is a bit of time to do the necessary research and patience for the process. This doesn’t seem efficient if you have to move at the last minute, but that’s precisely what scamming businesses are ready for. Most frauds happen when someone is pressed for time because they don’t have the clarity of choosing.

However, even in a hurry, there are ways to verify a company’s legitimacy quickly, and that’s by checking their credentials on national registry websites like FMCSA and BBB, among a few. When you’re sure the company you want is legit, figure out how much to tip movers and if it’s worth leaving some items in their storage units before settling into the new place.


Check If Their Cars and Trucks Have a USDOT Number

FMCSA stands for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a federal agency regulating companies that own and operate commercial motor vehicles. If a relocation firm wants to work legally, they have to register at FMCSA. Upon registration, they get a USDOT number.

When you find a relocation firm that might be helpful, you can visit the FMCSA website, search the database for their name and license number, and request their USDOT number. This is one of the easiest and best ways to learn how to pick a moving company and avoid relocation scams. This practice isn’t new; people have been searching for businesses like this for a while now.

Turn to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for Information on Companies

The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, is another helpful website where you can find information on registered relocation companies. This site contains track records of each company’s operations and ratings based on the customers’ reviews. Focus on hiring businesses registered on the BBB website, and you’ll quickly find reliable movers.

Avoid Companies That Don’t Participate In Your Move Before It Happens

Another big tip on how to select a moving company is to pay attention to the movers’ behavior. When you book a mover, the standard practice is for them to send someone over to your home and take inventory of the items you want to bring when relocating to a new home. This way, they take stock of everything and assess the relocation costs.

If they don’t come to the house, they at least have to ask you for a detailed list of household items so they can give you a cost estimate. They can also ask you if you’re relocating with pets and advise how not to allow them to interfere with relocating or provide extra assistance if you plan to relocate with a newborn.

You should watch out if no one from the relocation firm asks about the amount and type of belongings you want to pack in a relocation truck. If they give you an estimate without even asking how much stuff you have or start changing their costs on relocation day in the middle of packing, you can be sure they’re scamming you.

Long-Distance Movers Won’t Accept Transporting Some Items

In addition to providing a mandatory estimate, licensed relocation companies have lists of items they don’t want to move. These are typically hazardous, explosive, flammable, and liquid household items. For example, methane gas tanks, fire extinguishers, liquid cleaning chemicals, and guns are prohibited from being transported in commercial vehicles.

This is good for your relocation budget since less stuff means lower costs. However, this isn’t purely beneficial for reducing costs. It’s a mandatory safety measure that could save your belongings from damage and the firm from being responsible for transporting something harmful. They don’t even keep these in storage, so you might as well forget about them.

Of course, if a mover doesn’t provide you with a list of prohibited items for transportation, they’re not equipped, trained, or encouraged to care about safety. Fraud would be packing a bunch of cleaning chemicals with your favorite couch, charging you extra for the dangerous items, and then you end up with a bleached seater that’s damaged beyond repair.

A Long-Distance Moving Company Doesn’t Deal With Home Appliances

Sure, using cross-country moving services is the cheapest way to ship a car, but professionals can also give you some great packing tips. One tip that not many folks seem to know about is unplugging appliances on your own before cross-country movers arrive to load them into the storage truck.

This is another thing a relocation firm will emphasize before coming to your home – they do not take any actions with unplugging or plugging in appliances during a move. Like with hazardous items, they don’t want to be responsible for any damage if appliances stop working due to being badly moved or disconnected.

So, if the movers that come to your home start haphazardly handling plugs, cables, and appliances, it’s similar to the last one – they’re unequipped, untrained, or simply uninterested in giving you a good relocation experience. Think of this as one of the relocation mistakes that scammers make when they’re at a client’s home.

A Crucial Part of Relocating – Insurance

Legitimate firms know how important it is for every customer to be confident that their belongings are in safe hands. This is why they offer mandatory relocation insurance for each packed item, and it’s 60 cents per pound of damaged goods in coverage. Insurance services are just one more way of confirming to clients that licensed relocation firms take their jobs seriously.

Not offering insurance coverage is a clear sign that the services you’re trying to hire aren’t legitimate. After all, having things insured is the biggest advantage of a stress-free relocation. Worrying about what will happen if your belongings are damaged during transport couldn’t happen to you with licensed firms.

Trust the Recommendations of Previous Users and Friends

There’s nothing better than having personal experience in something. Our own can take us far, but others’ experiences can also help us move efficiently. That’s why the best and most reliable way to find out which mover to put on your relocation to-do list is to talk to people who’ve already hired one before.

If you have friends who relocated recently, you need to contact them and ask them all about their event experience. Most importantly, ask how the workers behaved in their home and around their stuff. Whatever detail comes to mind, it’s good to check. An honest recommendation from those who’d never try to sell you an awful service is what keeps great businesses afloat.

If a Business Has Just a Few Reviews on Their Page, Be Careful With Your Money

You can also figure out how to find a good moving company online that isn’t all about checking their registration numbers or alike. Check their reviews, too. It’s possible to run into some bogus ones here and there while you look, but those are recognizable.

Here are tips on how to recognize a fake review online:

  • The language of the review is repetitive and focuses more on the “I” and “me” instead of the product,
  • A missing/generic profile picture,
  • Fake-sounding names (“John Smith” as the most used one,)
  • Bad spelling and grammar,
  • It tells a story about the circumstances of buying something instead of rating the product/service.

Websites and businesses that have exclusively positive reviews about their products always seem to be hiding something. The truth is that no one can like a service 100% of the time, so it’s impossible that every single customer is fully satisfied with its every part.

The most honest businesses display reviews of all types on their pages because they understand transparency and are willing to improve. If you know someone who can never take criticism, that’s pretty similar. They deflect it and label it as negative comments instead of considering it. A good firm is an honest one most of the time.

Most Importantly, Trust Yourself to Pick the Right Movers

The essential relocation tip of the day is to trust your gut. Picking a firm to transport your belongings isn’t and shouldn’t be a simple task. Understandably, if you’re in a rush or indecisive, it’s normal to look for the most accessible options available; we don’t blame you. However, there are still efficient ways to verify a firm’s credibility in just a few time-saving and stress-free steps.

Listen to that feeling whenever you feel like a mover’s behavior is suspicious or dodgy and isn’t giving you confidence. A good-quality move should go without special events and drama: no added charges and no extra fees—only your checklist for relocating and their hardworking employees. Trusting your instincts will surely be the deciding factor in choosing your ideal cross-country movers.

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