How to Recognize a Scam When You Want to Hire a Moving Company

July 13, 2022 / Posted in Before the Move
Daisy Wilson

Daisy was born in Salt Lake City and in her free time, she writes about moving and watches Charmed.

There are over 7,000 companies in the US that are in the relocation business. Knowing how to hire a moving company and avoid scammers can be crucial to cross-country moving. The last thing you need in such a complicated and exhausting process is losing money to scammers or, even worse, losing all your belongings. Here is a guide on how to find a moving company and avoid scammers along the way.

Movers on a truck carrying a box
Check all the credentials before you hire professionals

So how to find a good moving company? At the very least, you must check if the company is registered according to law, has good reviews, and has a USDOT number if you are long-distance moving.

Before Hiring Movers, You Need to Figure Out What Kind of Move You Need

How to select a moving company? As you may know, in the relocation industry, there are many specialties, and not all companies perform the same services. For example, a car shipping company will most likely be specialized in car shipping, while some will only perform local moves.

So if you wonder, “how do I hire a local moving company?” you must first figure out whether your move is local or long-distance. Generally speaking, all relocations across your state border are considered to be long-distance. When you start getting organized for a move, the first thing you should do is figure out what type of movers you need. If you are relocating out of state, you must find long-distance moving services.

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How to Hire a Moving Company? Evaluation of Mover’s Credentials

Before you hire movers or even start negotiating with them, you need to check if they are legit. All businesses must be registered according to the law, and the same goes for the relocation industry. All firms in the relocation industry must be registered and licensed by the State Department of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Note that only local relocation businesses are not obliged to be registered on a federal level.  But let’s see this in more detail.

See if the Company Is Registered and Whether It Offers Insurance

If you’re looking for cross-country movers, you must find out if they have a USDOT number. All interstate relocation companies must have this number according to the law. If they don’t have it, they are probably relocation scammers. Another great relocation tip is to see if a firm is offering insurance to its customers. According to the law, all relocation firms must provide insurance.

Take a Closer Look at Online Reviews

Even if you are relocating at the last minute, take some time and read the online reviews about the businesses you choose. There are several places where you can check for them, and probably the most reputable way is through Better Business Bureau or BBB.

And if you wonder what is the most reputable moving company, the answer is the one whose name you can find on BBB. That is a non-profit organization whose goal is to check, monitor, and investigate accredited businesses. Here you can find reviews and rates for your relocation firm of choice, and if there are bad ones or any reported issues, you will know to avoid them. You can go over the things people commented on companies’ websites. If there is an option to leave a comment, this is usually a good sign. Here is where you can look for the reviews:

  • Google reviews,
  • Yelp,
  • BBB,
  • Websites,
  • Social media,
  • Department of Transportation.

Do They Have Professional Customer Support

No matter if you are relocating in the summer (which is the peak season) during the holidays or when there is no jam during winter, customer support must remain professional and available all the time. Relocation to a new state is a complicated procedure, and if you see your customer support is not available or responsive to your needs, you should avoid them. If your first impression were bad, most likely the whole service would be too. So trust your gut and pick someone you would enjoy doing business with.

Ask for Free Quotes From at Least Five Companies

What to consider when choosing movers? Well, once you have checked all the credentials, the next thing to see is how long-distance movers will fit your relocation budget. To do so, you can ask for a free quote from at least five businesses of your choice. If they refuse to give you a free quote or they are not responsive, you should immediately rule them off. A free quote is not an exact estimate of your move, but it can give you some idea about how much your move will cost.

A girl with her fist up in front of a laptop
One of the best tips is to look for a few estimates

In-Home Estimates Are Mandatory Before You Hire Movers

After you get a free quote from five firms, the next step is to narrow down your choice to three of them and arrange an in-home estimation of your move. On this estimation, you will see how professional that firm is. If they appear unprofessional or like they don’t know what they are doing, you should skip them. Also, on this estimation, you should be able to ask all the questions you may have and get the answers to those questions. If the answers are vague, unclear, or suspicious in any way, you should avoid that firm.

Another thing that should happen in the estimation is an explanation of all the services that the firm provides and how the price is made. In most cases, the price will depend on the distance, the number of things you are relocating, and the type of services you take. For example, full packing service will increase your quote, and so will car shipping. In-home estimation must answer the following questions.

  • How much will it cost? Most firms will give you a final quote a day or two after the in-home estimation.
  • What services cover what? Full and partial packing services will not cover the same things. If you want only to pack fragile items, you must state that clearly.
  • What is covered by a basic service? Basic relocation usually covers a truck, workers, and dealing with furniture and packed boxes.
  • Are there items workers won’t move? Yes, some items are legally forbidden to be transported in a truck.
  • Will they do unpacking? It is important to know if unpacking is a part of a full packing service.
  • Who brings the packing materials? Reputable firms will bring their materials, but this depends from firm to firm.
  • What about large items? If you have a piano to move or any other large and unusual item that requires arranging special equipment, you will probably be extra charged for that.

How to Avoid Scammers When Choosing a Company

We have already covered some basics you should know on how to pick a moving company. However, there are other red flags you should consider when choosing. Because even though the firm is registered and has insurance, it doesn’t mean it will not scam you. One of the things to look for is how long that firm has existed. If they are new to the industry, do some digging to see if they are legit.

Avoid Moving Companies That Don’t Give You an In-Home Estimate

If you are relocating for the first time, don’t make a classic relocation mistake and go with the first firm that gave you the best quote because, most likely, this price will drastically increase by the time you sign the contract. If someone offers you to sign a contract without proper in-home estimation, they are probably scammers that will most likely “kidnap your belongings” until you pay more for them to be delivered. In conclusion, ask for an in-home estimation of your move from at least three firms of your choice, preferably the ones that gave you a free quote that works for you.

All trustworthy and reputable companies will demand to do an in-home estimation before giving you a contract to sign. On this estimation, they will see how many belongings you want to move and what kind of services they should provide.

If the Cost of Your Move Is Too Small, Don’t Hire the Mover

It can happen when you stumble upon a firm that offers everything from packing to storage, and this is great. There is nothing better than a long-distance moving company that can provide you with everything. Still, an all-in-one service must cost you. For example, an auto transport company that does packing and relocation must charge you for all those services.

If the price of your move is too low, then there is something shady going on. There are some standards in the relocation industry, and in order to maintain good quality, a service firm must charge you for that. Cheap assistance usually signifies scammers. With low costs, they usually lure customers to pick them, but in the end, you will pay even more.

If Movers Ask for a Big Deposit, Avoid Them

Just like with low costs and quotes, if someone asks you to leave a huge deposit, run away because they are probably scammers. Commonly, all firms will ask for a deposit, but this deposit shouldn’t exceed $1,000. If you leave a large deposit, most likely, you will never hear from them again.

The Company Only Accepts Cash Payments

Another huge red flag is if the people you are doing business with accept only cash payments. Even though most relocation businesses do accept cash payments, this shouldn’t be your only option. Also, cash payment without any bill is unacceptable. Giving tips to movers is totally acceptable and legit, and this cash payment shouldn’t be a concern to you. But if a firm asks for cash without any contract or bill, avoid them.

What to Look for When Using a Moving Company? How to Find the Best Service?

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to find the best firm and avoid scammers. But if you wish to find the best service provider, you should see the whole picture. That firm must provide you with everything you require, from storage to car shipping. Their customer support must be impeccable, and their professionalism on a high level. They must have all the licenses and registrations so you can have a way to protect yourself if something goes wrong.

Also, they must be able to help you and answer any questions you may have. There shouldn’t be any vague answers or no answers at all. Another quality to look for is flexibility. If the company can’t help you and meet your needs for any changes, they are probably not that experienced in this line of work.

Only firms with years of experience will understand that relocation is complex and that so many things can go wrong. So choose wisely and pick a high-quality service that will make this relocation go smoothly and without any hiccups.

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