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How to Avoid Moving Scams and Protect Your Belongings

Moving to a new home can be exciting until it’s time to find a reliable moving company. Unfortunately, moving scams are prevalent in the industry, and many people fall victim to them yearly. These scams result in damaged belongings, high fees, and other financial losses. For all these reasons, finding a moving company that meets your needs is crucial.

We’ve put together a guide with tips on avoiding moving scams and protecting your belongings during the move. From researching the company’s reputation to understanding your rights as a customer, here’s everything you need to know to make your move as stress-free as possible.

1. Research Your Moving Company

Look Through Reviews of the Moving Company
Start researching the company’s reputation through Yelp and Google reviews. Look for feedback from previous customers and pay attention to negative reviews. If a company hesitates to provide references from previous customers or the references seem fake, they are more likely to commit a moving scam.

Check out our guide on avoiding common moving mistakes.

Check If the Company Is Registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Check if the moving company is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is a federal agency that regulates the trucking and moving industry in the United States. Registered companies must have proper licensing and insurance and follow specific regulations to ensure the safety of their customer’s belongings.

Verify If the Company Has a USDOT Number

The FMCSA also requires moving companies to have a valid USDOT number. This number serves as a unique identifier for the company and tracks its safety record and history of compliance. Verify a company’s USDOT number on the FMCSA website. If a moving company does not have a valid USDOT number, it is operating illegally.

2. Get a Visual Estimate

While it may sound easier to get a quick estimate over the phone or online, we recommend the company take a visual look at all you are moving before providing a a moving cost. This allows the moving company to assess the size and weight of your belongings and determine the specific requirements of your move. Without a visual look, there is a risk of underestimating the cost of the move, leading to unexpected charges later on. Many companies now offer a virtual or in-person walk-through so that they can physically see all that you plan to move and can then provide an accurate quote..

What to Expect During an Moving Estimate Appointment

During the in-home or virtual estimate, a representative from the moving company will visit your home, or connect with you virtually (through our proprietary technology – similar to FaceTime) to assess your belongings and give a detailed estimate. They will typically look around your home, including all the items you plan to move, such as furniture, appliances, and boxes. They will consider any specific requirements you have, such as moving fragile or heavy items.

Benefits of a Visual Estimate

Here are the benefits of getting a visual estimate (virtual or in-person):

  • You receive an accurate estimate, allowing you to budget effectively.
  • You can ask questions and discuss concerns about the move.
  • The moving company can assess any potential challenges in advance.

When getting a virtual or in-home estimate, ask for a detailed, written estimate that includes all costs associated with your move, such as packing materials, labor, and transportation fees.

3. Beware of Lowball Estimates

Beware of lowball estimates when choosing a moving company, as they can potentially be a moving scam.

While a low estimate seems like a great deal, don’t be fooled. Scammers use lowball estimates to lure customers in, only to surprise them with hidden fees later. Sometimes, they may even hold your belongings hostage, until you pay the fees, leaving you with little recourse.

Not sure whether you should hire a moving company for your move? Here’s why.

Scammers often provide a low estimate over the phone or online without ever taking a look at what you are moving. Afterward, they ask for a large deposit upfront or demand cash payments. Once your belongings are loaded onto the truck, they will claim that additional charges are now due.

How to Spot Lowball Estimates

There are several warning signs to look out for when evaluating estimates. First, be wary of estimates significantly lower than others you’ve received. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Second, be cautious of estimates provided over the phone or online without a visual look through a virtual or in-person visit. Lastly, read the fine print and ask about any additional fees.

A reputable moving company will provide a detailed, written estimate that includes all costs associated with your move.

4. Avoid Paying Large Deposits

How Scammers Use Large Deposits to Scam Customers

Scammers may ask for a large deposit upfront, often claiming that it’s necessary to secure your move date or cover the costs of packing materials. However, once they have your money, they may disappear without a trace or provide a subpar service.

How to Avoid Paying Large Deposits

One way to avoid paying large deposits is to choose a reputable moving company with a track record of success. A reputable company will not ask for a large deposit upfront but rather a reasonable payment schedule based on the services provided. You can also protect yourself by carefully reviewing your contract and verifying that all fees are outlined.

Another way to avoid paying a large deposit is to pay with a credit card. This is an added layer of protection, as you can dispute the charge if the moving company fails to provide the services promised. Companies that insist on cash payments or are unwilling to provide written contracts will likely commit moving scams.

We’re here to take the stress of moving off your hands. Get a quote from us today.

5. Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities

The Legal Requirements of Moving Companies

As mentioned, moving companies must have a valid USDOT number and be registered with the FMCSA if they engage in interstate moves. By law, movers must provide certain information to customers, including a written estimate of the moving costs and a copy of customers’ rights and responsibilities.

This written estimate must outline the charges for the move, including transportation, packing, and any additional services requested by the customer. The estimate must specify the payment method, pickup and delivery dates, and all other relevant information.

The Rights and Responsibilities of Customers

As a customer, your rights include the following:

  • Receiving a written estimate of the costs of the move.
  • Access to the moving company’s dispute resolution process.
  • Access to file a complaint with the FMCSA if necessary

Your responsibilities include providing accurate information about your move and protecting your belongings during the move.

Dealing with Issues During a Move

Despite taking precautions, problems can still occur during a move. If you encounter damaged or missing items, take action right away. Document the issue with photographs and a written description, and then file a complaint with your moving company to request compensation. You can file a complaint with the FMCSA or your state’s moving association if they are unresponsive.

6. Protect Your Valuables

Protecting your valuables during a move ensures they arrive in the same condition they were delivered.

If you’re moving fragile items, take extra care during packing. Use plenty of packing materials, such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts, and double-box fragile items for added protection. It is also recommended that you take any valuable jewelry or paperwork with you directly.

Packing and Labelling Fragile Items

Labelling boxes as “FRAGILE” or “HANDLE WITH CARE” will alert your movers to take extra care when handling these boxes. They will not be tossed around or stacked below heavier boxes.

Keeping an Inventory of Your Belongings

Keeping an inventory of your belongings helps keep track of your items during the move. This way, you can easily identify any missing or damaged items.

In addition, consider purchasing moving valuation or coverage to protect your belongings while they are in the care and custody of the mover. Some moving companies offer valuation as an option, or you can purchase it independently from your homeowners insurance company..

Here are our top tips on staying organized during your move.

Bottom Line

Moving scams can result in significant financial losses and damage to your belongings. To protect yourself, do your research, get a visual estimate, and beware of lowball estimates. Don’t forget to avoid paying large deposits, understand your rights as a customer, and protect your valuables. By following these steps, your move will likely be smooth and stress-free.

Remember, choosing a reliable moving company is vital to a successful move. Don’t just go for the cheapest option. Instead, look for a company with a solid reputation, good reviews, and all the necessary licences and certifications.

At CMS Relocation & Logistics, we offer a modern fleet of equipment, expertly-staffed warehouses, and cutting-edge technology to support our operations. We help residential and corporate customers across Seattle and nationwide make moving a breeze.

Request a quote from us today and get moving.

FAQs on Avoiding Moving Scams

1. What should I do if my belongings are lost or damaged during the move?
If your belongings are lost or damaged during the move, immediately file a claim with your moving company. They are legally required to provide you with a claims form, which you should fill out accurately. Be sure to include documentation of the value of your lost or damaged items, such as receipts.

2. What should I do if a moving company demands a large deposit before the move?
If a moving company demands a large deposit before the move, it may be a moving scam. Legitimate moving companies typically only require a small deposit due upon delivery.

3. How can I protect my fragile items during the move?

Pack your fragile items carefully using plenty of bubble wrap, packing paper, or foam padding to protect them during the move. Label the boxes as “FRAGILE” and mark them with arrows indicating which side is up. If possible, transport your fragile items yourself rather than using the moving company.

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