You’ve found the perfect place and now you’re ready to pack your boxes and move into you your dream home. It’s OK to be excited, but don’t let your jubilation blind you to scammers who are thinking of ways to get their hands into your pockets. The Better Business Bureau received more than 9,300 complaints in 2013 against shady movers. Some of the customer complaints included damaged or missing items, price increases significantly above estimates that were originally quoted, tardy deliveries, and items being held by movers until additional payments were made.
If you’re one of the more than 35 million people planning a move this year, make sure you familiarize yourself with some of the red flags of a moving scam. Here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Do your research
Your first step should be to do an online search of the moving companies you are considering doing business with. Take time to carefully read the customer reviews. You’ll want to avoid any business that has received several bad reviews and complaints. You can also check for complaints when you visit the Better Business Bureau’s website.
2. Don’t accept an estimate over the phone
Your best bet is to get at least three estimates. These should all be performed in your home instead of over the phone. Price quotes listed online or given over the phone are not always trustworthy. A scammer will sometimes give you one price during your phone call, only to quote a completely different price once it’s time to pay up. Once your in-home visit is complete, make sure to get the final estimate in writing.
3. Take note of binding estimates
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration warns consumers to keep an eye on binding estimates. If your final bill is significantly more than the original price you were quoted, this should raise a red flag. The FMCSA says the only time a binding estimate can be legally increased is if you add items or services that were not part of your initial evaluation.
4. Refuse blank documents
If a moving company asks you to sign a blank or incomplete document, don’t do it. A dishonest mover can take your forms and then include updated figures that will cause your charges to be more than they should be. Make sure all forms are complete and double check everything for errors and unnecessary additions.
5. Know your rights
Your mover should provide you with a copy of a brochure called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” The FMCSA says movers are required by Federal regulations to provide this information to their customers during the planning stages of an interstate move. In addition, if you are moving from one state to another, your mover is required to be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA gives a motor carrier number to each moving company. You can check here for your mover’s number. If you have a complaint about a moving company, you can file a grievance with the Better Business Bureau through their online complaint system. You can also file a complaint through The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration complaint database.