Although the average American moves 11.3 times in a lifetime, most people only hire professional movers a few times. That means there are a lot of details, rules, and regulations that people are unfamiliar with. From how estimates and insurance work to common fees and procedures, uncertainty can leave customers vulnerable to scams. Planning a move is often an emotional and sometimes stressful time, so it’s important to have a grasp on what to expect.

Take a good look at this list of how to avoid getting scammed while moving.

It starts with credentials.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a part of the DOT, is the governing body for all moving companies. Every company is required to have a DOT number, and these numbers can be checked using the FMCSA database. This database indicates whether complaints have been filed against the company and if so, what those complaints were about.

The American Moving & Storage Association, or AMSA, is also another place to check credentials. Created by industry professionals to combat the rogue “moving companies” that have caused nightmares for customers, the AMSA is another database of professional movers.

Fraudulent companies either aren’t listed, or you’ll see complaints against them listed through the FMCSA. If the company tells you to look under a different company name or makes excuses for not being listed, that’s your sign to walk away.

Get a reliable estimate

One of the biggest scams starts the moment you ask for an estimate. Of the 4,780 complaints FMCSA received in 2019, 57% involved overcharging according to the BBB. Rogue movers will give a low-ball quote over the phone, often saying they are unavailable for an in-person or online estimate. Many customers fail to save or print a copy of the contract for themselves after signing electronically. That means that complaints are more difficult to file with no printed proof of the initial estimate.

Familiarize yourself with the 110% rule: it is illegal for movers to charge you more than 110% of the original estimate before they deliver your goods. Even then, they can charge you for any additional fees only after unloading. Remember, the company cannot under any circumstances hold your belongings hostage for additional payment!

Lastly, a “binding estimate” is just that: binding. If there is a significant difference between the information you provided and the reality of the move at hand, like a different destination or a much larger load, then your movers might add additional charges.

scammed while moving How to avoid getting scammed while moving

Hourly estimate vs. guaranteed price

Some companies charge by the hour, and their estimate is based on how long they think the move will take. This method can more easily result in higher charges when the move takes longer than the initial estimate. Tough traffic, getting the couch through the door, or even weather can cause delays in your move, but you shouldn’t be stuck paying a lot extra. If possible, choose a company that offers a guaranteed price that is not dependent on hourly charges. As long as your inventory matches the information you provided on your estimate, the charges should stay about the same.

Tips to help you avoid getting scammed

  • Get at least three quotes from different movers to compare rates. Pay attention to the details within the estimate you receive, and examine the way the estimate is explained.
  • Don’t accept an estimate over the phone. Ask for a written copy and make sure you understand it completely before signing any contracts.
  • Never pay cash to your movers without receiving receipts! Remember, the law states your movers cannot demand additional payment for your move after they’ve already loaded your belongings.
  • Get a binding estimate whenever possible, and make sure you know what’s included.
  • Make sure you get full value replacement insurance on your goods. If your movers don’t have that level of insurance available, go through a third-party insurance provider.

FlatRate is a member of the AMSA, and our professional movers would be pleased to help you with your next move!