We live in an age where scams are a regular occurrence in our lives and the moving industry is no different. People who are moving are in a vulnerable state because they hand over their homes to a crew of strangers who fill up their trucks with all their belongings and take off with them. We trust moving companies with everything we own and there is nothing else like it. Furthermore, people who are moving sign paperwork that isn’t always written understandable terms and is loaded with small print that sometimes includes hidden fees. Well, be warned, because there are many things to consider when dealing with moving companies and the scams that many of them pull on naïve and unsuspecting clients. First, many moving companies supply false references and testimonials on their website. Ask for references from actual people and call them in person to get the details about their moving experiences. There are also online reviews to look through on Yelp and Google. Second, some moving companies will bait customers with unreasonably low estimates and then hook them for hidden fees found in the fine print of the contract you sign, or worse, they collect your deposit and disappear. Carefully compare reputable moving companies and get all estimates and guarantees in writing. Your best bet is to use a professional mover that provides all-inclusive services and charges by the hour. Third, be careful when a moving company asks for a considerable upfront payment before any work is done. In many cases, the scammer will guarantee you the perfect time and day with limited notice if you pay a large deposit. As a rule of thumb, never pay more than 20 percent of the estimated final moving costs as a deposit and use a credit card with fraud protection instead of cash to ensure you get your money returned if the mover doesn’t show on the promised day. Next, read every sentence in the contract, including the fine print, and ask questions as you do, before signing an agreement. In many cases, you will find out that the contract includes a clause or two clarifying that the guaranteed price is subject to change under certain conditions. Many common moving company scams are based on this simple trick that allows the movers to charge you extra for a variety of additional services, complications, supplies, and miles. Make sure all your requirements, as well as any negotiated terms and specific conditions, are clearly stated on your Bill of Lading before signing it and never sign a blank or incomplete document. If you do, the movers can just fill in whatever price they choose. Also, some companies do not have a license and are operating legally with inexperienced moving crews who have not passed a drug test or background check. In these situations, you may get a thief, or at the very least, a crew that does not understand the proper way to move your belongings or how to use the moving equipment, which can lead to damage. These incompetent crew also rent trucks or have old vehicles in horrible condition. Always check the USDOT number of movers before you sign a contract, make sure the company has insurance, and request information regarding subcontractors and other partnerships. Furthermore, scam moving companies run by dishonest operators demand more money from you than you agreed upon and refuse to in order to release your belongings until you pay it. In other words, your possessions are held hostage until you pay extra for whatever bogus reason the scammers provide you. To avoid this nightmare, call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety violation and consumer complaints hotline to ask about complaints against your moving company and research the database of movingscam.com, Yelp, and others before hiring a company. Find out how often problems have been reported and how complaints and disputes have been resolved. Finally, when dealing with scam moving companies, some of your most expensive belongings may mysteriously disappear during the moving process unless you protect them properly. Make sure your valuables are safely locked in a separate room on moving day and transport them to your new residence in your own personal vehicle. Don’t leave your jewelry out, don’t leave your wallet, purse or money on a table somewhere. In addition, make sure you have solid insurance coverage and that you create an inventory, preferably with pictures of your high-value items, in case anything comes up missing. If you fail to do so, the moving company will deny liability. Moving scams are difficult to avoid but if you are alert and well-informed, you have a fair chance to find a trustworthy moving company and have a smooth and trouble-free relocation.
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