Moving Company Red Flags
There are a number of things you need to be aware of and look out for when you’re choosing a moving company. Many of them are obvious—like a suspicious lack of details during the process—and some of them require a deeper look at the specific business. In the paragraphs below, we’ll detail some of the most important things to look out for, and why they’re not indicative of a legitimate moving company. There are many professional moving companies out there, unfortunately, there are also more than a few companies with shady practices and knowing what the red flags are will help you avoid them.
One of the first red flags to look out for is whether or not a moving company is registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. If they are long distance of or interstate movers, they are also required to be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This agencies ensures that movers abide by best moving practices which include providing free estimates and having basic insurance coverage or full replacement value protection. Any company that cannot provide their USDOT number and insurance coverage probably relies on the license of a different company or they are a rogue mover.
If a mover requests a large deposit upfront, that’s not a company you should waste your time on and usually an indication that they may potentially scam you. Most companies will ask for a small deposit when you book your move in order to hold the appointment, but it should only be a small fraction of the total cost. If they ask for half or more of the total price, it’s probably time to explore other options. Even worse, if they request a cash deposit, cashier’s check, wired money, or any other form of guaranteed payment, that’s a huge red flag. If you use a credit or debit card for these transactions, you have some consumer protections available that are not there when you pay using a different method.
There are certain documents that are part of the moving process, which include the contract itself and the order for service document. If either of these, or any other documentation you receive, is not filled out completely and accurately, it’s a bad sign that you might be dealing with one of those dishonest moving companies. These forms must be filled out accurately and fully in order for them to be legal. You’re right to question any lack of information, or if anything included in the contract does not match what you’ve agreed to with the movers. Never sign blank or incomplete documents.
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We mentioned above that an incomplete moving contract is an issue, but it’s an even bigger problem if you don’t receive a written estimate at all. There are different types of moving quotes (typically, binding and non-binding) and they all need to be presented to you in writing. There are no handshake deals or over-the-phone arrangements that are legally binding in the moving industry, so make sure that you get a full detail of the services you’re paying for whenever you hire a professional moving company.
You’re obviously going to need to contact the moving company when you request their services, but there’s also a good chance you may need to get a hold of them later as well. If there’s no contact information or office address listed on their company website, it is a huge red flag that they may be one of the “rogue” moving companies that are up to no good. An physical address and working phone number are the bare minimum of what should be available to you as a prospective customer of any moving company.
The last thing to check is the company’s online reputation. Read customer reviews on sites like Better Business Bureau or Yelp. While its common practice for companies to buy reviews or have negative reviews deleted, you will still find some genuine reviews on the site listed above. Any company with a common trend of bad online reputation is a typical red flag.