Moving from one place to another can be a stressful job. One of the reasons why is because not only do we entrust different companies with our valuable items, it is also because we give them our cherished memories. Therefore, the client doesn’t want to part ways with his/her valuables, but also from his hard-earned money, through getting scammed. According to the USA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), over 3.600 people have filed complains regarding being scammed. What follows is what steps you can take in order to avoid potential loss that comes as a result of being scammed by a shady moving company.
Compare the companies
It is a consequence of the free market that the services, as well as their prices may vary wildly from company to company. By researching what they offer, you will be able to roughly estimate what can you get, and at what price. This is where some companies will start to appear slightly off – the price is too low? Too high, maybe? It is certainly no guarantee, but such a deviation from the standard ratio should raise a red flag. As the FBI remind us of the old proverb, if it sounds too good to be true, it very likely is!
Understand the legal framework
Moving in USA is regulated through Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980. This bill sets the legal framework between you and your moving company. If you have doubts about anything, regarding the papers the company offers you, contact your local attorney. You would also do well do understand what your legal rights, as well as legal obligations are, in order to avoid potential risk of running into an untrustworthy company, and, therefore, being scammed.
Your rights are:
- You have the right to a written estimate regarding the value of the provided service;
- A “Ready to Move” brochure being handed to you;
- Information regarding the moving company’s arbitration and conflict resolution program;
- The process for handling claims.
You should know that you have responsibilities too. Here are some:
- You have to read all the documents the company gives you;
- You should be available during pickup time;
- If you are not available during pickup time, hire a representative;
- Always obey your contract;
- File claims for loss, delay and damage – as soon as you can!
Watch out for the red flags
You want to avoid a scam. Therefore, you should know what the red flags are. A single suspicious occurrence is by no means a guarantee of fraudulent intent. Still, you should pay attention. You can do that by knowing what the red flags are:
- The mover doesn’t agree to an onsite inspection;
- The moving company representative demands a large sum before the move;
- The company representative asks you to sign incomplete documents;
- The mover doesn’t hand you your brochure;
- The mover claims that you have more things that estimated.
Of course, mistakes can happen to everyone, including the company. However, it is hard to discern fraudulent intent from an honest mistake. To sum it up, make sure everything is according to the protocol.
Do research on the company
We live in the Information age, and that means transparency. If your moving company does business in an honest way, then they will make sure that their activities are out there, on the internet, for the world to see. There are several places that you can visit in order to see if the moving company is a legitimate one:
- Better Business Bureau website – they offer many tools that can help you, including a scam tracker;
- Check if the moving company is registered with the FMCSA. If it doesn’t have an entry, that’s a significant red flag;
- Use the FMCSA Mover Registration Search. It will show you not only if the mover has a registration, but also their complaint history;
- Another Government agency that can help you is your local Customer Protection Office.
- Remember to use social media, as well as your friends and family. A supporting network of people can help you avoid fraud.
Remember, file a moving complaint in case you get scammed
In spite of all the precautions, it still might happen. Some companies are just that good at appearing legitimate. Now the company is holding your valuables hostage and demands that you pay an astronomical sum to have them back. What you need to do is to file a complaint, as soon as possible. You can do this by dialing 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm on workdays. This will likely initiate a federal investigation against the mover. Remember: if you have concern for your safety, call 911 without delay! You can use the FMCSA online complaint tool for investigating past violations. When filing a complaint online, please collect the following documents:
- Your personal information (Name, age, telephone number, SSN, etc);
- Name, address and telephone number of the moving company (it goes without saying that if they don’t want to give it to you beforehand, do not trust them);
- Origin and destination of your valuables (that is, the shipment);
- Department of Transportation (DoT) and Motor Carrier (MC) identification numbers;
- Your personal account of the violations. Try to be as in-depth as possible to help the authorities pin down the perpetrator.
Inform yourself on previous fraud cases
Forums, social media and a circle of friends and acquaintances could be great at helping you identify potential fraudsters in your area. By keeping in touch with others, you may prevent someone from losing valuable time, money and items.
Below is a CBC News episode with clues on how to recognize a potential scam and bad business practices in general: