7 Ways to Prevent Moving Day Scams

These steps can help you find the right mover and save money.

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Moving is bad enough. Getting scammed by your mover is worse.
It happens to thousands of unsuspecting consumers every year. There were more than 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and 9,300 complaints against movers in 2012, the last year for which data is available, according to the Better Business Bureau. Routine problems include damaged goods, bait-and-switch cost estimates, delayed deliveries and belongings held for ransom. 

Here are seven ways to protect yourself and minimize headaches on moving day:

Get three estimates from reputable firms. Make sure to give companies a thorough vetting. Check the BBB listings, read online reviews and monitor social media streams. Consider how companies handle complaints and interact with customers.

Make sure the company has a physical address. Ask to see their moving trucks and their temporary storage space. You’re looking for clean, well-kept spaces that indicate legitimacy and care. You also can dig deeper using resources like MovingScam, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the American Moving & Storage Association.

Talk to previous clients. Ask companies for local references. Spend a few minutes on the phone with a previous client to obtain information that either sets off alarm bells or puts your mind at ease. Online testimonials can be helpful, but there’s no replacement for a conversation with a real person who’s utilized the company’s services. Any company that can’t or won’t provide references isn't a good candidate.

Get in-home estimates. Avoid any company that won’t send a representative to your home. Legitimate movers will view your belongings, answer your questions and craft a detailed estimate in writing. Prices will be based on weight, not cubic feet. Make sure the written quote breaks down all charges. It should include the moving and delivery dates. Finally, beware of any company that demands payment upfront. There should be little or no money exchanged at the outset.

Make sure your contract is complete. It should include all costs and fees associated with the move as well as a list of your belongings. In addition, ensure there are no last-minute charges for gas, moving pads or anything else. Movers can’t legally charge more than 110 percent of their price estimate. Don’t sign anything that looks or feels suspicious. No spaces on the contract should be left blank so they can be filled in later. In addition to a contract, make sure your receive materials about you rights and responsibilities related to a move.

Understand the moving company's claims process. Some shops may outsource claims; others will have an in-house representative. The BBB encourages consumers to consider buying full-value protection for their belongings.

Ask about workers. You’re well within your rights to ask movers about their employees. Do they conduct background checks and drug tests? These movers will be handling your most treasured possessions without your direct oversight.

Check to see if the company's name and numbers match. 
Make sure the U.S. Department of Transportation name and number on your paperwork matches the number on the truck parked outside your home. These should be identical, and any differences would require an immediate explanation.

A company truck featuring logos, branding and the DOT information should be there on moving day to gather your belongings. Be there onsite to watch them load and then later unload your items. Ask a friend or someone else to fill in if you can’t be there in person.

Consumers who feel they’ve been scammed can file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238) or at www.protectyourmove.gov. You can also contact your state’s attorney general and the BBB..