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How to Spot—and Avoid—Moving Company Scams

The endless organizing, cleaning, packing, and other preparations that come with moving can be taxing.  Many people enlist the help of a moving company to ease that stress. But if you’re among the 35 million Americans relocating this year, you should be aware that the number of complaints against moving companies has steadily increased over the past decade, rising 25% in the past three years alone. Some movers are dishonest in their dealings with customers, seeking only to make as much money as possible in the easiest way they can. As a result, many people have been victims of fraud that left them with huge bills or missing belongings.

The vast majority of moves go smoothly and without incident, but it’s your best interest to be a well-informed consumer so you can avoid being scammed by a disreputable company. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Step away from your computer. While there many reputable moving companies have web sites or advertise online, most victims of fraud found their moving company on the Internet.
  2. Get referrals from your local real estate agent. Then, get several written estimates. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices and made a potential selection, conduct detailed due diligence. Do a thorough online search to make sure the company isn’t already a known scammer. Be sure to include the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in your search.
  3. Rule out phone estimates. Some movers will attempt to scam you by providing an estimate over the phone. The final bill winds up being much higher because they estimated the amount and weight of your belongings sight unseen. Only consider movers that provide in-home inspections and written estimates.
  4. Watch out for low-ball estimates. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Rogue movers may advertise a very low cost and then increase the price once your items are loaded onto their truck. Your items are in their custody until you pay the higher price they demand.
  5. Avoid companies that request a deposit. A reputable mover will require payment only after your belongings have been delivered to your new residence. If a mover requires a large deposit or a cash down payment, choose another company.
  6. Prevent sticky fingers and identity theft. During your move, put jewelry, valuables, and sensitive documents such as passports, birth certificates, social security cards, property deeds, automobile titles, and insurance policies in a locked box and transport it yourself.
  7. Be knowledgeable about all paperwork and keep copies of it. Especially the “bill of lading,” a legal document that acknowledges the carrier is in possession of your belongings and serves as your receipt. The “order for service” lists what the mover will do, as well as pickup and delivery dates, and the inventory document lists each item you shipped and its condition.

There are far more decent, reputable moving companies than there are scam artists, but they do exist. If you’re planning to move, it’s smart to educate yourself before you sign on the dotted line.

Certified Title is a Title Insurance, Search and Settlement Services provider that uses the latest technology to make managing documents, communicating and closing transactions a breeze. To learn more, visit Certified Title today or call (888) 486-5511.

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