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The endless organizing, cleaning, and packing that come with moving can be exhausting. It’s no wonder many people enlist the help of a moving storage company to ease that stress.
But if you’re among the nearly 40 million Americans planning to relocate this year, you should be aware that the number of complaints against moving services companies has steadily increased over the past decade, rising more than 25% in just the last three years. As a result, many people have been victims of fraud that left them with huge bills and/or missing belongings. The vast majority of relocations go smoothly and without incident but it’s in your best interest to be a well-informed consumer so you can avoid being scammed by a disreputable moving company.
Here are some important red flags to watch for and helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Start by getting referrals from your local real estate agent.
Next, request a written estimate from each one. 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 a known scammer. Include the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in your search.
- Say no to phone estimates.
Some shady movers will attempt to provide an estimate over the phone. In this scenario, the final bill can wind up being much higher because they estimated the amount and weight of your belongings sight unseen. Limit your search to movers that provide in-home assessments and written binding estimates.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Rogue movers may advertise a very low cost but increase the price once your items are loaded onto their truck. With your belongings in their custody, these con artists essentially hold them hostage until you pay the higher price they demand.
- Avoid companies that request a big deposit.
If a mover requires a sizable deposit or cash down payment, choose another company. Reputable movers will require payment only after your belongings have been delivered to your new residence.
- Beware of evasive firms.
While moving companies can have busy periods, it shouldn’t be challenging to communicate with them. If a mover seems reluctant to answer your questions or they’re impossible to get in touch with, take heed. Many moving scams can be thwarted simply by having a few open conversations with your movers about the services they provide and the associated costs.
- Get to know the terminology and documentation involved.
The “bill of lading”, for example, is a key legal document that acknowledges the carrier is in possession of your belongings. It also 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 or put in storage and its condition at the time. Be sure to make copies of all relevant documents.
- Carefully document the details.
Upon delivery, note in detail any problems on the mover’s copy of the inventory document before signing it. You have nine months to file a written claim for any losses or damage to your belongings. The mover then has 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim and they must either make an offer to pay or deny it within 120 days. It’s much easier for them to deny your claim if you don’t have proof or if they didn’t see the damage before leaving your home.
- Take steps to prevent sticky fingers.
Prior to moving day, put all of your jewelry, valuables, and sensitive documents such as passports, birth certificates, social security cards, property deeds, automobile titles, and insurance policies in a locked box. Keep it in a secure location and then transport it to your new home yourself.
There are many more reputable moving companies out there than 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. The best way to feel confident about your move is by understanding what’s involved.
About Certified Title Corporation: Since 1994, attorney-owned Certified Title Corporation has been furnishing residential and commercial real estate stakeholders across the nation with robust title insurance, settlement, and escrow services. Renowned for industry-leading reliability and an exemplary level of service and quality, the Maryland-based company helps clients from all walks of life achieve their asset goals. To learn more, call (888)486-5511 or visit https://www.certifiedtitlecorp.com/.
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