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With all there is to do in ramping up for a relocation, no detail is more worth sweating than picking the right moving company. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews a year about movers, and a June 2020 investigation by the organization found widespread price gouging and fraud in interstate moves.
Moving scams are committed by rogue operators that exist primarily online. They solicit business by offering lowball estimates, often without so much as laying an eye on what’s to be moved. They might demand a hefty deposit, or even full payment in advance.
From there, the scam can go in several directions. With your deposit in hand, the “movers” might simply not show up at the appointed time and place. Or they’ll try to change the deal at the last minute, jacking up the price on a pretext (for example, your estimate didn’t include packing, or your load is overweight). More than 40 percent of moving-related complaints to the BBB involve overcharging.
Worst case, the movers might disappear with your stuff, abandon it in a storage facility or refuse to deliver unless you fork over yet more money. That scenario, known as a “hostage load,” accounts for 7 percent of fraud complaints to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency that oversees interstate movers.
Once a dishonest mover has your goods on the truck, it has all the leverage, so your best defense is to take time and care in choosing the hauler. Start by ensuring any company you are considering is licensed. All interstate movers must register with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
Most states also require companies doing in-state moves to have that USDOT number, and many do their own licensing as well. Check with your state’s movers association for information on regulations where you live.