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 5 Secrets to Spotting A Moving Scam

Yellow Pages Ads – Anyone can advertise in the Yellow Pages, it doesn’t mean that they are licensed or insured – so, don’t believe everything that you read. If a mover includes their license (IM, DOT, or ICC) number in his ad, check it out first. (For interstate movers, you can find out this information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at http://www.protectyourmove.gov. If you’re moving within a Florida, you can check with the Florida Division of Consumer Services (DOACS) at http://csapp.800helpfla.com/cspublicapp/businesssearch/businesssearch.aspx).

The Internet – Just like yellow pages advertising, when a mover or a broker has a web site, it doesn’t mean that the mover or broker is licensed or insured; it only means that they had enough money to pay for the site – so, don’t believe everything that you read. The internet is a useful research tool, but more problematic moves are initiated through the internet than any other method. If a mover includes its license (IM, DOT or ICC) number in their ad, check it out first. Some movers even display the logo of the FMWA, AMSA, BBB or other associations, even though they are not members of those organizations – so check directly with those organizations first.

Moving Brokers Most brokers (especially those that operate on the Internet) do not own trucks or warehouses like traditional movers. Instead, they operate by collecting a deposit or a fee from you and then arrange for your move to be handled by one of their affiliated (often unlicensed) movers. The deposit or fee they collect may be based on their guess of how much you are going to move based on a survey that you provide. (If the mover won’t come to your home to survey your furnishings before preparing your estimate, be prepared for an unpleasant surprise when the estimate turns out to be much lower than the actual charges.) Usually you will not have the same consumer protection when you use a broker as with a traditional moving company. And, after the broker collects its deposit or fee, you may find it difficult to get them interested in helping you in the event of a claim or dispute with the mover that they have arranged for you.

Referral Companies and Lead Agencies When you use an Internet-based referral company or lead agency, you will generally not be asked to pay a fee or deposit because their fee is generated from the mover who is provided with your lead or referral information. When the referral company recommends movers, check to make sure that the movers are licensed by the DOACS and/or FMCSA, that they have a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and that they are members of a recognized national association, such as the Florida Movers and Warehousemens Association or the American Moving and Storage Association.

Deposits Quality professional movers generally don’t require a deposit before moving you, and if they do it is generally just a small "good faith” deposit. However, some bad actors or Internet brokers frequently require a large deposit. So, if a mover you are considering requires you to pay a big deposit to "hold your dates” or to insure "prompt service”, you may want to choose another mover. Also, the FMCSA consumer regulations do not allow movers to require you to pay for your move before it takes place; instead, payment is due at delivery, when the truck arrives at your new home.

REMEMBER – Get more than one estimate and watch out for low-ball movers! If a mover you are considering tells you that they can move you for an unrealistically low price – be careful. It could mean they will suddenly remember some extra charges once your shipment has been loaded on the truck, the doors have been padlocked and they are ready to drive off into the sunset with all of your worldly possessions. Or, if a mover you are considering refuses to provide you with an in-home estimate and tells you he can provide an accurate estimate over the phone without ever seeing your home and your furniture – you may want to choose another mover (unless your mover provides you with very good reasons that you are comfortable with for basing your estimate on other than a physical survey). If your mover is located within 50 miles of your residence, you must execute a written waiver if you decline the physical survey of your goods.

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