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Getting ready to move?

It's high season for moving (and getting ripped off) by shady movers. Learn the warning signs.

By Mitch Lipka May 10, 2013 3:55PM
Using a mover when you relocate can make your life easier. But if you're not careful, it can also be the beginning of a maddening experience that can cost you dearly.

Image: Movers (© Exactostock / SuperStock/SuperStock)Rogue movers have long preyed on consumers who are seduced by a low price quote, and perhaps a flashy website.

"A con artist with just a truck and a website can claim to be a legitimate mover with unfortunate results for consumers who don’t check out a company in advance,” said Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association.

A common situation consumers run into when dealing with a rogue mover is a demand for more money after their goods are already loaded onto a truck. The rogue essentially holds the consumer's goods hostage until a payment is made. Just this week, a Massachusetts moving company settled charges filed by the attorney general there accusing the business of just that practice.

The Better Business Bureau alone had more than 1.4 million inquiries about moving in 2012 and collected more than 9,300 complaints against movers.

Moving intrastate and interstate are quite different when it comes to the rules and who's in charge. An in-state move typically comes under the purview of whatever state agency happens to license or register moving companies. So it's particularly important to be sure you're dealing with a mover properly licensed in your state. You can find out who's in charge of movers in your state by checking with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation website and clicking on this map or pull-down menu.

Once a move crosses state lines, though, your state agency is out of the picture and any issues fall under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the USDOT. Problems on interstate moves tend to become more complex and harder to resolve.

Fortunately, If you follow some basic guidelines, you will greatly reduce the chance you'll be dealing with a rogue mover.


Atop the list should be getting at least three estimates. They should be in writing following a visit to your home by an estimator from the moving company. The lowest estimate is not always the best estimate.

You should also do some homework before signing a contract with a mover. Search online for complaints and use the BBB's database to get an idea of the company's history and how it has handled complaints. A company with no history at all is one to be leery of since many rogue operations constantly change names.

Here are some red flags that you could be dealing with a rogue mover from the U.S. Department of Transportation:


  • The mover doesn't offer or agree to an on-site inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the phone or Internet — sight-unseen.
  • The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
  • The mover doesn't provide you with a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
  • The company's website has no local address and no information about licensing or insurance.
  • The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
  • When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic "Movers" or "Moving company," rather than the company's name.
  • On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck.
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1Comment
May 13, 2013 2:19PM
avatar
This advice is outdated.  A change in federal regulations in 2012 means the "default" is no longer 60 cents/pound.  The default for interstate moves is now full valuation protection -- a consumer must now opt OUT of that to end up with minimal valuation.

Also, if movers "often jack up the total" when they see all of your belongings, that means the consumer failed to make sure they received an accurate, in-person estimate.  Never accept an estimate over the phone or online.  
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