May is National Moving Month and your Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers who are planning a move to be wary of unlicensed movers and scam artists with a truck that claim to be legitimate moving companies. Whether you are moving across the street, to another town or state, moving is a stressful process that can be further complicated by not knowing your rights and not taking the necessary precautions before turning belongings over to a mover.
In 2016, BBB processed over 5,600 complaints against moving companies. Common complaints consisted of items arriving damaged or missing altogether, late deliveries and even goods being held "hostage" for additional payment. In some instances, consumers alleged paying a deposit for a moving truck, which never arrived on the agreed upon date.
"Nearly a third of consumers choose a professional moving company to assist with their relocation needs," says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. "Essentially, anyone with a truck or van can claim to be a mover though, so planning ahead and checking credentials is critical, but also a simple process."
Your Better Business Bureau offers the following tips on preparing for a move and protecting yourself against moving fraud:
- Start with in-home estimates. Always obtain at least three written, in-home estimates to help you make an informed decision. Be cautious of unusually high or low estimates and companies that claim they can provide a binding, final estimate online or over the phone without visually seeing what needs to be moved.
- Do your research. Look for BBB accredited movers and companies that belong to industry organizations, such as the American Moving and Storage Association. In addition, all interstate movers must be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you are moving within the state of Pennsylvania, a company must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission. A list of PUC certified carriers can be found on the Public Utility Commission's website.
- Protect your possessions. Confirm that the mover provides full-value protection insurance for any lost or damaged possessions or consider paying to upgrade your insurance coverage. Be sure to understand what the insurance covers, whether items will be repaired, replaced or if you will be offered a cash settlement that you can use to repair or replace the item on your own. Consider taking important valuables with you or shipping them separately using a shipping service with tracking numbers and insurance.
- Get everything in writing. Get copies of everything you sign, especially the bill of lading, which is the receipt for your goods and the contract for their transportation. The bill of lading should contain the mover's information, breakdown of charges, pickup and delivery times, what liability the movers have for the belongings and claims protection. Never sign any blank forms.
- Be aware of red flags. If a mover asks for a large down payment in cash or full payment in advance, this may be a warning sign. It's also a likely red flag if the company has no listing of a brick and mortar location and refuses to provide a physical address. If the moving company cannot or refuses to answer your questions, consider looking for another mover.
Visit bbb.org or call 877.267.5222 for additional helpful tips on hiring a mover and check out your Better Business Bureau's Moving Resource Center. If you are unable to resolve a marketplace dispute with a business, file a complaint through BBB and report scams and known instances of fraud to BBB Scam Tracker.