Q. My family is relocating this summer, I am searching for a reputable moving company. What advice may BBB provide?
A. For countless Americans, the month of May signifies a major transition in their lives. Whether it is gearing up for warmer weather, graduating from high school or college, starting a new job or receiving that highly anticipated acceptance letter, May marks the beginning of the busiest time in the nation for moving. So much so, that the month was designated National Moving Month in 1997.
In 2020, 38% of all business profile views on BBB.org for moving companies occurred from May-August and the moving industry was the third most-viewed industry in the nation for that year. Additionally, more than $230,000 was lost to fraudulent moving companies throughout the year, emphasizing the caution consumers should exercise when hiring a moving company. Of the 29.8 million people who moved last year, more than 25% were between the ages of 20-29.
With the amount of moving activity during summer, the potential of being a victim of a moving scam www.BBB.org also increases. There are several versions of moving scams reported to BBB every year, including:
* Consumers receive a quote and pay a deposit, but the "movers" never show up. The moving company provides a quote based on expected weight and, after loading the truck, they inform the consumer that the load is over the expected weight and an additional fee will have to be paid. Most of the time, the additional fee is significantly more expensive per pound, sometimes as much as double the original estimate.
* The most disruptive and difficult to anticipate moving scam is when everything appears to be going well. The movers provide an estimate, arrive on time and load your belongings on a truck. However, this is where the interaction turns disastrous. When the truck fails to arrive at its destination, either your belongings are simply gone or the company requires the consumer to pay an additional fee to have them delivered, holding the possessions hostage.
To avoid becoming a victim of a moving scam this National Moving Month and in the future, BBB recommends consumers follow these guidelines:
Watch out for warning signs. When reviewing a company's website, if there is no address or information about a mover's registration or insurance, it is a sign that it may not possess the proper policies to protect a consumer's belongings. Additionally, if the mover uses a rented truck or offers an estimate over the phone prior to conducting an on-site inspection, it may not be a legitimate business.
Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be an indication of a fraudulent business. If an individual's possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that was not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
Get everything in writing. When moving between states, check licensing at ai.fmcsa.dot.gov with the U.S. Department of Transportation. An identification number is required of all interstate moving companies, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which can be verified at ProtectYourMove.gov. Make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. The pickup and expected delivery date should be easily identified.
Keep an inventory of your belongings. Having an inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. BBB recommends consumers who are moving label the boxes their belongings are packed in and what is in each box. In general, movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover. Taking photos of the contents prior to packing is a great way to prove if damages were incurred during the moving process.
Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions about anything you don't understand. If the moving company either can't or won't answer your questions, look for another company. Trust matters when hiring a moving company.
With the precautions introduced by the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to follow the guidelines, cdc.gov/coronavirus put forth by the CDC when moving into a new residence, either as a family or individual.
To access BBB's 2020 report of moving scams, visit BBB.org/MoverScams. For a list of accredited moving companies near you, visit BBB.org.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.