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Moving scams occur when moving companies use deceptive practices to rip you off. In many cases, those companies aren't even legitimate business entities. There are a number of moving scams out there, and all of them are equally damaging to you, your belongings and your savings. Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, moving scams proliferate like never before. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to avoid falling prey to a moving scam; you just have to make sure you remain calm, skeptical and informed every step of the way.
1 - Check for Physical Location
When looking for a moving company, it is important to remember that just because it's listed on the Internet doesn't mean it actually exists. This is true even if the company provides a physical address. There is nothing to stop it from listing a non-existent address, or give an address that belongs to, for example, an empty warehouse. This is why it is important that you verify the company's physical location.
You can do that by cross-referencing the company using your local phone directory. Phone book listings are harder and more expensive to fake than Internet listings, so if the company doesn't show up in your phone book, it doesn't exist. You can also contact your state Attorney General's office and request the company's Articles of Incorporation. Along other things, they will contain the company's physical address. If the Attorney General's office can't find it's Articles of Incorporation, or if the address listed there doesn't match the one in the Internet, that company is out to scam you.
2 - Check the Operating License
In order to be able to operate their moving business legally, moving companies are required to obtain a Department of Transportation (DOT) license and a motor carrier (MC) license. When the companies obtain those licenses, their information is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The less scrupulous companies are more likely to either have lapsed licenses or not have any licenses at all.
When you meet with the moving company's representatives, ask for their company's DOT and MC license numbers. Then, you can run those numbers through the Company Snapshot search engine located on FMCSA's website. If the search comes up empty, you can safely assume you are being scammed and move on. If the search engine does turn up a match, click on it. This will bring up a report that offers a detailed rundown of the company. Look through it carefully. Check to see if the name and address corresponds to the name and address the moving company gave you. You should also pay careful attention to the section that covers the inspections. If it's average number of inspections is higher than the national average, you are better off looking somewhere else. The same is true if the report doesn't show any inspections over the past few years.
3 - Demand to See the Contract Upfront
An unscrupulous moving company will try to get you to sign a contract without letting you take a look at it. They hope that you will take them on their word about their terms they are offering and won't realize that the terms that are actually stated in the contract are different. However, legally speaking, their word doesn't mean a whole lot - not written in the contract, it's not legally binding. This is why you must always demand to see a copy of the contract. If the company isn't willing to do that, you should look somewhere else.
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