May through early September is peak moving season in the United States. Over 65% of relocations occur during these summer months. Demand for licensed, professional moving services exceeds the resources available nationally in the moving industry. Unfortunately, this scenario creates an opportunity for criminals.
Beware of “rogue operators”, rogue operators are teams of dishonest individuals posing as reputable moving companies with a collective goal to defraud unsuspecting consumers of their money with no concern for the consumer’s property. Often, a rogue move broker is involved in these schemes. These bad actors do not share a physical address with consumers and exist via the internet exclusively.
Rogue moving brokers prey on unsuspecting consumers with impressive websites, deceptively low pricing and fake five-star reviews. Typically, the rogue broker or mover refuses to conduct an onsite survey of the consumer’s dwelling and requires the consumer provide an inventory of the items to be moved. This is a HUGE RED FLAG. Most consumers do not do a thorough job of inventorying everything to be moved which provides a rogue operator a contractual loophole. After receiving the consumer’s inventory, the rogue move broker provides an estimate much lower quotes than the consumer may have received from reputable, professional licensed moving companies.
Once the consumer contracts with the rogue move broker and pays a sizeable deposit, the rogue move broker pays itself a hefty administrative from the deposit received from the consumer; often without the knowledge of the consumer. The balance left is then used by the move broker to outsource the move to whomever will take the job with the funds available. Once the rogue moving company shows up and takes possession of the consumers goods, the driver claims the actual amount of goods exceeds the initial estimate (recall the inventory prepared by the consumer) and demands more money. Too frequently consumers pay the additional fees or risk not receiving their property and potentially accruing storage charges.
Following are a few tips to avoid encountering a rogue operator.
Most states regulate the movement of household goods within its borders. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) oversees the registration, licensing, and regulation of intrastate moving companies pursuant to Chapter 507, Florida Statutes. It is extremely easy to check if a moving company is licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by visiting: www.floridaconsumerhelp.com
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) oversees the registration, licensing, and regulation of interstate moving companies. Interstate movers must be registered with the Federal government and have a U.S. DOT number. It’s easy to confirm your mover is registered by visiting, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/search-mover.
Check the BBB report at BBB.org to find a business with a good complaint and review history.
Evaluate how long the moving company has been in business and ensure they have a physical address and not a post office box.
Determine if the company is a moving broker or moving company. Ask them, are you a move broker? A broker arranges for the transport of your household goods for a fee and sells your move to a moving company which significantly reduces available funds for the actual cost of the relocation services.
Do not make all your arrangements exclusively on the internet.
Document the terms and conditions in writing and get copies of everything you sign:
- Get a written estimate from several movers and compare them. The estimate should be based on an actual in-person or virtual inspection of your household goods.
- Estimates and Contract for Services must include:
– Name, telephone number, physical address and state registration number of the mover.
– Date the contract or estimate was prepared and proposed date of the actual move.
– Appropriate pickup and delivery address, name and telephone numbers of the shipper.
– Name, telephone number and physical address where the goods will be held, if necessary.
– Itemized breakdown, description and total of all costs and services provided.
– Acceptable forms of payment available.
Accidents happen even with the best movers. Discuss valuation with your mover; know the difference between released value at .60 per pound and full value protection.
Check your homeowners or rental insurance policies for moving coverage.
Plan your move in advance so you have time to evaluate your options, base your decision on overall value including low stress move, insurance/valuation to protect your move, and confirm that each mover considered carries commercial general liability insurance, automobile liability, cargo liability and worker’s compensation. This can be verified by a certificate of insurance.
Consumers on a budget, discuss alternatives with your preferred moving company. There are many reputable, professional licensed moving companies who truly want to help consumers during their relocation and accommodate budgetary needs.
For additional moving tips, please visit Professional Movers Association of Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “Protect Your Move” and Better Business Bureau online.
Consumers who fall victim to moving fraud within Florida, please contact Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).
Consumers who fall victim to interstate moving fraud, please file a complaint with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/file-a-complaint.