The move is a stressful experience. While most of the places you look after during a big move will try to make the process easier, there are people who will try to take advantage of you when you feel tired. It might be tempting to opt for this small ad on Craigslist, but if you’re not careful, you could get scammed. (Imagine, you think you’re hiring a moving company, and instead, you get a guy with a van.) Not exactly ideal.) Here are some things you should be careful about when hiring a moving company.

What are the warning signs that a moving company is launching a scam?

See an agreement that seems incredible? This is probably the case. The advertised price is usually not specified by a small print run or context and does not say what the price refers to. This is what the scam is – as soon as a contingency is encountered (and there is always a possibility: stairs, loading road of more than 50 feet, etc.) the price will go up. Because there is no paperwork, there is no binding agreement. That’s how half of your stuff will be taken hostage in the truck on the day of the move.

For starters, they must be present on various consumer rating websites, such as Homestars, Angie’s List or Google+. A strong company will understand how important it is to build credibility and make an effort to ensure that it gets positive reviews. Also, be wary of a score that seems a little too perfect, as this might mean that they are not genuine critics. As long as the feedback seems positive and reasonable, you will be safe.

They should also provide you with a moving coordinator or an office manager – someone whose job is to make sure your move translates into a positive experience. It’s not the same thing as making sure everything is fine. Sometimes, problems are inevitable: the keys may not be available for the new house, or the furniture is not suitable. A coordinator is responsible for moving from A to B; they are updated throughout the process when things are not going to plan and deal with problems that may arise after the move. Small and large moving companies often miss this step, so if you find a company that offers it, you know you’re in good hands.
What can consumers do to avoid being exploited?

In short, you should plan ahead. When you book early, you have more choices available. This means that you can take your time to find the moving company with which you have the best relationship. If you have the time, it’s always a good idea to arrange a site visit so that you can determine if a company is living up to its promises. (Did they come in for their estimate on time and did they call if they were late?) Remember, movers are responsible for moving everything you own. This is not a decision you should hurry.

Is it common for movers to require a deposit? How many?

It is common for moving companies to request a small deposit, and the amount will vary. The only time you need to be wary is when they ask for full payment in advance, or a really large deposit amount.

What recourse do consumers have if they have benefited?

Get the name of an office manager or landlord before the move as a point of contact in case something goes wrong. You must also ensure that the contract is signed, as this provides minimal protection for the customer and an opportunity to declare the value of the items. If something goes wrong and the company refuses to take responsibility, the Better Business Bureau will protect consumers and try to get accounts from the company on the move. If the moving company is not recognized BBB, social media is often the last resort.

When you know what to look for, it’s easy to spot potential scammers and avoid them. As long as you take the time to plan ahead, your moving day will be quick and painless.

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