The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) administers commercial regulations governing the interstate transportation of household goods. FMCSA makes a variety of information available to help consumers planning a move. Before choosing a moving company, consumers should become familiar with Red Flag Indicators of Moving Fraud and review a Moving Fraud Prevention Checklist. Consumers may also want to check the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database or their local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been registered against the moving company they are considering using.
In general, DOT's Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigates household goods carriers, brokers and other carriers alleged to have engaged in egregious and intentional patterns of criminal violations of the FMCSA’s economic and consumer protection regulations. The types of frauds committed against consumers may include:
- Making, altering, copying, publishing, or negotiating a fraudulent bill of lading;
- Deliberately providing a "low-ball" estimate to lure customers and then withholding or threatening to withhold the customers' household goods unless they pay significantly more than the quoted price;
- Knowingly assigning a fraudulent weight or volume to a shipment ("weight bumping");
- Obtaining money or property on false or fraudulent pretenses (inflating or falsifying the amount of packing materials or other supplies provided for the move);
Identify Red Flag Indicators of Fraud
Based on our experience working HHG fraud investigations, we have identified the following red flag indicators consumers should be aware of:
- The company’s Web site has no local address and no information about their FMCSA registration (DOT number or type of registration such as broker or carrier) or insurance.
- When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic “Movers” or “Moving Company,” rather than the company’s name.
- The company may have a generic email address which will not include the company’s name.
- The moving company will claim that they have been in business for 20 years or longer, but lack an online presence. Check to see if online business review websites show reviews only for a short period of time.
- The moving company may have others submit, or may submit their own glowing reviews on third-party rating websites to make their business appear reputable.
- The mover does not offer or agree to an onsite inspection of your household goods, gives an estimate over the telephone or Internet — sight unseen, and does not provide you with either a “binding” or “non-binding” written estimate. These estimates will often sound too good to be true and they usually are.
- The moving company’s sales representative will be pushy, often calling and emailing a potential customer multiple times a daymaking statements like: “This deal is only good for today so we need a deposit now to lock in the rate.”
- The mover does not provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
- The moving company does not accept credit cards and requires payments to be made by either postal money orders, direct wire transfers, or cash. They may also demand a large deposit before the move.
- The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company owned or marked fleet truck.
- On moving day the moving truck driver or foreman will try to get you to sign blank documents before beginning to load your goods. Never sign blank forms and read what you sign.
- If storage is needed after pick-up, the moving company will only provide a vague location as opposed to the exact address of their storage facility.
- The moving company will make unsolicited calls and emails and will not provide adequate answers to your questions.
Tips When Choosing a Moving Company:
- Contact various reputable, long-standing moving companies to compare estimates and get a foundation of what the legitimate cost of your move will be.
- Ask the moving company if they will be conducting the move or if it is being brokered for fulfillment by another company.
- Keep all records of contracts, proof of payments, and communication with the moving company.
- Carefully examine the reviews on various online business rating websites to ensure they contain more than just recent glowing reviews.
- Use online street-view and satellite maps to research the moving company’s address to verify that the address is a business and not a residence.
Some DOT OIG investigations of household goods moving schemes have resulted in defendants fleeing prosecution after being charged with fraud. Should you encounter any of these individuals, do not engage or attempt to apprehend them, but contact DOT OIG at (800) 424-9071 or call your local police: DOT OIG Wanted Fugitives.
Consumers seeking to file a complaint against a household goods moving company, broker or other carrier may contact FMCSA's National Consumer Complaint Database online or toll-free at: 1-888-368-7238.
Consumers may also report an allegation of household goods fraud to the OIG's Fraud Hotline using any of the following methods: