Better Business Bureau Tips for Safely Moving During Busiest Month of the Year

Moving is a stressful experience, even when everything goes according to plan.

But when you add the possibility of being scammed or working with a substandard moving company, it can be downright overwhelming. May is the prime moving month of the year, kicking off a busy summer moving season, so it's essential to understand moving scams better before you pack up your boxes and prepare for your new adventure.

The Better Business Bureau receives thousands of moving complaints every single year. BBB Scamtracker reports include consumers describing frustrating experiences from delayed deliveries and significant cost boosts. More traumatic instances include scammers taking money or movers holding their belongings hostage for higher prices.

Step one for safety is due diligence and researching companies before doing business.

A great place to start is, where you can check company ratings and reviews and look for the BBB seal, the sign of a better business. You can also check with the Illinois Consumer Protection Bureau and the Illinois Commerce Commission website to see complaints filed against the company; if you're moving out of state, check with your new home state's consumer protection agency.

Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable moving company will never pressure you into signing a contract on the spot. If a company is trying to pressure you, walk away.

I always recommend getting multiple estimates in writing and asking for references; it may help you spot trouble with a majorly discounted price and see excessive pricing. And as a customer for any high-ticket item, we always recommend attempting to negotiate prices lower. Using your research for multiple estimates will give you some good information to help challenge some costs.

The lowest estimate is only sometimes the best deal because it can often mean substandard service. The primary decision in choosing a mover should be finding a company with a strong track record, great reviews and ratings, and a trustworthy moving company.

Always get estimates based on insurance replacement costs for any damaged items, and avoid insurance based on the weight of the load. Some of your most valuable things, like large-screen TVs, may be very lightweight, and you could be paid pennies on the dollar if there's damage. Keep smaller, very valuable or personal items with you to move.

Also, ask the moving company to provide proof of insurance and ensure the moving company is licensed and bonded.

While you may have to make a small deposit, a reputable moving company will never ask you to pay in advance. All payments should be made on the day of the move. If you encounter a scammer, they can take all the money and run, never to be seen again.

After you have done your research and chosen a moving company, be sure to get everything in writing. I like to remind people that the big print giveth, and the small print taketh away. In the event of any legal action, verbal agreements are meaningless.

Written documents should include the estimate, the contract, and the bill of lading. The estimate should be itemized and include all the services that will be provided. The contract should spell out the terms of the agreement, including the price, the date of the move, and the payment terms. Finally, the bill of lading should list all your belongings and their condition.

Other items on your moving checklist should be scrutinizing your belongings and taking pictures to document your items and their condition. When your movers arrive at your destination, be sure to inspect your belongings carefully for any damage. If you see any damage, report it to the mover immediately.

When the movers are finished, be sure to get a receipt for all your belongings. This will help you if there are any problems with your belongings after the move.

If you think a moving company has scammed you, file a complaint with the BBB and your state's consumer protection agency. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

I hope these tips help you protect yourself or your loved ones from moving scams and bad movers so that you can move into a beautiful new property with peace of mind.

• Steve J. Bernas is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau and can be reached at

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