Just about every self-help guide that you’ll ever read about moving will advise you to check the moving company’s credentials. That’s a great idea, right? But what does it really mean?
To be fair, most movers are completely above-board and legitimate businesses. They take pride in their work, and carry all of the right credentials to protect both you and their company. But make no mistake, there are some sharks in the waters. And just because someone hands you a piece of paper doesn’t mean that it’s a legitimate license, certification or anything else.
Checking to be sure that credentials are authentic and current is a critical part of hiring a moving company. Here’s how to work your way through the somewhat confusing process.
Confirm the Basics
You’d be amazed to learn about some ways that people are scammed by moving companies. Some will hire from Craigslist, hand over the cash so someone they’ve never met before, and then never see their belongings again. Never hire before checking out the most basic information. Read more about that here.
Google is an amazing thing for checking addresses and phone numbers. If you type the business’s address into Google Maps, you can see firsthand using the street view if the business is really there. It’s like magic. If that doesn’t work, because there are still some businesses that aren’t visible, at least check with the post office to learn whether the address is valid at all.
Phone numbers are easier. Another Google search should turn up an accurate result for the company. And if not, call them! Next stop, the Better Business Bureau to find out what you can about the business.
Check the Mover’s License
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website has a handy tool for finding information about the mover that you want to hire. If you’re moving locally, you’ll need to contact your local Department of Transportation to learn which department or agency offers the same information for in-state movers.
You’ll need the company’s U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number to enter in the search field. When you click “Search,” you should see a result for the company. If you don’t, check the DOT number to be sure that it’s entered correctly. If the error isn’t on your end, it’s time to be skeptical.
But if the search works, this is what you’ll find about the company:
- Physical address
- Mailing address
- Telephone number
- Fax number
- MC number
- Safety rating data
- Complaints against the company
Review Their Insurance Information
Under the Safety and Insurance section of the same FMCSA page, you’ll spot an “Insurance Data” link. Click it, and you’ll be sent to a secondary page that allows you to view insurance data as a download or in HTML or as a PDF. You can select the format that you want on the right side of the page.
This report holds a lot of information. You’ll see the company’s legal name, which might be different from their “Doing Business As” or DBA name, as well as the same contact information as before. Near the bottom of the page, this is what you should find under “Insurance Type.”
- BIPD (Bodily Injury and Property Damage)
- The amount of insurance required for each of those three types
- How much insurance the company actually carries for each
The FMSCA can help if any of these search areas prove to be confusing or if that part of their website isn’t functioning. Web issues happen. For questions about a mover’s licensing, call (202) 366-9805. For insurance questions, call (202) 385-2423.
In-state movers have a different governing body, but the best place to start is your state’s Department of Transportation. The USDOT has compiled a handy list with links to the DOT for every state including Alaska and Hawaii, and you can find it here.
Credentials shouldn’t be something that you glance at and then hand back over. More than likely, the movers that you connect with will all be completely above board. But what if they’re not? How would you know? It only takes a few minutes to find out for sure, and those minutes can save you from becoming a sad story on the 6 o’clock news scam report.
Ready to start your journey to a new home? Find a moving company that can meet all of your needs through Mover Junction.