As with nearly any detail-driven event, prevention is key. And planning ahead can help to reduce the possibility of problems during your move.

Word of mouth is usually a great indicator of reliability. Ask around. Talk to friends, relatives and business associates.

Keep in mind that a big ad or a Web site isn't necessarily a sign of a reputable mover. As a matter of fact, nearly all moving scam victims report finding their moving companies on the Internet. Further, be certain that the moving company lists their address in their yellow page ad and if they do, go visit their facility. See first hand for yourself how they operate. If they do not have an address in their ad it is cause for immediate concern and cross them off your list.

When you're searching for the right company try to find a company that: Have offices in your area. Has been in business at least 15 years. Has local affiliations with organizations such as your local Chamber of Commerce. Has facilities and an office you can visit. Does not have an answering service answer their phones during normal business hours.

Don't use the Internet until after you've narrowed your search. Use the Web to research your individual choices.

Professional affiliations are a good way to gauge a company's integrity. Moving companies who are members of the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) have all agreed to: Abide by the terms of published tariffs (the carrier's provisions and rates for services performed applicable to your move). Participate in the Arbitration Program sponsored by that organization.

Ask the mover to visit your home for an on-site estimate. This service should be free. If they won't come to your house to do an on-site estimate, then find another company! NEVER RELY ON A QUOTE PROVIDED SIGHT-UNSEEN WHETHER IT'S OVER THE PHONE OR OVER THE INTERNET.

Don't be swayed by a super-low price or extras. If one of the quotes is substantially lower than the rest, be careful. Quoted prices that are dramatically lower than the rest of the competition are probably too good to be true. "Low ball" price quotes could mean lower quality service. Plus, scam victims often report being hooked by low prices only to be hit with added charges or having to pay a "ransom" for their belongings.

Some consumers assume the moving company's insurance covers the full value of their goods at no extra charge. This is not true!

Make sure you ask about "valuation" options. Valuation provides protection from loss or damage to your possessions. Valuation is not insurance; it is simply a level of motor carrier liability.

Further, ask your mover for a certificate of insurance and contact the insurance carriers listed to verify that coverage is in place.

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