With 40 million Americans relocating every year, moving scams are increasing.

Here are a few hints to protect yourself:

Obtain multiple bids. ABC says it wants $6,400 to move your belongings from California to Texas. XYZ says it wants $6,995 for the same move. Crook and Sons says they will do it for $1,499. What's wrong with this picture?

Use a company that has a physical address, not just a 3 by 5 inch Post Office Box. Some shysters operate a business with ONLY a phone book ad and a snazzy website. (Note: it is POSSIBLE that a small upstart business will operate out of a home office, and you may get a lower price because they have no real overhead -- but do your homework and thoroughly check the place out BEFORE you let them touch one stick of your furniture.)

Never agree to use a moving company that will not give a person-to-person quote. An Internet advertisement promising to move 1,000 square feet of furniture to another location within 25 miles for $299 is an invitation for disaster.

Get everything -- we do mean everything -- in writing, prior to the move. (If that estimate is on the back of a napkin, beware!)

Deposits should not be required.

A real moving company has real trucks. If you prefer to go on the cheap with two guys and a Budget Moving truck, then rent the truck yourself and get some friends to help you. Do not think that you are dealing with a professional moving company if they use a rental truck.

  • Your "professional movers" should be insured. Ask for, and verify, coverage information.
  • Requests for deposits. (Some scammers consider a deposit to be a donation.)
  • Rates should be quoted by weight, not cubic feet. The former is easily verifiable; the latter is not.
  • Be careful what you sign. Read everything thoroughly. Never sign a document that contains blanks.
  • Does your mover require cash? If so, ask yourself why. (This is NOT a good sign.)

Just in case ... the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation, oversees the moving industry. It’s Web site is www.protectyourmove.gov.