How to pick a reputable international mover

With dozens of movers to choose from, how do you pick the international mover that is right for you, especially when the industry is known for unlicensed companies looking to scam their next customer? Complaints about movers have more than tripled in the past decade, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, with over 10,000 lodged last year alone. Like all good pirates, moving industry swindlers have taken note of the loopholes in regulation, exploiting it to their full advantage. Avoid being the next victim of an unlicensed mover by learning the tricks of these fraudulent companies and educating yourself on the smart way to choose a licensed, reputable international mover.

Today’s economic climate is anything but certain. People are being smarter, and more conscious about where their money is going. People who are not cautious are most likely to become victims of international moving scams. They search for the mover with the cheapest price, not knowing that the “too good to be true” prices often are quoted by movers who are too good to be true. Typically, the con artists lull you with a lowball quote and with freebies. Once your goods are on their possession, they demand you pay more than the agreed-upon amount. If you balk, your household goods are tossed into a warehouse somewhere to molder until you give in. These unlicensed movers are also at risk of being forced to shut down their business by federal authorities that are cracking down hard on rogue movers. You don’t want your cargo with them when that happens.

Start by making sure the international mover you want to work with is licensed directly by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).

    • In order to be licensed by the FMC, international movers are required to provide concrete proof of experience in maritime shipping, provide business references and establish themselves as a credible company to the FMC.
    • The FMC audits the application and approves the license application only if the applying company meets all the stringent requirements. Upon approval, the applicant company is required to furnish a $50,000 – $75,000 bond (depending on the nature of their application) to the FMC. The bond serves as surety against any future claims related to cargo shipped by sea against the applying company. All this is done to protect your cargo and your money. You can take advantage of this federal protection made available to you by the FMC at no cost, by simply working with an international mover who is licensed directly by the FMC.
    • It is illegal for any company to quote for, book shipments, invoice for shipments or process documents for international moves by sea without a valid license from the FMC. Beware of companies that are not licensed by the FMC.
    • Some unlicensed international movers will lure you into giving them your international move business by merely displaying a US Dot License number, FMCSA license number and/or Local moving license number on their website. You must know that those licenses are only valid for domestic moving, not for international moving. FMCSA and FMC are two very different federal regulatory authorities. The FMCSA is the ‘Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’ and is the regulatory authority for interstate moves within the USA. The FMC on the other hand is the ‘Federal Maritime Commission’ and is the regulatory authority for all international commerce from/to the USA by sea, including international household moves. Also and once again, if the international mover is showing the license number of another freight forwarder then you must watch out, because it is an illegal sub-contracting arrangement.
    • Some unlicensed international movers will also prominently display their memberships with organizations such as IAM and/or a FIDI certification. These association memberships and certifications help movers network and do business with other moving companies, they do not give the mover the legal authority to conduct international moves from or to the United States by sea. The international mover must have a valid FMC license number issued directly to them by the FMC, in order to legally ship your cargo by sea.
    • The FMC is coming down hard on unlicensed international movers. If you give your cargo for shipping to an unlicensed company, they will very likely be forced to go out of business soon by the FMC and other federal authorities, and you may lose all your cargo, all the money spent in shipping and all your precious memories. It is not worth the risk. Click here to read questions answered by the FMC about unlicensed, rogue movers.
    • Additionally, you can easily verify if an international mover is licensed by the FMC by clicking here and searching for the Organization’s name.
    • If you have already handed your cargo to an international mover for an overseas move by sea, you can contact the FMC for assistance by clicking here.
    • Also, if you come across any unlicensed international mover with a name similar to ours, and/or any other international mover advertising our office address on their website, feel free to contact us for clarification or feel free to directly contact the FMC for clarification. Click here for the FMC’s contact information and to learn more about why you should work with FMC licensed companies.

Here are more tips on how to choose the right international mover for your move to India:

  • Begin your search for a FMC licensed international mover at least 6 – 8 weeks before your move. If you don’t have that much time, start as early as you can.
  • Verify their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, number of years with the BBB if they are accredited, and look for any unresolved complaints on the BBB website.
  • Browse through the shipping experiences posted in your favorite community forums. Look for reviews and feedback online using your favorite search engines. Searches using keyword “reviews” can sometimes give dramatic insights.
  • Ask for references. If you know people who have returned to India earlier then ask for their experiences.
  • Avoid movers who are not responsive to your queries. If they don’t respond quickly even to win your business, you know they won’t care after winning it.
  • Rights & Responsibilities: A reliable mover will give you the Rights & Responsibilities. You are entitled to these documents along with a copy of your contract during the move. Be sure to read the fine print in the contract. Do not make the common mistake of taking the lack of fine print as a good thing. If there is no fine print then consider it a red flag!
  • Look carefully for inclusions and exclusions quoted. Make sure there are no hidden charges and unreasonable exclusions.
  • Ask the mover if they offer full replacement / all risk insurance to cover your cargo against damages, theft etc. Ask for the insurance terms and conditions and take the time to read the fine print. Be sure to ask for your certificate of insurance if you are purchasing insurance. I assure you, there are international movers out there that will bill you for insurance premium but not activate your insurance policy. They will pocket the insurance premium to make up for the lowball quote they give you (they have to make their money somewhere!) and then leave you in a lurch in case there is a claim for missing or stolen items. Let them know that you know and you’re are smart. You are entitled to a copy of the insurance certificate that clearly lists the type of policy and replacement value declared.
  • Browse through the content in the below important websites –

If you browse through the great tips in the websites referenced above, you will appreciate how much effort is put by various groups, government institutions and independent moving associations alike in protecting you and in spreading awareness on how not to be a victim of a moving scam.

Just remember that cheap is not necessarily the best and every trusted website referenced above will spell that out just as loudly. Why? Because what may seem like an enticing deal upfront can actually end up costing you MUCH more in the end in terms of hidden charges, damages, pilferage, fraud and mental anguish.

When we take our family and kids to a restaurant we haven’t been to before, we ask around and read up on quality of food and service. We don’t simply take our kids to the cheapest restaurant in town because we know that not only will poor service spoil our weekend evening-out with family but poor food can have bigger health consequences with food poisoning and allergies. We also exercise the same smartness when choosing a medical practitioner, dentist, when buying a car, etc. So why not do the same homework and diligence when entrusting our lifelong memories and items of emotional value to an unknown business for transporting across the seven seas? It doesn’t take that long to do the diligence and is not as daunting as it might sound.

Protect Your Memories. Your Money. Your International Move. Work only with licensed & reputed international movers.