BBB: Moving scams spotlighted during National Moving Month

05/09/2014 11:31 AM

05/09/2014 11:31 AM

No one enjoys moving.

When the time comes to relocate, the process can be complicated and tense. Emotions can be high and so can the costs on moving day.

May is National Moving Month and the beginning of the season when many of us undertake the dreaded chore of moving.

This complicated process can be even more challenging when you do business with a moving company that is out to scam you. Last year the Better Business Bureau received more than 1.7 million inquiries related to moving companies.

There were more than 9,300 complaints about movers. Those included problems with items that were damaged or missing, final prices that were much higher than original estimates, late deliveries and household goods that were held hostage for additional payments.

Here are some tips to help you avoid problems that would unnecessarily complicate your moving process.

• Research, research, research. Interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Get that license number and go to where you can verify it. Ask whether you are dealing with a mover directly or with a broker, who could refer your job to a mover you do not know. Always check the company out with the BBB.
• Check on the location of the mover’s offices. They need to be accessible to you in the event of disputes.
• Be sure the company is insured. Be sure it has enough cargo insurance to replace your valuables that are damaged. Check with your own insurance company as well to know what it would cover.
• Don’t automatically go for the lowest bid. Scammers often lure you with a low bid over the phone and a promise of quick service. Remember that phone estimates are not binding. Three written estimates are recommended.
• Consider paying a few dollars more for full value protection. This cost must be included by law in interstate moving estimates.
• Know that a company cannot hold your valuables hostage for payment. Call law enforcement officials if such a tactic is attempted.
• Ask questions, lots of them, and get everything in writing. Ask, for instance, whether a quote is binding and if so, get that statement in writing.

Red flags

Be on the lookout for these red flags that are warning you that a moving company is out to scam you:

• When you call the company it answers the phone with “movers” or “moving company.” A company with no name is a potential scammer.
• Cash or a large deposit is demanded before the move.
• Its website offers no information about licensing or insurance.
• It has only glowing reviews or, conversely, bad reviews.
• You are asked to sign blank pages on your bill of lading on moving day. Never sign blank pages.
• You are denied a full value protection plan for your expensive items.

You do have rights as you navigate the moving process. By law, interstate-moving companies must give you two booklets detailing your rights. Be sure you know the company’s full name and get its DOT and MC license numbers.

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