Avoid being scammed by moving companies

May 29, 2013 2:54:42 PM PDT
Lauren Richeson is settled in her new apartment now - but for months a moving company held her belongings hostage.

The Better Business Bureau got more than 8,000 moving company complaints last year. But there are ways to avoid getting ripped off.

Richeson had paid the total moving cost they'd agreed upon - $900 up front. But when the movers got to her new home, they demanded $900 more.

"I freaked out. I refused," said Richeson. "So they shut the door, put my things back on and drove off with all of my stuff."

Lauren says her mother found the company in the phone book. It gave her a low estimate sight unseen.

"If a company insists on giving you an estimate over the phone or Internet instead of coming to your home, that's a bad sign," advises Anthony Giogianni of Consumer Reports. "Never sign a document that has a lot of blank spaces that haven't been filled in. Another red flag? The movers are using unmarked trucks."

To find a legitimate mover with a good reputation, seek out recommendations from real-estate agents or friends who've actually used the company.

"We recommend getting estimates from at least three companies," Giorgianni says, "Do your homework. Make sure the companies are licensed, for example."

There's a helpful website, ProtectYourMove.gov. It has a list of companies licensed for interstate moves and tells you if anyone's complained about them.

"If there's a problem, such as damaged or missing goods, notify the mover immediately," Giorgianni says. "If you think you've been defrauded, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection department."

Lauren went after the company - calling the police and notifying several government agencies. She was finally able to recover her possessions without paying another cent.

Moving companies are allowed to charge a certain percentage above their estimate upon delivery. Regulations are different if the move is out of state as opposed to within state lines.


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