May is National Moving Month, which kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residences. It also means unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers.
In 2012, Better Business Bureau received more than 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and more than 9,300 complaints regarding movers. Complaints included damaged or missing items, big price increases over originally quoted estimates, late deliveries and goods being “held hostage” for additional (disputed) payment.
BBB is joining with the American Moving & Storage Association to provide these important tips on how to avoid scams:
Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA assigns motor carrier numbers that can be verified at protectyourmove.gov.
Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate, and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Also, remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer, which may cost you more in the end.
Know your rights. Research your rights with either the FMCSA for interstate moves, or with the appropriate state agency for moves within your state. Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights. Also, enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if the company threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
Consider accepting full-value protection. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at current market value, regardless of age. For example, the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of a flat-panel TV damaged in transit. The cost of full-value protection must be included in the initial estimate for an interstate move. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
Start With Trust. To check out a mover near you, and for more reliable consumer tips and information, visit bbb.org.