Whether you’re relocating to another state for a new job or moving into your dream home, you should be aware of moving scams. I should know; I’ve experienced my own moving mishap. When I was preparing to move into a new place not long after graduating from college, I blindly picked movers out of a phone book. Big mistake. I was hit with hidden fees on the day of the move. I was moving into a walk-up apartment building, so when I spoke to the moving company over the phone they mentioned an additional fee of $50 per flight. But once we got to my new digs, one mover said flatly, “You know we charge $100 per flight, right?” He claimed the prices recently changed. I was very young and very naïve—and much too shocked to protest—so I ran to the nearest ATM. My final price was $400 more than the original estimate. They held my personal belongings hostage until I came back with the cash.
In light of my experience, I’m not surprised that the Better Business Bureau says it received more than 8,400 complaints against movers last year. The top complaints were about damaged items and final prices higher than the original quote. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting scammed by movers. I wish I knew then what I know now, and that I had followed these three tips recommend by the Better Business Bureau:
Check a mover’s credentials. All interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Once receiving a license from this organization, the mover will receive a motor carrier number, which can be verified at protectyourmove.gov. It would be in your best interest to get this number and check it. In addition, check the ratings for the company at the Better Business Bureau Website. Don’t do business with any company that has less than a satisfactory rating.
Get three in-home estimates. Never accept a firm estimate online or over the phone. If the mover insists on this approach, it’s a red flag and a clear sign to move on to the next company. How can they properly assess the cost of the move if they’ve never seen your house? Make sure to have at least three moving companies come to your home for an estimate. Also make sure that the lowest estimate is actually realistic. Do your research and compare prices. You don’t want any surprises at the end of the day.
Know what you’re entitled to. Research and learn your consumer rights in your current state as well as the state you are moving to. If your rights are violated or the moving company does not fulfill its promise, reach out to the Better Business Bureau or law enforcement. The American Moving and Storage Association Website has answers to frequently asked questions that address how to file a complaint and settle disputes. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Website, Protect Your Move, has an extensive list of your rights and responsibilities as a consumer when you move.
Sheiresa Ngo is the Consumer Affairs Editor at Black Enterprise.