May is National Moving Month, which kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residencies. Unfortunately, it also means unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers.
In 2012, BBB received over 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and more than 9,300 complaints against 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.
“Almost anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be legitimate moving company”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “If you don’t take the time to make sure a company is trustworthy, however, you may end up paying thousands of extra dollars for lost or damaged items. In some cases, your items may not get delivered at all.”
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 a unique motor carrier number that can be verified at protectyourmove.gov. Also ask if the move will be subcontracted or brokered to another moving company. If so, ask which one, and make sure you research that company as well.
Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price quotes received 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. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Know your rights. Research your rights with either the FMCSA for interstate moves, or with the appropriate state agency for moves just within that state. Interstate movers are required give you two booklets detailing your rights. Also, enlist the help of BBB and local law enforcement if the company threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
Consider accepting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. 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 its current market value, regardless of age. It’s important to note, for example, that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.