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Low-Ball Movers Put The Moves on Unsuspecting Consumers

Last year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the U.S. and Canada reported more than 8,500 complaints about movers including lost stolen or damaged possessions and late deliveries..

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But the mother-of-all-slick-moves prompted New Jersey and Massachusetts to go after companies that low-balled estimates and then inflated the fees, after the truck was loaded.

The companies held the possessions hostage and threatened to auction off the goods unless the customers came up with the ransom.

You'll have to be quick on your feet to avoid some of the moves miscreant movers will try to put on you.

Consumer Reports (CR) says hiring a moving company can be complicated. Like buying a home or applying for a mortgage, it's not something most people do more than a few times in a lifetime.

CR, the independent, respected rater of goods and services, offers a few moves you can use to keep low-ball movers from putting you behind the eight ball.

Get recommendations - Avoid newspaper, phone book, and online ads for the names of movers. Get recommendations from family, friends, co-workers, real estate agents and other professionals you trust. Try to get referrals from those who've recently experienced a successful move.

Get estimates from at least three companies. Move away from movers that can't provide an address or licensing information. Ask if they have marked trucks. Use a mover with a marked truck. It's a proud company that has nothing to hide.

Get detailed estimates in writing. Do not hire a company that insists on phoned, emailed or online estimates. Likewise, dump movers who demand a large deposit. You aren't their gasoline provider.

Get the goods on the mover - Be skeptical even about well-known consumer service web sites boasting how well they background check companies.

Consumer Reports said New Jersey officials recently announced the results of a sting operation that netted 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on Craigslist and, believe it or not, Angie's List among other websites.

Several movers had outstanding warrants and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wanted two of them.

Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA also offers online information on how to screen movers, CR says.

The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers.

Go looking for trouble - Along with licensing information, the federal website and some state sites list complaints against movers. Also check the BBB (

Give each company you are considering a Yelp!. Seek online reviews. Also search online for complaint forums and websites that name moving companies.

Weigh the reviews carefully. Even licensed companies can have a bad day. Look for a trend, a string of bad days or other tell-tale reviews that indicate a pattern – good or bad.

Know your rights - The federal government and some states require that movers provide booklets explaining your rights. The federal "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" doesn't apply to in-state movers, but it's a smart move to read it even if you are moving within state.

CR says the moving industry's trade group, the American Moving & Storage Association's, also offers consumer information online.

Make a move against errant movers - When problems occur after the move, say, items are missing or damaged, contact the mover immediately. You should have a copy of the company's complaints and inquiries procedures.

CR says, if you think you've been defrauded or if you believe the mover broke the law, contact your state attorney general, your consumer protection agency or the licensing agency. You won't know if a mover breaks a law if you don't know the law.

Also, if you think the mover is illegally holding your possessions and trying to rip you off, contact the police.

Small Claims Court isn't out of the question.

If necessary, send your mover a demand letter with your complaint, what you are seeking and your intent to sue.

Cooler heads prevail. Always keep your emotions in check, but be resolute.

Published: June 20, 2013

Use of this article without permission is a violation of federal copyright laws.

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A journalist for more than 35-years, Broderick Perkins parlayed an old-school, daily newspaper career into a digital news service - Silicon Valley, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com. DeadlineNews.Com offers editorial consulting services and editorial content covering real estate, personal finance and consumer news. You can find DeadlineNews.Com on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter  and Google+

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