Summertime is moving season: How to avoid becoming a victim of moving fraud
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While the thought of picking up everything and moving to a new place may seem scary enough, consumer advocates warn about sketchy movers who are taking advantage of consumers. A study conducted by the Better Business Bureau found that scams are pretty widespread in the moving industry, especially when it comes to interstate moves.
“This is your life. It’s everything that you own being put in a truck and driven away. You’re trusting these people to one, do what they say they’re going to do and two, bring it back to you--and sometimes those things don’t always happen,” said Sheron Patrick with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Northwest & the Pacific.
The BBB says it receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews in regards to moving companies each year. Many complaints report dishonest companies charging significantly more than the quoted amount, holding items hostage for additional undisclosed fees, and delivering damaged goods.
"Things that we suggest for consumers to look out for is you want to make sure that the moving company has an actual address, not just a P.O. box. Make sure that they have marked vehicles, logos on their trucks. That they accept credit cards--that it's not a cash deal. That they give you an honest and fair estimate--that they will give you an estimate either in person or virtual," said Patrick.
The BBB says it’s also a good idea to go with a company that charges by weight, not volume, and only requires a small deposit up front. It’s always a good idea to check reviews online and learn from other’s experiences before making the same mistake.
“A company, for one instance, they came and quoted [a customer] a price for what it was going to take to move her things. She paid that price, and then to deliver it, it was going to be an additional $5,000 on top of what she had already paid, and that’s one of the things that’s illegal,” said Patrick. “You can’t agree to do it for one price and then come back later and say this is now the new price to deliver your goods.”
According to the BBB, it's illegal for a company to charge more than 110% of the estimate before delivery. It's also illegal for a company to increase the price after belongings are loaded.
“Check everything in writing on exactly what is expected from the time they are coming to give you an estimate, until it’s delivered at your door,” said Patrick. “Does that mean it’s delivered to your door? Is it delivered in your house? There’s lots of different ways you want to look and make sure that everything is lined up the best way possible.”
Patrick says another thing to check up on is to see if the company is using a third party to deliver your belongings, which isn't always a bad thing, but still do your research.
"Always do your due diligence and look at the company and maybe ask them, 'hey are you the ones moving this across the country, across lines, or is this going to be a third party?' And if they say it's a third party then ask what that company's name is and look up their reviews, and their standards," said Patrick.
You can check reviews with sites like the Better Business Bureau where you can also file complaints about a particular business. You can also report issues to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which regulates cross country travel. If you’re issue involves an in state move, you can report it to the Alaska Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit. If your items are being held hostage, you can also visit moverescue.com.
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