May is National Moving Month, which kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residencies. It also means unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers.
In 2012, the Better Business Bureau 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.
American Moving & Storage Association provides tips on how to avoid scams and find a trustworthy moving company:
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.
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 just within that state. In Georgia, you can contact the Georgia Public Service Commission (www.psc.state.ga.us). Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights. Also, enlist the help of the BBB or 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.
Reach Kelvin Collins, the president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., at (800) 763-4222 or www.bbb.org.