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. Better Business Bureau is again joining with the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) to provide important tips on how to avoid scams.
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.
"Finding a mover you can trust can be easy, if you take the time to do so," said Rodney Davis, senior vice president with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "Check with BBB first before you find yourself paying thousands of extra dollars for damaged or lost items. BBB has more than 17,000 Business Reviews on companies that provide moving-related services."
"A con artist with just a truck and a website can claim to be a legitimate mover with unfortunate results for consumers who don't check out a company in advance," agreed AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr. "When it comes to such an important decision, you can save yourself a lot of problems by finding a mover who puts customer service and integrity first. For interstate moves, that means an AMSA-certified ProMover."
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding 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. Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights. Also, enlist the help of 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.
To check out a mover near you, and for more consumer information you can trust, visit bbb.org, and AMSA's moving.org websites. For the latest, follow BBB on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureau
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.