Moving? Beware the Con!

by Diane Dimond on May 6, 2013

We’re On The Move!

Hey, have you heard? The economy is improving! Car sales are up, so are new construction permits and the housing market seems to have righted itself. According to folks who keep track of these things at the American Moving & Storage Association a record number of us are expected to move residences this year, migrating to bigger apartments, houses or new jobs out of state.

The Census Bureau reports that last year 36.5 million Americans changed where they lived. (They count every man, woman and child over 1 year old.) So, imagine the economic impact of close to 40 million people journeying to new locations. Many will need to buy new appliances, carpets, drapes and other furnishings for their new place. It will surely be a great shot in the arm for the economy and there are predictions that improving consumer confidence will fuel even more economic improvement!

But hold on. Before we get to feeling all warm and fuzzy let’s remember that these are exactly the times con-men crave. When people are on the move and spending money the craftiest of that breed surfaces.

Do Your Movers Know What They’re Doing?

Apparently, Spring is a traditional time when many decide to pick up and start fresh somewhere new. In fact, the month of May is National Moving Month and crooks have already marked it on their calendar.

The AMSA has now joined forces with the national Better Business Bureau to remind anyone planning to move to beware of rip-off artists on the prowl.

“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,” warns AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr.

The BBB reports that last year 1.3 million Americans were smart enough to call their local offices to check out moving companies before they hired them. Unfortunately, lots of others did not, relying on a “friend of a friend” or an ad on Craigslist to find what they thought would be a reputable moving company. The Bureau says it also got more than 9,000 complaints about unscrupulous movers in 2012.

Check Out Movers with the BBB first

Among the issues: unskilled workers who didn’t pack things properly, damaged, destroyed or missing items, late deliveries and original estimates that suddenly ballooned once the truck pulled up to the new residence. Many consumers reported their belongings were, literally, held hostage until the disputed amount was paid in full. Case in point: a man named Tim Walker, who moved from Virginia to Nevada and after six weeks of fighting finally gave in. He paid double the original estimate to get his belongings released.

Sometimes dishonest movers can be found and punished but lots of times they – their truck and their attractive web site – disappear without a trace.

So, what’s a harried family pre-occupied with packing up supposed to do to protect themselves?

Don’t Forget About Cluttered Attics & Garages

First, get at least three in-house written estimates and when you call note whether they answer with their business name or just a drowsy sounding, “Hello?” So that your estimate is based in reality make sure the company sees everything you want to take including all the stuff you’ve stashed in the garage. Verify that the mover is actually insured and bonded as so many claim to be. And, don’t jump at the lowest price thinking you’re getting a deal. Remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

Second, if you are moving out of state understand that all interstate movers have to be licensed with the federal government so ask for the company’s motor carrier number. Then, go to www.protectyourmove.gov and make sure to verify that the number is active.

Third, know your rights. In fact, reputable movers will give you pamphlets outlining ways to make sure the transport of your belongings goes smoothly. Never pay hostage money for your property. Call police right away if movers demand more money than their original estimate. Several states are conducting undercover stings of suspected rogue movers this season so the faster you can get law enforcement on the scene the better. For good measure, don’t forget to report the crooks to the BBB.

This Symbol Can Help You Decide

The American Moving & Storage Association also helps make your final choice of an honest mover easier. They have a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval you should look for. They bestow their stylized blue “M” ProMovers logo only on certified moving companies. Once you see that logo on a company’s advertisements or business card you can be sure the firm has gone through the association’s rigorous screening program which includes a criminal background check on all owners, officers and stockholders. The firm must show they are in compliance with all state and federal laws. The company has to agree not to engage in false advertising and they sign the association’s Code of Ethics pledge. Each year the AMSA doubles back to re-check each firm and their right to advertise with the ProMover designation can be revoked if they find any problems.

“Our mission is to get these rogues off the road,” Darr says. “That is the single most important thing we can do … (They) are killing our business and killing consumers’ faith in professional movers.”

You may not be changing your residence anytime soon but with close to 40 million Americans moving this year chances are you know someone who will be. Do them a favor. Warn them about the pitfalls. Hand them a copy of this column.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

Facebook Friend Alexandrea Merrell writes:

“I realized it right away. The fellows put everything on the truck and then demanded another $1000 to actually move it and unload it.

I called the police who said…”this is a civil matter” and did nothing.

So I either paid or they would put all of my belongings in their “storage facility” at $150 per day + I would still have to pay the new delivery charges.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

Facebook Friend Carmen Matthews writes:

“Great, timely advice, Diane. I especially like, “… when you call note whether they answer with their business name or just a drowsy sounding, ‘Hello?’” Anyone who answers a business this way leads me to be suspect.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

Facebook Friend Diane Haas Noble writes:

“I was a victim too! And you don’t realize it for months even years…when you go for something and think, “you know I haven’t seen that since I moved”!!! ugh!”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

Facebook Friend Sue Schroeder writes:

“I have been the victim of a moving thief. And didn’t realize it til later. Bought those guys dinner and tipped them as well.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

Facebook Friend Marie Evers writes:

“I already moved this weekend. Tired.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Twitter Friend LaneFriends writes:

“@DiDimond Even so called good movers can rob you. I didn’t use an unknown comp. I had Mayflower move me &they cut open my boxes & robbed me.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 7, 2013 at 12:59 am

Facebook Friend Barbara Borror writes:

“I am moving as soon as I sell my house – I already hired a moving company but I checked BBB and also had my niece investigate the company and everything is great!!! Each time I call they are there… You just have to be careful!!”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Facebook Friend Shenae Daniels Morrow writes:

“When I was in the military, I insisted that all my items go into crates, even if I was moving from state to state. The crates were sealed before the truck would leave.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

Twitter follower KellyAPritchard writes:

“@DiDimond I just moved this weekend w/Uhaul. Good advice? Hire someone to load/unload the truck Uhaul has movers or you will be sore like me!”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 14, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Huffington Post Reader realitytrumpsbull writes:

“If you generally want to get from A to B and be able to C all your stuff when you get there, get ye to the U-Haul depot, and rent the Big Van. After securely loading and boxing and blocking and bracing the priceless treasures in this life that you cannot live without, fire up the beast and put your GPS-thingy on the dash, and hit the open highway.
Well, that method works if you’re in the continental US, for the most part, and you have the stamina and motel funds to make the trek cross-country, and you don’t break an axle, or something.

If you HAVE to trust your belongings to strangers, do some of that internet research, licensed, bonded, insured, all that jazz, and thoroughly review any service contract prior to signing, and don’t be afraid to ask some questions about their control processes to prevent people’s stuff from getting pilfered en route, or held hostage on the other end. I think FedEx ground and UPS can handle pallets, if you can get your loot in shipper boxes, banded, sealed, and security-taped, chances are that it will show up unharmed. Oversize pieces, exotic furniture, so forth and so on? Well…you’re still trusting it to strangers, and it might get dropped, or vanish unexpectedly if it’s really high-dollar. I think there is insurance available to cover any losses, but your mileage may vary.
The best way, still, is to load it in the van yourself, and unload it out of the van yourself. Anything less is a coin toss.”

Reply

Diane Dimond May 14, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Huffington Post Reader kwint writes:

“Great advice! Use your resources in full to thoroughly check any movers, storage facilities, even the areas where you wish to move. Even some ‘landlords’ have been known to con people.
Sad, but true.”

Reply

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