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On moving day, don’t get taken for a ride

Consumer Reports News: June 27, 2011 05:01 PM

Of the 37 million Americans changing households this year, more than half will make their move during the summer. For some homeowners it will go smoothly but others may have their belongings held hostage by a rogue moving company or be billed more than double the original estimate. “Virtually anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be a mover,” says an industry expert.

Here’s how the typical scam works, according to the Department of Transportation and the Better Business Bureau. Without ever visiting your home or seeing the goods you want moved, a mover offers a low-ball estimate over the phone or Internet. Once the truck is packed with your stuff, they demand hundreds more than the agree-upon price to unload it. Bingo, you’ve been had. Here are the "red flags" to look out for, according to the DOT.

  • The mover doesn't offer or agree to an on-site inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the phone or Internet—sight-unseen. These estimates often sound too good-to-be-true. They usually are.

  • The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.

  • The mover doesn't provide you with a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.

  • The company's Web site has no local address and no information about licensing or insurance.

  • The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.

  • When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic "Movers" or "Moving company," rather than the company's name.

  • Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.

  • On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck.

Learn how to find a reputable mover from the DOT and BBB websites and the American Moving & Storage Association. One way to cut down on your expenses is to jettison your junk before you move. How to get rid of practically anything tells you how.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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