Tips to avoid moving scams: BBB

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CROMWELL — Consumers should be very selective before hiring a mover to avoid common problems, some of which may or may not be illegal, according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau.

Every year BBB and law enforcement officials hear about rogue movers who demand an additional and unexpected payment before releasing possessions to their owner.  In addition, consumers may also be held responsible for additional charges if the moving company puts your belongings in storage pending payment of the final amount.

Consumers across the country filed more than 8,000 complaints against moving companies last year.  The most common disputes involved damage to or disappearance of personal belongings, difficulty obtaining compensation for damage, a final bill well in excess of the original quote and damage to apartments, homes and condos caused by movers during the process.

In some cases the cost of the move may be higher than the original quote depending upon unforeseen logistical problems that extend the amount of time it takes to load and/or unload the truck.  Complaints have shown that some movers do not accept credit cards, and that means the consumer may have to get cash in order to get their belongings released.

Anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be a mover, and unfortunately, the moving industry is plagued by con artists who don’t adhere to best marketplace standards for honesty and ethical conduct.

Better Business Bureau recommends consumers watch for common red flags before hiring a mover including:

  • They prefer to give you an estimate over the phone, sight unseen.  That preliminary estimate will likely be lower than the actual cost when the job is over.
  • They demand a large sum of money before the move. However, it is not unusual for a mover to ask in advance for $100 or $200 to make sure you don’t cancel and leave them hanging the day of the move.  Usually, the bill must be paid in full the day of the move.
  • Be wary if you cannot find a local address, contact information and proof of licensing or insurance on their website, or
  • If they use a generic truck.

Connecticut BBB recommends consumers thoroughly research prospective moving companies at bbb.org before selecting one.

Plan early –   This is high season for movers, especially since an estimated 37 million Americans a year change residences.  Reputable movers will want to do an on-site visit before writing up an estimate to see if there are any impediments which may extend the amount of time required to complete the move.

Ask for proof – Reputable movers will be able to show you proof they are registered with the state of Connecticut, licensed and insured.  There is nothing to stop a rogue mover from putting a fake “license” number on the side of a truck, business cards or on a website. Verify the legitimacy of a license at https://www.elicense.ct.gov/.

Get Full Value Protection insurance – Under “Release Value” insurance, movers assume liability of no more than 60 cents per pound per article at no extra charge.  That means if a mover loses or damages a 10 pound stereo valued at $1,000, you would receive only $6.00 in compensation.  With Full Value Protection, your mover is liable for the replacement value of any lost or damaged goods.  Under this option, they also have the choice of repairing the item, replacing it with a similar item or making a cash settlement offer for the cost of replacing the merchandise at its current market value.

Know your rights – Under federal law, movers are required to give to you a copy of the federal publication “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”.  Be sure that the mover gives it to you, especially when you are in the planning stages of an interstate move.

Visit ProtectYourMove.gov – You will find a wealth of resources from the Motor Safety Carrier Association at ProtectYourMove.gov.  This information clearly outlines your rights and can help you make an educated decision before hiring a mover.

The best way to prevent problems with a mover is to check its BBB Reliability Report before you sign a contract, or, if you have a dispute with a moving company, contact your BBB at 860-740-4500.