Don't be scammed by moving companies

By Anthony GiorgianniConsumer Reports

With peak moving season fast approaching, it’s crucial to check out any company you’re planning to hire.

A recent lawsuit filed by Florida officials against one moving company illustrates why. The state attorney general accused the company of, among other things, failing to deliver customers’ belongings after picking them up, collecting money for services that were never provided, and refusing to pay for damage to customers' property.

Continue Reading Below

“These customers entrusted their clothing, furniture and family heirlooms to this company, only to have them broken and, in many cases, lost,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a prepared statement.

The state said it reviewed more than 100 complaints against the company. The Better Business Bureau in Southeast Florida and the Caribbean has given the company an F-rating, it’s lowest, citing 31 unanswered complaints. When we tried to visit the company’s website, we found it suspended.

Better Business Bureaus in the U.S. and Canada received more than 8,500 complaints about movers in 2012, the latest year for which statistics were available. Complaints included lost, stolen, or damaged possessions, late deliveries, and providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating prices once items are loaded on the truck.

In May 2013, a Billerica, Mass., moving company agreed to pay the state up to $202,000 to settle allegations that it engaged in such practices.

As a result of an undercover sting operation, New Jersey officials in 2012 fined 25 moving companies up to $2,500 each, accusing them of operating without a license. The companies were advertising on Craigslist, Angie's List, and other websites.

"Predatory movers have been known to hold customers' property hostage as a form of extortion, then demand thousands of dollars more than the price their customers originally agreed to pay," Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa of New Jersey said in a statement.

Read "Protect Yourself From Moving Scams" for more tips for a successful move.

What to do

  • Get references. Check with friends, family, and/or reliable real estate agents.
  • Get multiple estimates. Obtain estimates from at least three companies.
  • Verify licensing. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers additional information on how to screen companies. The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers.
  • Check for complaints. The federal website and some state regulatory sites list complaints against movers. Also check the Better Business Bureau, and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.
  • Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Read the free brochure “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Although it doesn’t apply to in-state, as opposed to interstate, movers, this brochure is a must-read for all. Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website.

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.