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BBB Study: Do your research to avoid moving scams that cause financial nightmares

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BBB Study: Do your research to avoid moving scams that cause financial nightmares (Photo: Getty Images)

Moving is stressful enough but add being scammed on top of that and it's a nightmare.

An in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) found that scams are widespread in the moving industry, particularly when it comes to interstate moves. The study highlights the risk to consumers who do not do careful research before hiring a mover.

BBB reported that it receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year. Many of the complaints describe how experiences with dishonest moving companies have turned into a financial and emotional crises.

According to the study, a fraudulent moving company initially may be helpful on the phone and may have a well-designed website boasting of its many years of experience, well-trained workers, satisfied customers, and appropriate licensing.

However, the red flags begin when the company claims to be unable to make an in-person inspection and estimate; while it may claim to be local, in reality, it is based out of state and paying for a local post office box address. An initial low-ball quote soon balloons as the company claims—often based on improper calculations—you have more belongings than originally estimated.

A news release said that Pleasant Grove resident Alisha Pearcy hired a company to help her move from West Virginia to Utah last August. She was given a quote over the phone for what Pearcy felt was a reasonable price, then told to expect delivery a week or two after pickup. It took 101 days for her items to arrive, with extensive damage. The company demanded final payment to be made in cash or money order, a sure sign of a scam, the release stated.

And, the company she originally paid wasn’t the company that arrived to pick up her items—it acted as a broker with another company, another sign the company was likely a scam, BBB reported.

Pearcy didn’t realize this before it was too late, but she managed to see the warning signs enough to refuse to make the final payment. Since then, attempts to file claims through the company’s processes have been unsuccessful. She told BBB that the company never answered a call made to it during or after the move, and has never responded to voice mails or emails, nor made any attempt to collect the final payment.

Consumers who find their goods held hostage by a fraudulent mover can contact MoveRescue for assistance. This group was created by moving companies Mayflower and United Van Lines to provide free help to victims of moving scams.

The best way to avoid such a scam, BBB’s study states, is to do careful research before hiring a moving company. Specifically, the report advises looking up a mover’s license number on FMCSA’s website and its BBB Business Profile at bbb.org.

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