A newer scam that consumers may have to watch out for – moving scams. Here’s how it works: You hire a company you think is a moving company to move your belongings. But sometimes you’re hiring a moving broker (without realizing it), and the broker arranges a mover you may know nothing about.
It could go OK. Or, increasingly, a mover wants to charge a significantly higher price than you were quoted and won’t deliver your belongings until you pay. Or the mover steals your property and fences it.
Moving is already a stressful time. Dealing with an unethical mover or an outright con artist takes it to a new level.
The tales we hear about are gut-wrenching: People losing thousands of dollars, or dealing with their belongings being held hostage or having all of their possessions stolen and sold.
- Putting down a deposit and then the company never shows up and you can’t track down the company or your money.
- Agreeing on a price and then the company asks for more money or else they won’t deliver your belongings.
- Movers damaging your property.
- Movers stealing your property.
- Movers not being licensed or insured.
TIPS TO AVOID PROBLEMS:
- Stay away from companies that are only licensed as brokers. They don’t have to follow the same rules as far as liability.
- Check out who you hire. Interstate movers must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and have a DOT number. Brokers don’t have to be licensed as a mover, just as a broker.
- Check whether it’s registered as a company of any kind through your Secretary of State’s office.
- Make sure the company is bonded and insured. Actually check, don’t just take their word for it.
- Don’t pay with a P2P app like Zelle or CashApp or Venmo. It’s almost impossible to get your money back. Instead, pay with a credit card. Always. A lot of the scams involve P2P payments. There’s a reason.
- Get extra insurance to cover your belongings. Go for more than the standard 60-cents per pound. If you choose full valuation, it might cost 1 percent to 5 percent of your valuation estimate.
- Don’t allow any movers to handle your photo albums, computers, external hard drives or irreplaceable heirlooms.
- If your items are going into storage, pay the storage fees yourself.
Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.