Pittsburgh, Pa. - May 6, 2014 - On the move this May? You’re not alone. It’s National Moving Month and if you’re one of the 15 million households planning to move this year, make sure to do your homework before hiring a company or individual to handle your personal belongings.
Your Better Business Bureau recorded more than 45,000 inquiries last year for consumers looking into BBB business reviews for movers and moving and storage related companies in Western PA. In 2013, Pennsylvania was ranked number six on the most active states for moving outbound goods, according to American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). Moving is a big business in Western PA. Con artists know this and have developed tactics to take advantage of residents who have not done their research before hiring.
“BBB receives complaints from consumers every year who were not satisfied with their moving company, including complaints regarding damaged goods, items being held for additional payment and final costs well over the estimated costs,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “To avoid these situations, consumers should be aware of the red flags of fraud when doing business with a moving company and be able to recognize scam artists from trusted and legitimate movers.”
Red Flags of a Moving Scam:
No visual inspection of your property. Crooks are not likely to send a worker to your home to provide an estimate. They will give you an estimate over the phone or internet without inspection of your household goods and not all price quotes given online or over the phone are legitimate or binding. Consumers should request written estimates from at least three companies before hiring.
Payment requested in advance. The company requests cash payment up front or a large deposit before the move. Consumers should be aware of their rights when working with a moving company, including payment rights. The mover is required by Federal regulations to provide customers with the booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.”
Lack of company information. The company’s website has no local address, contact information or insurance details. Consumers should research a company thoroughly before hiring. Interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which can be verified with a motor carrier number at protectyourmove.gov. For intrastate moves in Pennsylvania, a company must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission and maintain adequate levels of insurance coverage. All movers must display their PUC number in advertisements and a list of PUC certified carriers can be found on the PUC’s website.
Also make sure you know whether you are dealing directly with a mover, or with a broker (middleman) who will refer your job to a mover you don’t know.
Identifiable moving truck. Scammers may provide an unmarked truck or a rental truck rather than a company-owned and marked moving van.
A consumer’s best defense is recognizing a scam artist before they have your possessions. If a consumer fails to see the signs in advance and the mover holds your items hostage and demands more money, talk to your BBB and get local law enforcement involved.
If you have a dispute with a moving company that cannot be resolved, file a complaint with BBB or contact the U.S. Dept. of State, Federal Motor Carrier Administration if it is a move across state lines. For local moves, contact the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. To research a moving company in your area, visit bbb.org or take a look at our list of accredited movers in Western PA.