Lauren Richeson is settled in her new apartment now, but for months, a moving company held her belongings hostage. That happened even though she paid the total moving cost agreed upon: $900 up front. When the movers got to her new home, they demanded $900 more.
"I freaked out. I refused. And so they shut the door, put my things back on and drove off with all of my stuff," said Richeson.
Richeson says her mother found the company in the phone book. It gave her a low estimate, sight unseen.
"If a company insists on giving you an estimate over the phone or Internet instead of coming to your home, that's a bad sign," said Anthony Giorgianni with Consumer Reports. "And never sign a document that has a lot of blank spaces that haven't been filled in. Another red flag? The movers are using unmarked trucks."
To find a legitimate mover with a good reputation, seek out recommendations from real-estate agents or friends who have actually used the company.
"We recommend getting estimates from at least three companies, and do your homework. Make sure the companies are licensed, for example," said Giorgianni.
There's a helpful website, ProtectYourMove.gov, that lists all companies licensed for interstate moves and tells you if there are any complaints. You can also check the ratings of the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org.
"If there's a problem, such as damaged or missing goods, notify the mover immediately. If you think you've been defrauded, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection department," said Giorgianni.
Richeson went after the company, calling the police and notifying several government agencies. She finally was able to recover her possessions without paying another cent.
Consumer Reports says be aware that moving companies are allowed to charge a certain percentage above their estimate upon delivery. Also worth knowing is that regulations are different if the move is out of state as opposed to within state lines.