FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – With the school year over and the job market in flux, a lot of families are looking for a fresh start.
But a new nationwide study from the Better Business Bureau found that moving scams are a common complaint for those looking to relocate.
It happened to Rebecca Swindler.
She’d just graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi when her mother hired a moving company to bring her back to Michigan.
They hired Angel Van Lines, a Dallas-based company, but say the crew was anything but angelic. “They showed up almost at midnight,” said Swindler.
The men were rude and in a hurry, but things became worse after everything was loaded.
That’s when they told her she needed to pay more money.
Swindler’s $1,200 contract soon ballooned to almost $5,000. It took more than a month for her items to arrive, and when they did? “My stuff came sopping wet,” said Swindler. “Like, you would open up things and you would see mold.”
Unfortunately, her story isn’t unique. Hers is one of 13,000 complaints filed with the BBB on average each year.
It’s a story Luis Perez has heard over and over again.
“Consumers need to do their homework first,” said the DMV investigator. “It amazes me how much research they do after they start having problems with these companies.”
That’s why he says it’s so important to do detective work before contacting the companies.
Both sites also have companies’ complaint histories. And don’t forget to look online for reviews and red flags. “Social media is an excellent resource because people want to talk about their experiences,” said Perez.
Once you’ve done your research and are ready to contact the movers, get three estimates.
The BBB says they can be in-person or virtual estimates, as long as the company bases it on weight and not cubic feet.
If the company is not interested in getting specific with your belongings, that’s a bad sign.
Finally, opt for full-value replacement liability insurance. Swindler says at the end of her ordeal, the company offered her $60, even though most of her items were water-logged or damaged.
“Many consumers haven’t moved, so they don’t know what to expect,” said Joshua Swyers.
He works for MoveRescue, a group created by two industry giants – Mayflower and United Van Lines – to help victims of moving scams.
Swyers says the bad actors are good at what they do. “The companies that do this, they are professionals. They have unfortunately been doing this for many years, under different names.”
That’s why the BBB and other experts say it’s so important to research before you pick up the phone, because you could find yourself at the mercy of criminals. “It’s very easy to fall for their tricks,” said Swyers.