Moving Scams

Imagine the following nightmarish scenario: it's Moving Day. You and your family are in the midst of the excitement and flurry of the move. Your mover has arrived, and has loaded everything onto the moving truck. Seconds before the truck is ready to leave, with all your earthly belongings on board, your mover delivers an unexpected blow: the price of the move has changed. It's now much higher than the agreed upon sum. Should you resist or object, your possessions will be sold or, alternatively, stored away in a remote warehouse until you are ready to pay. At this point, there's not much you can to. Like others before you, you are the unwitting victim of the ultimate moving scam.

Although you can file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – the official entity which oversees moving companies – this is basically a futile step. The FMCSA is practically powerless when it comes to consumer complaints. Granted, the FMCSA investigates the numerous consumer complaints it receives; however, since it lacks the official authority to step in on your behalf and fight your battles, there is very little this organization can actually do. Moreover, the number of investigators employed by FMCSA as complaint investigators is shockingly small, meaning that most cases remain unattended to, while the others that are looked into take forever to complete. If an investigation is concluded, chances are your unscrupulous mover will simply be asked to pay a small fine. This is a frustrating situation, to say the least.

Previously regulated by the Interstate Commerce of Commission (ICC), the moving industry was once comprised of a few leading moving companies, who offered their customers non-binding estimates based on the services they were required to perform. The Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980 brought about two significant changes: first, by permitting moving companies to offer consumers binding estimates, this Act in fact encouraged movers to compete on price; in addition, the 1980 Act welcomed new companies into this gradually burgeoning market, making the price competition much fiercer. Offering deceptively low moving estimates to attract potential consumers, movers made their profit by means of illicit scams. The dissolution of the ICC in 1995 meant that the moving industry was no longer officially regulated; needless to say, moving scams flourished.

While 'abducting' your cargo is the most popular scam, there are other forms of rip-offs: even after you've made the necessary arrangements and have gone over every detail of the move with your moving company, the movers may choose not to show up on moving day - sometimes strictly as a result of poor administration on their part. You may also be compelled to wait a long while for your cargo to arrive; a trip that should take but several days could turn into long weeks of exasperating anticipation.

Granted, as the victim of a moving scam, there's not much you can do except alert others about the particular mover who – both literally and figuratively - has taken you for a ride. Still, there are various steps you can take before choosing a moving company, which will hopefully help you avoid these unpleasant situations in the future.

To begin with, prior to picking a mover, ask for references and referrals from friends and family members who have moved in the past. Moreover, contact FMCSA and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to find out more details about a specific moving company – particularly whether it has been the object of consumer complaints. Make sure you hire a licensed and insured mover. Check out FMCSA's website for a list of properly insured carriers, and for other helpful tips for protecting your move.

Ask for several cost estimates before selecting a mover. Even more importantly – don't settle for an online estimate or one that's given over the phone. A reliable mover should come over to your house and conduct an on-site inspection of the goods you plan on shipping. Ask your mover to provide you with FMCSA's informative booklet "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" for interstate moves, or with the New York State Department of Transportation's "Summary of Information for Shippers of Household Goods" if you're moving entirely within New York. Read these documents thoroughly before signing the bill of lading.

Your mover should answer any questions you may have, both about the move and about the moving company itself. If you are unsatisfied with the answers or with the mover's conduct in general – look for a different mover.

Committed to reliability and excellence of service, Mover New York will be happy to provide you with information about the move and about your rights as a consumer.

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