By Elaine Zimmermann
Julia and Rick: We are about to move out-of-state and we have heard some horror stories about movers holding people's belongings until they paid double the amount of the original quote. How can we protect ourselves against scams like this?
Elaine: Moving scams are most prevalent in Florida, New York, New Jersey, California, Texas and Illinois. This is primarily because these states have fewer state laws to protect consumers.
Moving companies are regulated by state and federal statutes. Moves that cross state lines, "interstate moves", are regulated by federal laws. Moves that stay within one state's boundaries, "intrastate moves" are covered by state laws.
According to federal law governing movers, if you have paid 100% of a "binding estimate" and a mover fails to deliver your goods, they have violated Federal regulations.
Or if a mover demands more than 110% of a non-binding estimate, they have also violated Federal regulations. Most consumers who are desperate for their belongings go ahead and pay the illegal increases and must wait for a remedy from the federal system.
It is far better to avoid these types of situations before they happen. Doing some research can help you avoid many of the interstate scams.
When you are planning an interstate move, you should review the complaints filed against prospective moving companies before you commit to one carrier or another. These companies are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation. Their website allows you to review complaints filed against these carriers. Obviously, companies with many recent complaints should be avoided. To view complaints against interstate movers go to http://ai.volpe.dot.gov/hhg/search.asp.
There is no such mechanism for reviewing complaints against intrastate movers. According to Two Men and A Truck movers, "Most legitimate movers will quote you an hourly rate for the move and add a fuel cost based upon the distance to be traveled. There are different hourly rates for packing and moving. Most companies have a two-hour minimum moving hourly charge. No legitimate company will give you quote without first seeing your furnishing. If you are given a quote without an estimator seeing your belongings, it is a scam. You may pay the movers and never see your things again."
The PODS company moves and stores items. Consumers pack the container (and take responsibility for damage to their items) then the PODS Company transports it intrastate or interstate.
Moving companies may allow you to pack your own boxes to save hourly fees. Also if you are transporting a car to your new local consider placing it in the moving truck to reduce costs.
Look out for local scams
There are many scammers posing as legitimate companies. If you have questions about your movers, call the company before you allow them to move your things. Even if it is the day of the move and their truck is in your driveway. No legitimate business owner will mind taking your phone call.
Elaine Zimmermann is a personal finance expert who was written about everyday ways to save money on cars, homes, vacations and more. For information on investing in foreclosed real estate you can visit her website at www.AskElaineZ.com.