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Smart move: how to avoid hiring a moving scam

Tennessee regulators and your #WiseChoice for a moving company want to make sure you don’t get ripped off like Kimberly Miles did (photo courtesy of Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier). 

Miles and her 10-year-old boy were living in an empty two-bedroom apartment when my colleague Randy Travis of the Fox 5 Atlanta I-Team caught up with her in May. Miles’ belongings were missing. According to Travis’ investigative report, they never made it to her new apartment because the moving company she hired was holding her stuff hostage.

She paid the required deposit. She paid the hourly rate by contract, according to the story. But when the movers took so long to show, she called the company’s owner. He demanded another $400 in cash — or no delivery of her family’s clothing, furniture, her jewelry, even a gun safe with weapons. “He’s holding all of our lives basically for ransom,” Miles told Travis in his story. “He’s wanting me to hand him this cash without our belongings there and without us even knowing they exist anymore.”

Miles got into this mess because she didn’t do her homework. If she had, she would have discovered what Travis did in his investigation: the Georgia-based moving company didn’t have the credentials to do the work, and its boss was an ex-con.

“Moving is stressful enough. Unfortunately, there are moving companies out there that are running illegitimate businesses and do not place a priority on consumer protection in business organization or practice,” said Jonathan Greer, vice president of Big League Movers, your #WiseChoice for moving services.

Greer said August is the busiest month of the summer for moving services. With that in mind, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and its Division of Consumer Affairs shared this #WiseAdvice on hiring a reputable moving service like Big League Movers:

  • Know that some states require moving companies to carry a movers license. Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas don’t require movers licenses, but they do require movers to be registered with business licenses and proof of insurance. Be wary of any mover that cannot provide a physical address or insurance information. “We are open with consumers on how insurance works in the moving industry and what the consumer can do to purchase additional coverage through valuation,” Greer of Big League Movers said. “Our company possesses insurance to the tune of $2 million in general liability, in addition to auto, cargo and workman’s compensation policies. We are open with what our insurance covers and the coverage we possess, sending a Certificate of Insurance to any customer who requests one.”
  • Check moving companies’ records with the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South and the American Moving & Storage Association.
  • Do not accept a moving company that will not provide an estimate on-site. If it will only provide estimates over the phone or via email, drop it from your list.
  • Beware low-ball estimates. Ask if there are additional fees and if the estimate is binding. “We do not low-ball estimates. Instead, interstate jobs are quoted as flat rates and must be surveyed,” said Greer. “That rate is honored for the items viewed, and our consumer can rest assured it will not change. For consumers moving locally…we can offer an accurate estimate of time or ‘not to exceed’ pricing to consumers.”
  • Beware a mover who requests a large down payment or full payment before the move and never pay with cash. “For interstate moves, we only require 10-20 percent upfront,” Greer said. “For local moves, we only require $100 per truck per day. Payment is due after the services are fully rendered, not when we pull into the destination, a common practice of scammers.”
  • Avoid signing blank or incomplete documents. Get all details in writing. Confirm the terms and conditions of the contract, including insurance coverage, liability limits, pick-up and delivery dates and rate calculations.
  • Professional moving companies will have company-branded vehicles. If the movers show up in rental or unmarked trucks, they could be running a scam.

“We talk to each consumer after each service to ensure they are fully satisfied with the services we execute,” Greer said. “Our process provides peace of mind to consumers as they can rest assured their (credit card information and belongings are) protected from exposure or harm.”

Kimberly Miles ended up having the ex-con who ran that bogus Georgia moving company arrested for stealing her property, according to Travis’ story. She’s still smarting from her experience — all because she didn’t run a simple (and free) state or BBB record check on the mover she hired.

Better yet, she could have checked and hired Big League Movers instead. She would have discovered not only is Big League Movers a spotlessly credentialed moving company, but it also has an office in Atlanta, the very area where she was moving.

That would have been a #WiseChoice.

Copyright 2018 Wise Choices TM. All rights reserved.

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