Rogue movers want to take you and your belongings for a ride.
Peak moving season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, is underway. It's the period when more than half the nation's millions of households move every year and need moving services.
Fly-by-night rogues know the season well and are out in force making their own moves.
Rogue movers attempt to put the moves on financially struggling consumers who may have been crushed by the economy, are forced to move, but are short on cash. They are also after those who have to move quickly, for whatever reason, say to take advantage of a new job in another town.
Rogue movers prey on your vulnerabilities, your ignorance and your inability or unwillingness to take time to vet your mover.
Moving experts are warning consumers that disreputable movers often make it their business to lure you with low estimates. Later, those estimates can mount with exorbitant charges and the threat of holding your household goods hostage until you pay what amounts to a steep ransom.
"Anyone with a website can claim to be a mover," said Carl Walter, vice president of Mayflower, one of the nation's oldest and highest rated moving companies.
"It's important to do some homework to avoid falling victim to a scam. There are a number of red flags that make rogue movers stand out, but to recognize them you have to know what to look for ahead of time," Walter said.
Mayflower and others offer these moving tips.
• Get a referral from friends, family, co-workers or others you trust who've recently enjoyed a no-headaches move. You want to vet three moving companies with offices in your area. The best typically have at least a 10-year track record of being in the business.
The American Moving and Storage Association can help with referrals and J.D. Power and Associates and others rate moving companies.
• Be sure the company is what it says it is. Some crooked movers are "sock puppets" attempting to lure in customers by using names similar to reputable companies. Check the reputable company's website to make sure the local agent is affiliated with the brand name.
Also check in with your local Better Business Bureau to learn of any complaints.
• Know your rights. If you are moving across state lines visit ProtectYourMove.gov to find out if a mover is licensed for interstate moves by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Another red flag is a mover not giving you a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a disclosure brochure created by the FMCSA to outline your rights. Federal law requires movers to give the brochure to customers prior to an interstate move.
• Take no guesstimates. Demand an in-home visit for the estimate. Transportation charges are based on distance and weight of the items to be moved. You can't get an accurate estimate unless the moving company gives your stuff the once over.
• The lowest price isn't always the real deal. Rouge movers typically lowball prices, but later hit customers with unreasonable charges and, in some cases, hold onto belongings until the fees are paid. One estimate substantially lower than others is a big red flag.
Consumer Reports offers tips and insight on making a move.
• Never pay up front. You should not be required to pay a deposit to have your items moved. Legitimate companies request payment upon delivery.
• Get everything in writing. Ask for the estimate, pickup and delivery dates and other documents in writing.
"Moving can be a stressful event no matter how well the mover does its job," said Walter.
"Mayflower understands this and wants to help all consumers who are planning a move to have a better moving experience, regardless of which mover they choose," Walter added.
Broderick Perkins RealtyTimes.com July 7, 2011