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Better Business Bureau warning of rise in moving scams

The Better Business Bureau said people reported losing $730,000 to moving scams in 2021. It's a 216% increase in monetary losses compared to 2020.

BOISE, Idaho — With the month of May known as one of the busiest moving seasons of the year, it is celebrated as National Moving Month. To help keep people and their finances safe, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people of rising moving scams.

BBB Communications Manager Rebecca Barr said nearly 1,100 complaints were filed with the BBB against moving companies around the U.S. in 2021. Barr added people reported more than $730,000 lost to moving scams to BBB Scam Tracker. It's a 216% increase in monetary losses compared to 2020.

Stefanie Salem of Boise is one of those who got in contact with the BBB to share what she calls, "a moving nightmare."

"It's changed my outlook on moving companies," Salem said. "I mean, I always see the best in people but the moving company definitely knew what they were doing."

Salem said the pandemic changed her whole life. She started working from home and thought she could do that from anywhere. That's when she and her family moved from Orange County, Calif., to Boise in March 2021.

However, the road to get to Idaho was not easy.

Salem said she's moved dozens of times in her life, but this was the first time she moved out of state. She hired a moving broker, another thing she had never done before, who helped arrange the transportation of her belongings.

"The guy that I spoke with was like a nice grandpa and sounded like the most trustworthy guy ever," Salem said.

That was her first mistake.

"Everything he told me was a lie," Salem said.

She said the moving company, who she never had any communication with before moving day, showed up late and brought a truck that was too small. 

"I had to be out of my house [that day]," Salem said. "I had to give away my couch, my dining room table, like my new swivel chair, all this stuff that wouldn't fit in the truck to my neighbors."

Salem was told the movers would help pack all of her stuff and bring all the boxes to help move. She said they didn't bring enough boxes and they had to go buy more - something Salem said she had to pay for.

The price to move only continued to add up that day. Salem said the movers also changed the price they originally agreed on, which was $5,000, to $11,500 because of how much stuff she had.

"They more than doubled the price," Salem said.

Her nightmare moving story didn't end there. After telling Salem her stuff would be in Boise in five days, the movers ended up holding onto her belongings for 30 days. They told her it was because they were waiting for more trucks to head in the Boise direction.

"That part was very disheartening because no one could even tell me where my stuff was," Salem said. 

Finally getting her stuff back, she opened the boxes and saw furniture, artwork and other items were broken. Salem then found out her items weren't fully insured like she was originally told. It was only insured 60 cents a pound.

"It was a nightmare. It was a total nightmare from A to Z," Salem said.

She said she should have read the fine print on the contract and met and talked to the movers before.

"The only reason I'm bringing this up again is to help somebody who's doing the same thing because it really is something preventable," Salem said.

Barr said Salem's story sounds like both bad business and a scam.

"The best thing you can do is do your research beforehand and make sure you're dealing with a reputable company moving company or broker and start from there get a quote in," Barr said.

Barr said the BBB has several things to look out for when searching for, or working with a moving company. They said there are red flags, like if the company does not have accessible contact information or have proper policies to protect a consumer’s belongings. They also suggest being wary of any strange requests like a large down payment or a full refund upfront.

"If an individual’s possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that was not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help," the BBB said in a news release.

Barr said people looking to move also should not be afraid to ask questions and get everything in writing. She added people want to make they carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, the limits of liability and the disclaimers.

For a list of BBB accredited moving companies in the Treasure Valley, click HERE.

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