The housing market is hot right now, so a lot of people are moving. That also means scammers are looking for any way to capitalize on this trend.
AARP recently issued a "watchdog alert" to help keep you and your belongings safe when hiring a moving company.
Most scammers posing as movers will post ads for their cheap services online or sometimes, even in newspapers. It should be a red flag if the company gives you an estimate without going through a detailed list of your belongings or coming to your home for an in-person estimate.
Also, beware if the movers require a large deposit or full payment in advance.
AARP says once these fraudulent movers have your belongings, they jack up the price and sometimes even refuse delivery. This is known as a "hostage load."
To avoid this, AARP says it’s important to do your research ahead of time. Pay special attention to the company’s website. AARP said if it does not list a local address or provide information about its registration and your insurance options, that’s a red flag.
Every moving company must also register with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can look up a company by visiting www.ProtectYourMove.gov. If the company you’re thinking about hiring is not registered, do not give them your business.
Moving is expensive, so it can be enticing to go with the cheapest option, but AARP says don’t let that be your driving force. Compare a few companies to see what the market average is, and read reviews before deciding on a company.
AARP also recommends doing a web search of the company name with words like "scam" or "sham" to see if anything comes up.
Like with any service, make sure you get a written estimate before any work begins. Also, AARP says you should always pay with a credit card, so you have some protection in the event of a dispute.
If you believe you’ve been targeted for a scam, or you’ve fallen victim to one, you can contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. If you lost money to a scam, make sure you report it to local law enforcement, as well.
On a personal note, my husband and I are actually in the process of moving. We’ve both accepted new jobs in the Denver area, so this will be my last "Voice of the Consumer" article. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the 11 Call For Action Team, and I hope my stories have been helpful to you. I’m so thankful for everyone who has reached out to me to share a scam or an idea for this column. Katie Pelton will be taking it over again starting next week.
As always, you can report scams, fraud and price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-222-4444 or visiting www.StopFraudColorado.gov.