NJ moving companies rife with fraud: Watch out for these 5 red flags
Planning a move can be an extremely stressful experience for the entire family, according to Gil De Jesus, senior advisor to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
His agency is now promoting its "Protect Your Move" campaign, aimed at identifying and thwarting moving fraud, and there are several clear warning signs of bogus movers.
The Internet remains a handy tool for finding movers in your area, and De Jesus said the vast majority of movers are reputable.
But he advises those looking to move to do their due diligence, especially considering that New Jersey accounted for FMCSA's second-highest number of claims per state last year with 326. And the overall number of fraud incidents out there, he said, is still widely under-reported.
The general average claim is $10,000, but that does not take into account residents who have suffered a total loss.
To search New Jersey's government database of state-verified contractors, click here.
FMCSA strongly urges that anyone who is preparing to move insist upon an onsite inspection of their home. Estimates given online or over the phone, without this inspection, often sound too good to be true...and usually are.
As De Jesus puts it, if the moving company's name is not emblazoned on the side of the truck, it may be a rogue operation. "In that environment, what you essentially have are people, rogue movers, thieves who inject themselves, who see an opportunity for a fast buck," he said.
If you have gotten to this point in the moving process, De Jesus said, you are at the fraudsters' mercy. The same can be said for the movers asking for a large, advance cash deposit, another major warning sign.
If a day or two, or even a week, has gone by and your belongings have not arrived at your new location, this may be why. Fraudulent movers will often hold out on delivering the goods unless they are paid even more money -- a sort of property ransom, so to speak.
"Your grandmother's silverware set, your hope chest, your armoire, your 82-inch flat-screen TV, these are things you don't want to part with, you don't want to give them away," De Jesus said.