12 ON YOUR SIDE: Avoid moving company brokers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Rogue moving companies cheat people by holding their belongings hostage until they cough up more money.

But, there's a new law to help customers who think they've been scammed by a moving company.

The new law takes effect in October. It gives more authority to the Transportation Department to order the return of illegally-held property to the customer. It also uses some of the $10,000 a day fines to reimburse victims who qualify.

The Drake's are finally feeling secure in their new home. But for weeks, they didn't know if that would ever happen.

They paid the movers to deliver the same day they closed on the house. Their belongings never made it.

"We really just were so nervous that we didn't know where our things were. They weren't being very forthcoming with telling us," said Keri Drake.

It turns out, the Drakes were dealing with a moving "broker." The term broker has a negative connotation in the moving industry because typically they farm out their work to contractors.

"Moving brokers find someone who owns a moving van to move their customers, and then the customer's goods are in the hands of this independent mover who basically has no supervision," said moving consultant Earl Beasley.

The family heard different stories, including their furniture was being stored in Virginia, in North Carolina and then, Ohio.

"I can do without my furniture for the rest of my life. But my children's baby books and mementos, and family photos, and archives of our lives and history was all in that," said Keri Drake.

Keri called authorities and eventually learned their things had been sitting in a storage shed in Charlotte the entire time. She believes the company couldn't book movers so they lied because they didn't want to lose their business.

Here are some tips for hiring movers:

- Research the mover's background.
- Fake websites can seem professional.
- Make sure the mover is licensed
- Check its complaint history on protectyourmove.gov, a consumer protection website from the federal motor carrier safety administration.

Finally, don't go with the lowest bid. The better business bureau says you pay for what you get. So, get a company you can trust.

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