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Avoid a moving nightmare

Moving? You have my sympathies.

Unless you can afford to hire a moving company.

Then you have my condolences.

After years of schlepping my own junk from one apartment to another, I was so happy to finally have the help of a moving company when we moved into our house.

Fortunately, our moving company was pretty good. But for many people, hiring movers can spell serious trouble. Lots of people have been ripped off or scammed, or have had their property damaged or stolen.

To do your best to prevent any of those scenarios, here are some tips from the state attorney general’s office:

Request information. Get a copy of the “Summary of Information for Shippers of Household Goods” from the New York State Department of Transportation, 1-800-786-5368. If you’re moving out of state, request a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1-800-832-5660.

Make sure your mover is licensed by the NYSDOT. If you’re moving out of state, make sure they’re licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Those licenses assure they meet insurance, safety and financial standards.

Make sure you’re selecting a reputable mover. Get referrals from friends and family. Read online reviews about the company, and check them out with the state department of transportation and the Better Business Bureau, 1-800-828-5000 or BBB.org.

Get estimates from several movers. Some will estimate over the phone by asking how many rooms you have in your home, but it’s best to have them make an estimate in person.

Beware offers that are much lower than everyone else’s. It could be a red flag that they’ll hike the price up on the day of the move, warns the state attorney general’s office.

Get a written “order of service” before anything is moved. It should outline the estimated cost of the move and how much extra you can be charged if the actual cost exceeds that. Hourly rated moves should cost no more than 25 percent extra; weight-rated moves, 10 percent extra.

The bill of lading is your contract. Read it carefully and don’t sign it if there are blank sections to be filled in later or if you don’t understand how the final cost is going to be calculated.

Insure valuables separately. Regardless of the level of coverage you have on the rest of your stuff, list valuables separately at their full value.

Keep copies of everything. Save correspondence, receipts, contracts and other documents in case there is a problem with your move. If you have any complaints, file them in writing with the mover right away. If your problem is not resolved, contact the department of transportation and the Better Business Bureau.

Don’t forget to protect your identity. It’s more fragile than your finest china. Storage company SpareFoot.com recommends shredding any unnecessary sensitive documents before the move. For the ones you need to keep, separate them from what the movers will have access to and transport them yourself. For things such as Social Security cards and passports, keep them in a locked safety box and keep the lock box with you.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com

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