The Better Business Bureau network reported more than 8,400 complaints about moving companies last year in the U.S. and Canada. That’s down 14 percent from 2008 levels, but it’s still an eye-catching number that should prompt people to be wary.

May is the start of the busiest time of year for moving companies, but it also could mean more hassles for consumers who rely on those companies.


The Better Business Bureau network reported more than 8,400 complaints about moving companies last year in the U.S. and Canada. That’s down 14 percent from 2008 levels, but it’s still an eye-catching number that should prompt people to be wary.


The most common complaints, according to BBB network spokeswoman Paula Fleming, include damaged items and a final price that is more expensive than the original quote. In some scenarios, a company essentially holds the customer’s belongings hostage and requires thousands of dollars to unload the truck.


If you’re packing up your home anytime soon, you may want to consider a few tips, courtesy of the BBB, to make sure that your moving company is trustworthy:


Research the company thoroughly: Interstate movers must be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; they are assigned a motor carrier number that you can verify at www.protectyourmove.gov. Also, you can check with the BBB, which maintains more than 17,000 reliability reports on various movers.


Other potential sources of information include your state Attorney General’s office, the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Get at least three in-home estimates: Legitimate movers typically do not offer to give you a firm estimate online or over the phone. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate might not be the best – it could be an unrealistic lowball offer that could end up costing you more money in the end.


Know your rights: Research your rights as a consumer in your home state and, if you are moving out-of-state, your new state as well. More information can be found at www.moving.org, the web site run by the American Moving & Storage Association.


Do you have a consumer issue you want us to address? E-mail us at biznews@ledger.com.