Amherst woman falls victim to moving scam, paid thousands more than quoted

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– Moving your belongings to a new address is a back-breaking task, but now a growing number of scams can it into a nightmare.

An Amherst woman fell victim to a moving scam as she headed to the West Coast.

Mia Cara had to get away from Buffalo’s brutal weather and decided to head for San Diego. But little did she know hiring a moving company, a reputable moving company, takes a lot of time and research.

Not knowing that cost her thousands of dollars, and a lot of damaged property.

“So they just came in and piled it high,” said Mia Cara.

Mia Cara gave us a glimpse of the awful moving job she got for an awful lot of money.

Her initial estimate came in at 2,500, but the movers showed up with a contract for nearly $8,000 dollars and after they finished adding on, she told us, the bill came to more than $10,000.

“Sold my furniture on Craigslist in Buffalo. It was boxes of my art and paintings and sculptures and my tools for living.”

Mia Cara, Moving Scam Victim

But for nearly a month, Mia had no idea where her life’s belongings were. So she kept calling the moving company, although she also had no idea where they were based, either in New York City or New Jersey.

“You get a young girl receptionist saying, ‘it’s en route, the truck is en route, it’s en route.’ You have been saying en route for over 21 days, almost a month now. Where is my stuff?,” Cara told said.

Mia finally got her belongings, but much of it was damaged or missing.

Three years ago, a moving scam crime ring was busted by a federal grand jury in Cincinnati, which included victims here in Western New York. But that kind of criminal prosecution is rare.

The Better Business Bureau has compiled a report with tips for consumers.

Melanie McGovern says you start with a hard estimate in writing.

“You need to move, so they know they have you on the hook. Then they keep adding on little things down the road which, again, if you have a reputable mover that is not going to happen.”

Melanie McGovern, Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY

McGovern told us the Better Business Bureau can check if a mover is properly licensed.

“To make sure that they have all those insurances in place, that they have those licenses. Sometimes when a moving company is just starting up, and they get in touch with us about accreditation, we are like great okay great what is your DOT number? I don’t have that. Well, you need to go get that, It is very important, especially with interstate moves.” McGovern added.

If you are not careful, Melanie McGovern says you could end up with an unscrupulous mover holder your belongings hostage, with no guarantee you will ever get them back.

You can find a link to the Better Business Bureau report by clicking here.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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