Complaints are rising over a scam that involves moving companies providing low-ball estimates to customers and then later inflating fees once the truck is loaded, and holding customers’ possessions hostage until they pay more. The scammers threaten to auction off the person’s belongings unless they come up with more money to pay them.

How can your clients avoid being duped by moving scams? Consumer Reports suggests collecting estimates from at least three companies and being cautious about using companies that are unable to provide an address or licensing information. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can search for registered movers and complaint histories at their Web site.

Consumer Reports also recommends using a mover who has a marked truck and who puts everything in writing. Avoid moving companies that require large upfront deposits, Consumer Reports warns. Check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against companies.

Recently, New Jersey officials uncovered 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on such sites as Craigslist and Angie’s List that are accused of duping customers with moving scams.

Those who feel they’ve been scammed should contact their state attorney general, consumer protection agency, or licensing agency. Consumers should contact the police if they feel a mover is illegally holding their possessions.

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