McLEAN, Va. (8/3/11)--Federal and state authorities are trying to stop online scam artists who pose as licensed movers and rip off consumers by jacking up prices, giving fake estimates, and holding consumers’ belongings hostage (USAToday.com
July 27). Summer is prime time for moving, but unfortunately as home buying and selling activity increases, so does the risk of identity theft, according to Intersections Inc., a provider of consumer and corporate identity theft risk management services, Chantilly, Va. If you’re relocating, take Intersections’ advice to help protect yourself from unscrupulous movers:
* Use a reputable moving company--Ask friends and family for mover recommendations. Get estimates from different companies and make sure moving trucks are easily identifiable with company name and phone number. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and ask if the prospective moving company has complaints against it. The BBB received more than 8,900 complaints against both unlicensed and licensed movers in 2010, according to USAToday.com--a 5% increase over 2009. * Supervise the move--Be present at all times during the move. If you’re watching the movers, it could deter them from committing all types of theft--including stealing personal belongings and committing identity theft. Your presence also assures that movers take care of your belongings properly. * Submit a change-of-address form--Immediately notify the post office to change your address. Once you’ve submitted your request, watch for a confirmation of receipt from the post office. Mail should start arriving at your new address within seven to 10 days of your request. Beware of bogus change-of-address websites, warns the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Some customers have paid up to $30 for a change of address on websites that appear to be linked with the USPS but are not. In some cases the address change is never made and the thief keeps the money. To ensure that you are truly submitting a change of address to the post office, use usps.com. * Monitor financial statements--Check online banking balances as often as possible to stay on top of unscrupulous account activity. * Secure your computer--Make sure all household computers are hackproof by changing passwords and so forth. If you’ll be moving computer equipment yourself, set it out of movers’ sight on moving day. * Shred important documents--Cross-cut shred any personal documents that you will not be moving. Don’t throw important paperwork in the trash--thieves dumpster dive to retrieve and harvest info from those discards. * Keep documents with you--Move all important documents, such as wills, to a safe and secure place--a locked box or an online secure vault. Keep physical documents with you during the move. Don’t leave personal paperwork out where movers can see it. * Check your credit report--After moving, order your credit report. Suspicious activity can be a sign of identity theft and that your information has been compromised. Order your report from the three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. * Verify mail delivery--After you move, verify that you’re receiving mail from all senders that you contacted beforehand.
For more information about how to avoid identity theft, read “Crooks Use High-Tech Scams to Commit Fraud” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.