Watch out for moving company scams

By Alan BlighBY ALAN BLIGH

The Better Business Bureau warns consumers about unlicensed moving companies. Your bureau teamed up with state regulators and Southwest Movers Association to investigate local moving companies that may be operating without proper state or federal licensing. The coordinated investigation of 265 Texas moving companies revealed the following areas of concern:

Nine moving companies are not licensed. Note that none of these were in Victoria. Of course consumers in Victoria need to make sure that anyone moving their goods is licensed, even if it is in a different state.

Moving companies hold consumers' goods hostage. This happens when the truck is loaded and the company demands more money before they will unload the goods.

Moving company contracts do not always meet one of the following formats:

Binding Contract: This contract indicates an exact cost for the entire move.

Not to Exceed Contract: This contract indicates an estimated amount that the actual cost will not exceed.

Hourly Charges Contract: This contract indicates an hourly fee for labor and equipment for the move.

Note that a moving contract must meet one of the three types listed.

Ah! More travel scams and these are closer to home than usual. The Texas Attorney has charged a Dallas-area travel firm with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. According to court documents filed by the state, Royal Palms Travel and All Inclusive Excursions falsely promised steep discounts as part of travel club memberships they offered through a "shell" company, Sealand Travel Club. The memberships actually had little or no value. The state alleges that the defendants lured customers to sales presentations by offering free trips, airline tickets - even gasoline. However, seminar attendees were informed that their free trips and tickets were contingent upon paying a deposit and submitting receipts for vouchers or rebates. Customers also discovered that the "free" trips were subject to restrictions that rendered them effectively worthless. If you have had a problem with these companies, you may wish to contact the Attorney General's office at 1-800-621-0508.

The State of Texas, along with 34 other states and the Federal Trade Commission, resolved their investigation of a leading provider of identity theft protection services. Under the terms of an announced agreement, Arizona-based LifeLock agreed to more accurately describe its ID theft protection services and provide $11 million in restitution to eligible customers. The joint investigation by the states and the FTC revealed that LifeLock unlawfully exaggerated its range of services and ability to prevent ID theft. Under the agreement, LifeLock is prohibited from making false claims about potential customers' identity theft risk profile. In addition, LifeLock must not misrepresent that it: Protects against all forms of ID theft, eliminates the risk of ID theft or constantly monitors activity on each of its customers' consumer reports.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.