Two-mile move costs woman more than $2,000

HOUSTON What you do before you move can keep expensive problems from cropping up. We spoke with one woman who says her stuff was held hostage by a moving company until she handed over more than $2,000.

When Selena Tristan needed to move, she turned to the Internet to find a moving company.

"It was a really reasonable rate," she said. "Obviously, a really good rate; three hours for $99 and $33 every additional hour."

So Tristan says she called the 99 Dollar Movers. And on the day of her move, Tristan says a crew showed up on time and with a contract she needed to sign before the work could begin.

"They even quoted the price that I was given on the phone and just like anyone else, they said, 'Go ahead and sign here, sign here and we will get moving.' And I said, 'Great' and I signed everywhere," said Tristan.

Tristan says things went well until the movers arrived at her new home where she says they demanded cash before they would unload any furniture.

"And I said, 'You have not finished and this, how can you, this is an hourly rate?' And he goes, 'No ma'am. You signed this contract and this is what you owe us.' And he handed me a contract for $4,441."

It turns out the contract Tristan signed allows the moving company to charge her up to $9,000. So Tristan says she called 99 Dollar Movers.

"He goes, 'Well, we sold that contract this morning and we can't help you' and hung up," she said.

In fact, the contract Tristan signed is not with 99 Dollar Movers, but with AAA Best Rates Moving from New York City. Tristan says she eventually managed to get the movers to accept $2,200 for a move of just two miles.

Action 13 called 99 Dollars Movers several times to get more details on Tristan's move. But each time, I was either hung up on or sent to voice mail. I also called AAA Best Rates Moving, but none of my messages have been returned. While AAA Best Rates has a New York City address, 99 Dollar Movers has no address listed on its Craigslist ad. Consumer experts say that's a problem.

"They are virtually untraceable," said Monica Russo with the Houston BBB. "So if you have any problems with a company such as this, you can't find them."

Russo says she's heard of similar moving problems and she's not alone.

"Not uncommon at all," said Roger Daniel, owner of Two Men and a Truck and member of the Greater Houston Movers Association.

Daniel says the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles regulates movers. He says moving companies must display their state license number on trucks and in advertisements.

We found no listing for AAA Best Rates, while 99 Dollar Movers is listed with the state as unregistered. Daniel says consumers should use caution when dealing with a moving company with no state license.

"I would be very leery," said Daniel. "I really would."

Before you move, get a movers Texas DMV registration number and search the state's database to see if there are any complaints or if they're registered at all. Here's how you can do it.

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