This may be the most wonderful time of year, but a growing number of Garden State residents are having not such a wonderful time with the moving companies they have hired.

It turns out some companies are dramatically increasing estimates and even holding furniture and other possessions hostage until their monetary demands are met.

What legitimate moving companies do

According to Greg Takacs, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in New Jersey, legitimate moving companies will typically give you a cost estimate, then they may revise that estimate slightly once all possessions have been loaded onto their moving van.

At that point, the customer has the option to decline the stated price and the moving company is obligated to unload the truck and put everything back.

What predator moving companies do

In some cases, a predatory moving company will drive your possessions away, then only when a delivery is made they will inform the customer the price has increased, sometimes by as much as half or double the original price.

How to pick a moving company

He said when considering which moving company to hire “you don’t just want to go for the lowest price."

"Price shouldn’t be the only factor in determining it. Obviously, online reviews are always good to look at," he said.

“Check those references. Many companies, they have references ready if you have an ask,” he said.

He stressed it’s also important to read the moving company contract carefully, so you know what your rights are and what a company can and cannot legally do.

What if you've been scammed?

Takacs said if you wind up in a situation with a predator moving company, you can call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or file a report with your municipal police department.

Last week the FBI announced that three men in Passaic County were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to extort increased fees for moving services from vulnerable customers.

The FBI is asking anyone victimized by 11EVEN, Abda Moving, or Mallad Trading to contact the FBI Newark Division at 973-792-3000 or email them at 11evenvictims@fbi.gov.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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