JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

With the Better Business Bureau getting more than 9,000 complaints against movers last year, you have to do your homework before you hire anyone.

"The moving industry has a lot of really good movers and a few really bad ones," explains Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida.

Stephens says you have to ask for references.

"We have a moving company that has moved us a couple of times, and they use me as a reference. So I get calls frequently from potential customers so get references from that mover.  If he can't come up with five or six good references, you don't want it," he says.

Stephens says there are two popular complaints he gets here in the Jacksonville area.

"Probably the biggest is that they broke something.  You know broke Aunt Susan's heirloom lamp or something like that.  The second thing would be the estimate that they give the consumer is often times quite different from what the final bill ends up being," says Stephens.

So, your best bet is to get several in-home estimates.  Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legit.

And if movers try to pull an old trick, where they low ball the quote and then hold your stuff hostage until you pay a much higher rate,  Stephens says call police. 

"Florida law says that as long as it’s a written estimate signed by the shipper and the mover with a dollar amount on it, that as long as the person being moved pays that amount in a form of approved payment -- and approved payment must be two of three things cash credit card or check -- then they have to release your stuff," explains Stephens.

He goes on to say a lot of people don't know the law but some movers still try to pull that old trick.

"All you have to do is call the sheriff's office.  They'll tell them real quick that you have to turn over this guys stuff, as long as you've paid what is shown on the estimate."

By the way, if you're moving out of state, or know someone who is, all legitimate interstate movers are assigned a Motor Carrier Number.  You can verify if your mover has one and get a lot of other good resources on the United States Department of Transportation's website, www.protectyourmove.gov. (Find a direct link to the search function on that site here.)

Search a mover on the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida website.