How to Check Out a Company

Don't just pick a name from the phone book or off the Web. Before you do business with a company, learn about its reputation, and get a few recommendations.

Editor's note: This article has been updated in August 2013.

My sister learned the hard way how important it is to check out a company before you sign on the dotted line. When she moved from Memphis, Tenn., to Albuquerque, N.M., she used a broker who hired a moving company that botched her move then held her belongings hostage until she agreed to pay a price well above what was stated in the contract.

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Check Out a Company Online
Consumer Protection GroupsCouncil of Better Business Bureaus has a searchable database of reliability reports on companies, an online complaint filing system and consumer tips.Federal Citizen Information Center has contact information and links to consumer protection offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands. These offices receive and mediate complaints, conduct investigations, prosecute offenders of consumer laws, license and regulate a variety of professionals.Government AgenciesFederal Trade Commission Consumer Protection Division accepts complaints online and provides consumer tips.National Association of Attorneys General provides links and contact information for the attorneys general of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Somoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a searchable database where you can see if interstate movers are has a state-by-state listing of licensing boards that oversee the construction industry and specialty trades such as landscaping and architects.AssociationsAmerican Moving and Storage Association has a tool that helps you find AMSA certified movers and van lines.AAA lets you enter your zip code to find AAA-approved auto repair shops in your area.American Society of Travel Agents locates your local ASTA travel agents.Complaint compilersRip-off Report lets you file and search consumer offers news, a message board and blacklist of movers.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor,

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.