A Missouri couple lost most of their things after they hired movers off Craigslist to take their belongings to North Carolina and got duped, according to media reports.

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A cautionary tale about hiring movers

The couple hired a company that identified itself as "Robinson Moving LLC" after they saw an advertisement for the business on Craigslist, KTVI reported. They paid the movers $1,100 up front with an additional $300 promised once they delivered the items to the couple's new home in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The U-Haul truck -- and the couple's estimated $30,000 worth of stuff -- never made it to North Carolina, according to the news station.

 

One of the movers called to say the couple's things needed to be moved onto a different truck but promised it would still arrive in Charlotte on time, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. After the couple got to Charlotte, they received their last call from the movers, who claimed the truck broke down on the highway a short distance from the couple's new home, according to the paper.

The pair called police, who managed to track down a suspect using the phone number listed on the Craigslist ad. Authorities arrested Deandre M. Robinson, 33, but released him as they applied for charges, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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How to reduce the chance of hiring a fake mover

If you're hiring professional movers, the first step is to check the moving company's history. State governments maintain a database of moving company complaints. Make sure they are properly registered in your state and the complaints are at a minimum.

Then go to Moving.org and look for "ProMover" certified movers. These companies will generally have a vetted dispute process in place should a problem arise with their service.

Before the move, you'll need to purchase optional insurance from the mover that covers replacement value should something go missing or get destroyed. By law, your property is not insured unless you buy this cheap and necessary insurance. (One caveat: Check with your auto insurer to see if you have any coverage on a smaller truck rental.)

In some state-to-state moves, you have to be particularly aware of some companies that might try to "hijack" your possessions for a large ransom. This happened to a recent caller, who was asked to pay $50,000 to get his household goods back. All the more reason to assure you're working with a reputable firm.

But the most important thing in a state-to-state move is to request a "binding estimate," which is the maximum you will pay for moving your goods. Normally the industry just gives you an "estimate," which means nothing in the end, as they could ultimately charge you anything they want. The best moving companies, however, will be forthcoming with a binding estimate when you ask.

Meanwhile, if you need your belongings delivered by a certain date, you need to put a delivery date in your contract with high penalty fees on the mover for every day that your delivery is late. It may make the quote more expensive, but it's well worth it if time is of the essence.

Want money-saving advice no matter whether you own or rent? See our Homes & Real Estate section.