"What happened was I got an estimate from a company to move me from Virginia to South Carolina," said Jim O'Reagan.
To save a little cash, the O'Reagans hired a moving company they found on the Internet.
"This guy had a real convincing story that they were experienced corporate movers - and there was really no reason to think that they weren't," said Jim O'Reagan.
But after the movers drove off with everything the O'Reagan's owned - the price went up. Way up.
"They said the new price was $31,000 -- instead of the little over $3,000 they said it would be," Said Peggy O'Reagan. "I thought it was a joke."
It was no joke. The movers refused to deliver any furniture until the O'Reagan's paid in full. And despite repeated calls to local, state and federal authorities, to politicians, attorneys and even the Better Business Bureau - no one would do anything about it.
"I know there are lot of people in our shoes," said Peggy O'Reagan.
She's right. Federal law prohibits moving companies from charging over 10 percent of their original estimate. But since lawmakers deregulated the industry in 1995, the Department of Transportation has received some 4,000 complaints annually of companies that hike up prices and hold goods hostage.
"No one can do anything. The problem is the DOT has 6 people to enforce moving regulations," says James Balderrama, who runs the Web site www.movingadvocateteam.com. Balderrama says he gets up to 100 hits a day from consumers taken to the bank by bad movers.
"They use sleazy, low-ball tactics, they lie to you, they lie to you, they lie to you!!"
"They start the job, they put things on the truck and then they tell customers we have to use materials, you have more stuff, it's going to cost you more," said one veteran mover, who declined to be identified.
The mover described to CBS affiliate WKMG in Orlando how easy it is to make a moving and storage company look legitimate.
"Within 30 days I can have advertising - and all you really need is a few jobs if you're going to rip people off," said the mover.
Fearful the moving company would take them to court, the O'Reagans broke into their kids college fund and coughed up the cash.
"Sell everything you don't think you don't value before you move," said Peggy O'Reagan tearfully. "I mean most of that stuff on that truck, I would have sold."
Three months and $31,000 later, the O'Reagans only got bits and pieces of their belongings back. Their china, glasses and other items were smashed.
Wednesday: What happened when authorities moved in on a ring of rip off movers -- and why the government couldn't stop them.