Photo: Getty Images
Portland Police are warning about an increase in moving scams.
Over the last year, it appears an unprecedented number of people have moved with an increase in complaints of moving thefts. However, moving companies and clients often have a moving contract, making it a civil issue and therefore, customers who have now been victimized might not get assistance from local police. This appears to vary with agencies across the country, and understandably most patrol officers are not familiar with federal moving laws. By the public understanding these laws, victims may be able to communicate better with law enforcement on a possible response:
Falsify the weight to increase the price: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14912
Holding household goods hostage: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14915
Portland Police Detectives have seen several variations of moving scams. One scam includes a moving company collecting an entire household for a move. They collect payment and then place the household goods into a storage unit to be left unpaid and abandoned. The storage unit eventually goes to auction, and the customer never receives their household goods. One moving company may make some deliveries appear legitimate while forsaking others. Another moving company may continue to take on new customers, knowing they can’t deliver or don’t plan to, but needs an inflow of cash to keep the business afloat. The customer’s property is still in possession of the mover, but held for a long time with false delivery promises or potential abandonment.
All of the complaints PPB has recently received have been involving a move scheduled through various brokers before being sub-tasked to a mover. A broker is a company that arranges for the transportation of a person's cargo, utilizing for-hire carriers to provide the actual truck transportation. Moving brokers are sales teams that book people's move and sell it to an actual moving company. A broker does not assume responsibility for and is not authorized to transport your household goods.
To learn more about brokers versus movers, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/movers-vs-brokers
Most of the victims report they did not know they were communicating with a broker and believed it was the company they were hiring to move their household goods. Some brokers are reportedly not identifying themselves as brokers as they should or the fine print is hidden on their website.
Some brokers are offering a seven-day full refund in case of cancellation. However, the brokers call on the eighth day to raise the price or assign a mover. If the customer tries to cancel, they can no longer cancel due to a day past the refund policy. Customers also don’t know that most of the broker’s fee does not go to the mover.
After a subcontracted mover comes to collect the household goods, it is now out of the broker’s hands. When customers call the brokers for assistance, most respond that this is no longer their problem and to talk to the mover. Some brokers try to help or appear to be offering help, but this has varied in PPB's investigations.
If a consumer believes they are a victim of moving fraud they can contact their local law enforcement agency to possibly report it. In Portland, they can call the non-emergency number at (503) 823-3333.
Victims should also file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The more complaints a company receives, the more likely an investigation gets triggered.
To file a complaint, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/file-a-complaint?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ar-fy21pym&utm_content=post&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-d-c7ba28gIVwR-tBh1lGwb5EAAYAiAAEgJzA_D_BwE
Source: Portland Police Bureau