According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, moving fraud is a growing problem around the nation, but this June the Arizona Attorney General’s office helped one family fight back.
An Illinois family who recently moved to Arizona faced a discouraging welcome when their moving company held all of their belongings for ransom. American Home Movers from Las Vegas allegedly demanded the family pay them an additional $3,100, or else they would never receive their belongings.
The family contacted the Better Business Bureau, who contacted the Arizona Attorney General, who sent state investigators to assist the family. Investigator J.J. Stroh helped set up a sting operation, and when the moving truck finally arrived, the family had their possessions unloaded free of charge. Stroh says the driver was given 14 violations.
“People moving in and out all the time. We are easy pickings…He was almost to the point of tears. Most people are,” Stroh said.
Most U.S. residents have five or fewer family members who live within an hour’s drive, and 26% have no nearby relatives to help with a move. And for the 24% of U.S. citizens who moved away from their home in the last five years, moving fraud represents a serious risk.
Heather Lucas moved from Georgia to New Mexico in 2014, and she says she’s been waiting for a moving company to deliver her belongings for more than a year. The moving company only filed an insurance claim to reimburse Lucas after the media reported her story. But Lucas says she’ll never be able to replace mementos from her late grandfather or her daughter’s favorite toys.
“This is not just a paper crime,” Stroh said. “We’re messing with someone’s life.”
Unfortunately, many local police departments refuse to get involved in moving fraud cases, telling vulnerable families that it’s a civil matter. Moving fraud can include simple issues like providing fake moving quotes, or criminal behavior like theft and extortion.
Experts advise you to check a moving company’s reviews before hiring them, and suggest asking if a moving company plans to subcontract any transportation or shipping. Consumers can also check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau.