KENT, Wash. — "Moving season" is about halfway through and more than 120 moving-related company business profile complaints have been reported in 2022 so far, according to the Better Business Bureau of Washington (BBB).
Last year, the BBB Scam Tracker revealed consumers reported they lost more than $730,000 to moving scams, which is a 216% increase in monetary losses as compared to 2020.
Jordan River Moving & Storage in Kent told KING 5 it has repeatedly helped people moving in and out of Washington state who said they were caught in a moving scam. The company recently moved its headquarters from Kirkland to Kent.
According to Jordan River Moving & Storage managing member Sharon Joseph, a major red flag to look out for is when a moving company tries to charge by volume, cubic feet or by a list of items.
"Hang up the phone," Joseph said. "Don't fall for that. Hang up the phone, you are at the hands of a scam artist. Stay away from them."
Joseph said consumers must do extensive research on the company or service they plan to use. He said, if possible, to use a local company. Joseph said he wants to see more enforcement when it comes to scammers hijacking people's belongings and then trying to get thousands of dollars in exchange for releasing the items.
"People think it's just moving but the truck contains people's lives, everything they have," Joseph said. "They have to start from all over again because those moving companies are keeping their stuff, they're not delivering it. Or some people cannot afford the extortion the amount those companies want."
Joseph said scammers are not only holding people's items hostage or selling them in storage units — they're also targeting moving company trucks for parts because of a supply shortage.
Thanks to several van and truck tracking devices Jordan River Moving & Storage uses, Joseph said his team worked with police in Aurora, Colorado, to recover a truck that was on a cross-country move. Joseph said his driver woke up one morning during his trip to find the truck had vanished.
"We tracked the truck. We gave them precise location of the truck. SWAT got over there and they called us to make sure it was really the truck that was stolen because they saw people who started unloading the truck," Joseph said. "We managed to recover all the items and recovered the truck but not only this — that storage unit, they found other customers' stuff stolen."
Like Joseph, the BBB of Washington also recommends consumers do research before paying any money or signing any contracts with moving companies
- Watch out for warning signs. When reviewing a company’s website, if there is no address or information about a mover’s registration or insurance, it is a sign that it may not possess the proper policies to protect a consumer’s belongings. Additionally, if the mover uses a rented truck or offers an estimate over the phone prior to conducting an on-site inspection, it may not be a legitimate business.
- Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be an indication of a fraudulent business. If an individual’s possessions are being held hostage for additional payment that was not agreed upon when the contract was signed, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.
- Get everything in writing. When moving between states, check licensing with the U.S. Department of Transportation. An identification number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is required of all interstate moving companies, which can be verified at Protect Your Move. Make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. The pickup and expected delivery date should be easily identified.
- Keep an inventory of your belongings. Having an inventory sheet is one of the best ways to keep track of your possessions. BBB recommends consumers who are moving label the boxes their belongings are packed in and what is in each box. In general, movers are not liable for lost or damaged contents in customer-packed boxes unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover. Taking photos of the contents prior to packing is a great way to prove if damages were incurred during the moving process.
- Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company either can’t or won’t answer your questions, look for another company. Trust matters when hiring a moving company.