PPB Warns of Moving Scams, Provides Resources to Avoid Fraud
December 10, 2021 8:24 AM
The Portland Police Bureau’s property crimes unit has increasingly received complaints about moving companies and possible scams. Since there is an open investigation, detectives cannot discuss specific issues regarding the cases, but wish to alert the public to possible scams. The Office has also published a fact sheet on moving companies and available resources, which can be found https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/797231 The Oregon State Department of Justice also has a resource, 10 Ways to Avoid Mobile Scams (see https: //www.doj .state.or.us / wp- content / uploads / 2017/06 / scam_alert_10-10-14.pdf).
Over the past year, it appears an unprecedented number of people have moved with an increase in complaints of theft in transport. However, moving companies and clients often have a moving contract, making it a civilian issue and as a result clients who have now been victimized might not get help from the local police. This seems to vary among agencies across the country, and understandably most patrol officers are unfamiliar with federal removal laws. If the public understands these laws, victims may be able to better communicate with law enforcement about a possible response:
Falsify the weight to increase the price: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14912
Household Items Hostage: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14915
Portland Police detectives have seen several variations of scams in motion. A scam involves a moving company that collects an entire household for a move. They collect the payment and then put the household items in a storage unit to be left unpaid and abandoned. The storage unit is eventually auctioned off and the customer never receives their household items. A moving company may make some deliveries appear legitimate while abandoning others. Another moving company may continue to take on new clients, knowing that they cannot or have no intention of delivering, but need an influx of cash to keep the business afloat. The client’s property is still in the mover’s possession, but has been held for a long time with false promises of delivery or potential abandonment.
All of the complaints PPB has recently received related to a move planned by various brokers before being handed over to a mover. A broker is a business that arranges the transportation of a person’s cargo, using for-hire carriers to provide truck transportation. Moving brokers are sales teams that book people’s move and sell it to a real moving company. A broker assumes no responsibility and is not authorized to transport your household items.
To learn more about brokers vs. movers, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/movers-vs-brokers
Most victims say they didn’t know they were contacting a broker and thought it was the company they were hiring to move their household goods. Some brokers would not identify themselves as brokers as they should or the fine print is hidden on their website.
Some brokers offer a full seven-day refund in the event of cancellation. However, brokers call on the eighth day to raise the price or assign a mover. If the customer tries to cancel, he can no longer cancel due to a past day refund policy. Customers also don’t know that most of the broker’s fees don’t go to the mover.
After a contract mover comes to pick up the housewares, it is no longer in the hands of the broker. When customers call brokers for help, most say it’s no longer their problem and talk to the mover. Some brokers try to help or appear to offer help, but this has varied in SCH’s surveys.
If a consumer believes they are the victim of move fraud, they can contact their local law enforcement agency to possibly report it. In Portland, they can call the non-urgent number at (503) 823-3333.
Victims should also file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The more complaints a business receives, the more likely an investigation is to be triggered.
To file a complaint, go to: 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=MIIaI-QobCh c7ba28gIVwAElB-C7ba28gIVwR
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1111 SW 2nd avenue
Portland, OR 97204
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