Twelve individuals are accused of defrauding hundreds, potentially thousands of customers through various moving companies across the country.
The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, detailed how the movers would overcharge customers, create fake reviews, steal people's belongings, and use different aliases and websites to disguise their criminal enterprise from federal regulators.
The moving companies are also accused of agreeing to binding estimates, loading the customer's household goods then saying they took up more cubic space.
They would knowingly overcharge customers several hundred more cubic feet, in one case, 1,000 cubic feet, which is an additional $4,500.
When WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii spoke with many of the victims, they told her they researched the companies before they hired them but still managed to lose thousands of dollars and are missing their belongings.
Here's how to investigate moving companies and avoid unscrupulous movers:
- Verify their identity.
- Confirm they have an active DOT license through the FMCSA database and review their complaint history.
- Make sure they have insurance and Google the local address on their website
- Check the company’s reviews and ratings on the Better Business Bureau
- See if they’re in the American Moving and Storage Association “ProMover” program .
- Seek three in-home written estimates. Never do it over the phone. Movers need to see what you have for an accurate assessment. There are binding and nonbinding estimates.
- Even with a nonbinding estimate, movers are required by law to deliver your goods for no more than 10 percent above the estimate.
- Binding estimates can only be changed if you and the mover agree in writing to convert the binding estimate to a non-binding estimate before your goods are loaded
- Know your rights. The mover must provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet and a copy of FMCSA’s Ready to Move brochure.
Also beware if the mover demands cash and large up-front deposit. Use a credit card, payment is due upon delivery. And it's a red flag if the mover uses a rental truck, not a branded vehicle.
For more red flags, click here .