Con Men Move in on Moving Business
Is there no end to the ways crooks can find to steal from you? The newest "con" making the rounds is in the moving business. The Texas Department of Public Safety recently broke up a ring of "fake movers" who were posing as household furniture movers to scam victims out of thousands of dollars.
The ads from the moving companies on Craigslist were enticing. A flat rate. No hidden fees. But the first sign that the promotions might not be as advertised was when the movers pressured consumers to sign contracts with "very small print."
Dozens of people around the state report they were victimized by scam artists based in Houston who posed as a moving company on Craigslist.
The fake movers looked legitimate. They wore professional uniforms and drove large rented moving vans. But, the contracts the customers had to sign were riddled with hidden fees, such as $90 per item for bubble wrapping.
State investigators call this the "hostage move" scam. The crook poses as the owner of a legitimate moving company and promises a flat rate moving fee of $39.99 an hour. But when the furniture is loaded and moved, before it's unloaded the customer is handed an inflated bill of several thousand dollars.
If the customer refuses to pay, and a good many have refused, the mover drives away with the furniture and refuses to deliver it until the bill is paid in full.
Two suspects in these "hostage moves" are now in custody in Houston, after an investigation by the Department of Public Safety and Houston Police connected them to the crimes from March to September of last year. The Better Business Bureau of Houston says this group has been active for years.
Law officers urge people to not be such easy victims of con artists. If an independent "no name" mover promises you a ridiculously inexpensive move, but says you have to sign a contract you can't read or understand, send him on his way and call police.
The vast majority of independent "bargain" movers are honest and legitimate people who're working hard to make a living or some extra money. But the fake "hostage movers" are giving all of them a bad reputation.