Fraudulent Movers Are a Threat to the Industry
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The hardworking men and women in the household goods removal profession refer to their fraudulent colleagues as “rogue operators”.
The fraudulent moving companies have set up fake websites to lure customers in and offer them cheap moving rates. Before the moving truck reaches its destination, the scammers threaten to take the customers’ housewares hostage unless the customer agrees to pay an additional fee, sometimes several thousand dollars.
“Rogue operators are the biggest threat to the legitimate homeware industry and one of our primary issues that we are working on with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Capitol Hill,” said Katie McMichael, director of American Trucking Associations’ 1,400-member Moving and Storage Conference. “Through fraudulent practices, these illegal entities force consumers into positions and extort large sums of money to be reunited with their belongings. The moving community strongly condemns these bad actors and we are working to address this growing problem. “
Man pleads guilty to DOT OIG # investigation into fraud conspiracy https://t.co/HJQr0uJJT2
– US DOT OIG (@DOTInspectorGen) February 23, 2021
While such scams are not uncommon, the scale of an illegal operation led by two Florida residents was among the largest in recent times. In total, the moving company bandits pulled 1,800 customers with an estimated $ 3.5 million between 2013 and 2008, according to a statement by the inspector general of the US Department of Transportation. Federal authorities also said the rogue operators were charging customers for moving more cubic feet of household goods than they actually loaded and some household goods failed to deliver.
Late last month, the IG, two of the fraud’s leaders, Andrey Shuklin and Seth Nezat, pleaded guilty to conspiring in a “blackmailing company” to defraud people in the United States. More than a dozen other participants in the moving fraud investigated by the IG and the FBI have already been charged or found guilty.
According to a federal grand jury indictment in the southern Ohio district, the scammers ran at least ten fraudulent moving companies over a five-year period.
Many of the scammers used a range of suspected names and even threatened to “harm another person who interfered with the moving company’s purposes”.
At least two of the men who pleaded guilty are said to have “coordinated and directed subordinate employees, members and associations of the affiliated companies”.
According to federal regulations, the cost estimate is designated as “binding” if both a customer and a motor company agree in writing to charge fees for goods movement services before the work begins. Federal regulations prohibit the interstate air carrier from increasing the agreed price for the move unless the two parties willingly renegotiate.
“The reason this has come to the fore in recent years is because consumers are now using the internet for everything,” McMichael told Transport Topics.
McMichael said the companies indicted in the crime did a lot of business in New York, New Jersey and Florida. But usually when one of the bogus companies became suspicious, they shut down their website and set up another website.
She added, “This cycle continues. You can see how long they will do this and get away with it because they are difficult to catch. There has to be a lot of cooperation between the federal, state and local governments. “
The problem gets worse when some of the scammed customers call a legitimate mover whose name may have been used in a fraud and accuse the legitimate mover who may not be aware of the fraudulent transaction. In some cases, consumers only pay the premium and the fraud is never reported to law enforcement or regulators.
“For the legitimate moving industry, this means that people who have a bad move sometimes speak to news outlets,” McMichael said. “It’s just putting a strain on the moving industry as a whole because people don’t know how to separate a rogue operator from a legitimate operator.”
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