How to spot a rogue mover
Unscrupulous household goods brokers; illegal operators blossom in the Spring; thrive in the Summer
According to the American Moving and Storage Association, May is National Moving Month.
The 'corn moon' month is typically when trees blossom, buds open, and flowers and ‘For Sale’ signs sprout up in front of homes in neighborhoods and communities all across America. Historically the relocation industry's peak period usually takes place between May and September when kids are out of school.
Unfortunately, these annual harbingers of spring usually also signal the increased activity of illegal transport operators, unscrupulous household goods and property brokers and dubious rogue movers. These crooks constantly conspire to plot their illegal assault on unsuspecting consumers during the rapidly approaching summer moving season.
A Moving Scam in Progress
Recently KPHO TV, a CBS affiliate in Arizona, reported on yet another incident where a budget-conscious consumer was 'scammed' by a moving services company she 'researched' online.
The video below explains how the young lady engaged Nationwide Relocation Services, Inc.(NRS), a well known south Florida move broker, to arrange her interstate relocation from Utah to Arizona. The “not-to-exceed” price she negotiated with her salesperson was $2074.
According to the news report, NRS brokered her small shipment of household goods and personal effects to an unnamed moving company in Maine. This company then 'brokered' it to Sirena Moving, a small mover based in Phoenix, Arizona – without the property owner's knowledge. Sirena, according to the video, tried to increase the gal's final bill by almost $1900 before they would unload.
Under the federal consumer protection regulations that govern the transportation of household goods in interstate commerce, such a price increase could only be billed for the additional expense was explained to the shipper BEFORE any services were started. Even then the shipper must agree to the change in writing.
The shipper was smart to get the proper authorities involved. Fortunate for her, she was moving to Arizona. See why.
Checking FMCSA Consumer Complaint Records
NRS is part of a privately owned group of relocation related companies based out of Margate, Florida. Nationwide has been licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) since 2000 to provide interstate brokerage services for household goods and personal property. The closely related group of family affiliates collects moving leads from their well advertised find-a-mover web property at www.movingcost.com.
NRS's consumer complaint record displayed at the FMCSA's Protect Your Move website under MC#:381766 shows an eight-year history of complaints from previous customers who used their virtual moving services.
Since they operate as a move broker ONLY, Nationwide is not legally authorized to have any drivers or moving equipment licensed through the U. S. Department of Transportation. Still though, through the years, many of their former customers have reported the same recurring complaints with “unauthorized operations, shipment documents, estimates/final charges, weighing, hostage loads, pickup and delivery, loss and damage, and claim settlement”.
In 2007, Nationwide's principal, Aldo DiSorbo, filed a lawsuit against the owner and unpaid moderators of the popular anti-mover website, MovingSCAM. The suit claimed “false advertising, trademark infringement, unfair competition, defamation, and tortious interference with business relationships in Florida federal court”. What was curious about the filing is that for years many of MovingSCAM's visitors posted the very same type of detailed complaints in the site's open forums as those showing at the FMCSA website.
The DiSorbos apparently felt the consumer-oriented website allowed the use of Nationwide's trademark, those of family's other moving companies, and the marks of some of NRS's other affiliated carriers to be besmirched by their former customers without their permission.
The lawsuit, which was settled out of court, alleged that MovingSCAM owners and moderators “published statements” indicating that south Florida brokerage company “engaged in "scams," while at the same time trying to induce customers to purchase moving-related products and services from the site and its advertisers.”
Amer Sutkovic d/b/a Sirena Moving (US DOT: 1425761 ; MC#: 539367) is a small, four-truck mover based in Phoenix, Arizona. According to FMCSA records, the five-year old company is licensed to operate as a household goods contract carrier ONLY. The company currently holds no brokerage authority. Sirena's motor carrier authority has been revoked twice since 2006.
The problem that J.J. Stroh, the always diligent investigator from the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, quickly realized is that Sirena's driver apparently coerced the customer into signing the paperwork increasing the charges without explaining the reason for the change.
That type of underhanded practice is clearly a violation of the federal Consumer Protection Regulations. Unfortunately, it's one of the many tricks that rogue operators typically use to take advantage of unsuspecting customers – especially those who negotiated their pricing through virtual marketplaces, reverse-auction transportation venues, online bulletin boards and find-a-mover brokerage websites.
Under the current FMCSA regulations (49CFR385 § 371.115), household goods move brokers like Nationwide Relocation Services, Inc. are required to maintain agreements with motor carriers before providing written estimates on behalf of those carriers based on their filed tariff.
In this situation, however, it appears that NRS isn't the company that brokered their customer's interstate shipment to the motor carrier that tried to increase her final price to receive her things by 91%. They did, apparently, successfully negotiate the settlement with the delivering carrier – but only after Arizona Weights and Measures investigator Stroh intervened and questioned the pricing change on their customer's twice brokered move.
Caveat emptor! – "Let the buyer beware"
Due to an ongoing shortage of driver and equipment resources created by the recession, service within the entire household goods moving industry is going to be strained this year – particularly during the peak period between the middle of May and the middle of July.
This unexpected capacity crunch will no doubt be used by unscrupulous fringe operators and brokers to influence price-conscious consumers frantically searching online for an affordable moving company at the last minute.
The best advice for those shopping for "virtual" moving services like this young lady is to take two aspirin, a deep breath and do your homework first.
Remember, don't automatically choose the company with the lowest price when making your carrier selection. Pick the one that will provide the best value! You won’t be disappointed!
Skim through the list below to learn how to avoid having these problems when moving.
Related Articles and Relocation Resources:
Avoid "Rogue" Moving Companies – Arizona Department of Weights & Measures
Red Flags for Spotting Rogue Movers – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Transportation of Household Goods in Interstate Commerce – Consumer Protection Regulations – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
BE WARY … of Unexpected Estimate Revisions When Moving – RELO Roundtable
Is shopping for a mover in a virtual marketplace safe? – RELO Roundtable
How to Find a Reputable Mover: A Professional Guide – RELO Roundtable
How to Choose an International Mover – RELO Roundtable
Have questions or need professional assistance with an upcoming moving and storage issue, or help choosing a domestic or international relocation product or service supplier?
FOLLOW US and SUBSCRIBE at: