On Tuesday, March 1, Eugene Police Property/Financial Crimes Unit, Crime Analysis Unit, an EPD K9 unit served a search warrant with the assistance of Sutherlin Police Department at a warehouse located in Sutherlin, Oregon. An EPD Property Crimes detective authored the search warrant after receiving a case where a Eugene resident hired a moving company to move the family’s possessions to their new residence on the east coast and then never received the property.
Another victim, who hired the same company, also had the same experience and set out to track down their property and eventually determined it was likely in the warehouse in Sutherlin. This victim staked the warehouse out and waited for someone to arrive, at which point they were able to locate their property and took photos of numerous other stacks of property belonging to other victims including the Eugene victim. The EPD PCU detective coordinated with the Eugene victim, who flew back from the east coast to make preparations for the recovery of their belongings. Upon serving the warrant, detectives located the Eugene victim’s property and assisted her with filling a 26-foot U-Haul with the family’s possessions. Detectives and Crime Analysis Unit worked throughout the day to identify four additional victims and then worked with the victims to get U-hauls rented. Detectives loaded all of the victims’ property into additional U-Hauls so it could be safely stored until the victims arrive to take possession of them. In all, detectives loaded and nearly filled three 26-foot U-Hauls. One of the victims had moved from Arizona to Veneta. In this case, her property made it all the way to Sutherlin, where it was dropped in the warehouse. Detectives were able to deliver the property to this victim’s residence in Veneta. She had been without her property for nearly five months..
One of the U-Haul companies discounted the cost of the rental to help the victims, for which Eugene Police and the victims are grateful.
No arrests are expected as with other frequent scams, the involved companies and individuals are likely to be out of state or possibly out of the country.
Below is a news release from a month ago with more information about how these scams operate:
Beware: moving company scam going around
The Eugene Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit has received increased complaints regarding moving company scams. Since there are open investigations, detectives cannot divulge specific issues about the cases, but would like to alert the public about possible scams. Many of these cases cross multiple state lines and jurisdictions. The federal government has handled many of these cases and the Oregon State Department of Justice compiled a helpful article, 10 Ways To Avoid Moving Scams (see https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/scam_alert_10-10-14.pdf).
Over the last year, it appears an unprecedented number of people have moved, with an increase in complaints of moving thefts. However, moving companies and clients often have a moving contract, making it a civil issue and therefore, customers who have now been victimized might not get assistance from local police. This appears to vary with agencies across the country, and understandably most patrol officers are not familiar with federal moving laws. If there was greater public understanding of these laws, victims may be able to communicate better with law enforcement on a possible response:
Falsify the weight to increase the price: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14912
Holding household goods hostage: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14915
Eugene Police detectives have seen several variations of moving scams. One scam includes a moving company collecting an entire household for a move. They collect payment and then place the household goods into a storage unit to be left unpaid and abandoned. The storage unit eventually goes to auction, and the customer never receives their household goods. One moving company may make some deliveries to appear legitimate while forsaking others. Another moving company may continue to take on new customers, knowing they can’t deliver or don’t plan to, because it needs an inflow of cash to keep the business afloat. The customer’s property is still in possession of the mover, but held for a long time with false delivery promises or potential abandonment.
Another scam involves the movers showing up to a victim’s new home (often weeks after the promised delivery date) demanding more money to unload the property. Often these movers say they will only accept a cashiers check or they will not deliver the property. At this point, many victims are so desperate for their property, they issue the payment.
All of the complaints Eugene Police received involve a move scheduled through various brokers before being sub-tasked to a mover. A broker is a company that arranges for the transportation of a person's cargo, utilizing for-hire carriers to provide the actual truck transportation. Moving brokers are sales teams that book people's move and sell it to an actual moving company. A broker does not assume responsibility for and is not authorized to transport your household goods. Often these “brokers” charge several thousands of dollars and try to say part of the money goes to the movers, which is not true. Some brokers are offering a seven-day full refund in case of cancellation. However, the brokers call on the eighth day to raise the price or assign a mover. If the customer tries to cancel, they can no longer cancel due to a day past the refund policy
To learn more about brokers versus movers, visit: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/movers-vs-brokers
After a subcontracted mover comes to collect the household goods, it is now out of the broker’s hands. When customers call the brokers for assistance, most respond that this is no longer their problem and to talk to the mover.
If a consumer believes they are a victim of moving fraud they can contact their local law enforcement agency to possibly report it. Eugene residents can call the non-emergency number at (541) 682-5111.
Victims should also file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The more complaints a company receives, the more likely an investigation gets triggered.
To file a complaint, visit: 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=EAIaIQobChMI-d-c7ba28gIVwR-tBh1lGwb5EAAYAiAAEgJzA_D_BwE
-Don’t sign a blank or incomplete estimate
-Don’t sign a bill of lading without a deliver date estimate listed
-Don’t pay in cash (or Venmo, PayPal, ect).
Lookup moving company by DOT number prior to booking:
Know your rights when you move: