Aug. 4—Grants Pass police are warning Southern Oregonians to beware of fraudulent moving companies, and want to hear from locals whose property was either held hostage for more money or flat out stolen.
According to Grants Pass police Lt. Jeff Hattersley, the department has recovered "approximately $500,000 in household goods belonging to several victims across the Rogue Valley and from neighboring states" in a multi-agency investigation involving a relatively new crime known as "moving fraud."
Hattersley said a local investigation "involves numerous agencies across numerous jurisdictions," but police believe more local victims may be out there.
"Since this appears to be a lesser-known type of fraud that is on the rise, we wanted to be sure the public was aware of the tactics being used to defraud innocent victims," Hattersley said in an email.
The crime involves fraudsters who pose as moving companies, and later steal the customer's belongings, damage their household goods or hold "property hostage while demanding extra money from customers," according to Hattersley.
Those who believe they're the victims of moving fraud should file a police report with the law enforcement agency in the area they moved from, Hattersley advised.
Police also advised that possible fraud victims compile photos, contracts and other documents from the moving company or broker, and retain any future records of communication that involve the company.
Victims should report the company to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates interstate moving companies.
Those looking to hire a legitimate moving company can check for movers registered with the FMCSA by calling 202-366-9805 or searching the FMCSA database at protectyourmove.gov.
Before hiring a mover, the FMCSA recommends that people check the the moving business registry to make sure the company is licensed, and to check for complaints involving the company with consumer protection agencies such as the Better Business Bureau.
Other "red flags," according to FMCSA, include moving companies that don't offer or don't agree to an onsite inspection prior to the move, moving companies that demand cash or large deposits prior to the move, moving companies that don't provide written estimates and moving companies with no local address and no information about their registration.
A company that shows up on moving day with a rental truck instead of a marked fleet or company-owned truck can be another red flag.