An undercover sting operation in New Jersey caught 26 unlicensed moving companies, including two that were solicting interstate business. The 26 companies were fined $2,500 each, and the two companies accused of solicting interstaste business were fined $25,000 each by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which participated in the state-led sting operation, dubbed “Operation Mother’s Attic.”
“Horror stories about predatory movers are all too common. By its very nature, the moving industry touches the lives of consumer when they are vulnerable and when they must rely on strangers to transport their valued possessions,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “These situations create the potential for abuse. We are enforcing New Jersey’s licensing laws in order to protect consumers and, just as importantly, to ensure a level playing field for New Jersey’s many honest and licensed moving companies.”
The sting operation took place from November 19 through 22. In the preceding days, state Consumer Affairs investigators posed as consumers seeking to make an ordinary household move. The investigators booked appointments with suspected unlicensed movers who solicited work with online listings.
All 26 unlicensed movers booked appointments with the investigators. They sent moving crews to a self-storage facility in Ledgewood, and unwittingly into the second phase of the sting. Upon arriving at the self-storage site, the unlicensed movers were confronted by Consumer Affairs investigators – and by investigators from the FMCSA, agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a transportation compliance unit of the New Jersey State Police.
Approximately 290 moving companies are currently licensed to perform intrastate moves (from point to point within the state) in New Jersey. The Division of Consumer Affairs received 89 formal consumer complaints about moving companies in 2013.
“Unscrupulous movers that attempt to evade consumer protection regulations are often as likely to disregard safety requirements that serve to protect everyone traveling on our highways and roads,” FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said. “We are pleased to be a partner with the state of New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office to bring the weight of state and federal consequences upon rogue movers that run outside the rules of law.”
About the violators
- Two moving company employees were arrested by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers on site, due to outstanding warrants.
- Despite the requirement that moving companies keep their vehicles properly registered and insured, seven unlicensed moving companies appeared with rental trucks or a rental trailer from U-Haul, Budget, or other rental companies.
- State Police condemned one moving company’s truck for dangerous safety violations, including severely warn tires and leaking oil.
- Eight of the unlicensed movers had listings on Craigslist. Five had listings on Angie’s List. Nine used their own websites. The rest were listed in online third-party moving websites or other Internet venues.
What to do
Before hiring a mover, review the tips available from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. They include:
- Call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846 to verify the license status of any mover you consider hiring. Ask whether consumer complaints have been filed against the mover.
- Obtain a written estimate from the mover you select. The cost can be estimated on an hourly rate, by weight and miles traveled, or by cubic measurement.
- Never pack jewelry, money, or valuable documents with your goods to be moved. The mover is not responsible for items of extraordinary value.
- Check your goods as they are being delivered. If any are lost or damaged, notify the mover immediately. A damage claim can be filed up to 90 days after the move date.
- Unless you purchase additional coverage, the mover is required to compensate you only up to 60 cents per pound, per article, for damages.