Is your lease up? PPB warns of mover scams, thefts

Multnomah County

Police warned those moving to a new home to be on the lookout after an “unprecedented” number of reported moving company scams. (Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police are investigating after an “unprecedented” number of scams and thefts from moving companies were reported throughout 2021.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, all of the recent local complaints involved a deal where a broker posing as a moving company would arrange for the transportation of a person’s goods, but then contract the physical task of moving the cargo to a for-hire carrier.

Some subcontracted movers have reportedly stolen from paying customers or neglected their end of the deal, holding goods hostage, excessively delaying delivery or abandoning victims’ belongings in a storage locker that eventually goes to auction.

Police said when victims reach out to their broker for help, most brokers assume no responsibility and tell the victims to sort it out with the movers. Most of the victims in these cases don’t know they were dealing with a broker instead of a moving company, PPB said, and sometimes, the broker never clarifies.

The scams vary, and authorities said there have been moving companies that take on new customers to keep their business afloat, all the while knowing they can’t — or don’t plan to — deliver at all. Only some brokers appear to help, police said.

Local police might not be able to help victims because of the complexities in moving laws, PPB said. When customers and moving companies sign contracts, disputes can become a civil issue.

Officials encouraged victims of moving fraud to contact local law enforcement. PPB’s non-emergency line is 503.823.3333.

Victims can also file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Authorities said the more complaints a company receives, the more likely it will be investigated.

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