The Investigators

Mar 19, 2014 12:10 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: Putting the brakes on another nightmare move

If you've ever moved, chances are you have a nightmare story to tell about it. For thousands of Arizonans, their story begins on-line, as they look for a good deal on moving costs. It ends with them being ripped-off.

Last year, the News 4 Tucson Investigators brought you the case of a Tucson family being given the runaround by an out-of-state moving company. The company was trying to overcharge the customer, by claiming their load weighed much more than it actually did.

Well, it seems unscrupulous movers are at it again. They're trying to separate customers from their cash.

In this most recent case, the customer hired a company to bring a load of household items from Kentucky to Tucson. JJ Stroh, an Investigator with Arizona Weights and Measures says the day before the load was supposed to arrive, the customer got a phone call. The person on the other line said the items weighed about one-thousand pounds more than estimated, and the customer would now have to pay hundreds of dollars above their quoted price for the move.

"Being honest, most people send in the correct amount of stuff, that they're going to move, and then the movers seem to get creative with that stuff. Things always seem to go up once the truck is loaded, and the doors are locked. All of a sudden, oh you have way more stuff than you told us, the price is going to go up," Stroh says.

Weights and Measures had been tipped off by a DPS officer, who noticed a discrepancy in a mover's paperwork during a traffic stop. When the driver showed up in Tucson with the load, Stroh, flanked by Tucson Police, and the News 4 Tucson Investigators, confronted the driver.

Among other issues - bungled paperwork related to the move, including documentation that was unsigned and not filled-in.

Stroh tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, signing a blank contract is just like signing a blank check, and opens you up to potential financial headaches.

"We urge everybody, common sense rules. Never sign a blank instrument. I mean, no matter how innocuous it looks, sooner or later it is gonna bite you in the butt. It's just not worth it," Stroh says.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators then followed the driver to the scales, to see how much the load actually weighed. As expected, it was more than one-thousand pounds less than the movers had claimed.

Stroh tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, no one is immune from this type of fraud.

"It used to be predominantly divorced moms, you know, acting in single capacity, or seniors. It's now mutated into everybody," Stroh says.

And, looking for the best deal may, in the end, turn out to be a bad deal for the customer.

"Everybody always goes on the Internet to find the deal possible. And like they always say - if it sounds too good to be true, it is," Stroh says.

For the customer in this case, Ken Bulawa, their move cost about one-quarter of what the movers tried to squeeze from them.

"The end results are kind of overwhelming, because it's not a few hundred dollars, it's a lot more," Bulawa says.

What could have been a costly lesson, was turned around with the help of state investigators.

"If they didn't get involved with this and checking on it, I would have paid, I wouldn't have known. So, we had no way of knowing that they were getting scammed. This is probably going on everyday with people. I never even thought that this would happen to us this way," Bulawa says.

Weights and Measures says they average complaints on 50 to 100 movers a year, but usually, people don't know to contact the department, and try dealing directly with the moving company. In this case, the movers refused to talk to us about what was going on.

Click here for tips on how you can avoid becoming the victim of one of these cross-country con-jobs.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.

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