Summer moving season is getting started and so are the shady movers. Contact Denver7 is already getting the emails from people losing thousands of dollars, or even worse — losing everything they own.
There is maximum shadiness in the mostly unregulated moving industry and minimum protection for you and your stuff. That's why Contact Denver7 has compiled a list of what people do wrong so you can get it right.
"It's just heartbreaking that this continues to happen," said Bret Frigon, who graciously agreed to be the "what not to do" example to warn others. "I was Googling movers, and I actually found Mile High Van Lines, which interested me because I'm a big fan of Denver. I grew up with John Elway and the Broncos. I just thought, "What the heck! They looked pretty good.""
Go Broncos! But this is not how you find a reputable mover.
Moving mistake #1: Not doing your research
The BBB shows Mile High Van Lines, based in Denver, has an F rating, an alert and dozens of complaints. There are also multiple complaints against Mile High Van Lines on protectyourmove.gov.
Before hiring a mover, you should look for a physical location. Beware of businesses that don't have one or have an unmarked, dilapidated warehouse.
After Mile High Van Lines did not respond to our request for comment, we went to their address, finding a warehouse in north Denver with no signs. A man working inside said he only spoke Russian and handed us a cell phone.
"They used to rent the place from us but I think they moved out," said the man on the phone, who would only identify himself as Michael. "We have two other moving companies there now."
Moving mistake #2: Too good to be true
Take it from Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser, your move is not the time to look for a bargain.
"Many people only hire a mover one time or two times, and so you don't build up a reputable relationship," Weiser said. "Instead, you may look for a deal. And that's what gets people in trouble."
Here are red flags to look for:
- A low estimate over the phone or online, sight unseen
- A large deposit is required before the move
- A claim you have more belongings than estimated on moving day
Frigon says that is what happened to him — a $14,000 estimate ballooned when the movers arrived, adding $8,000 to the total, even though he had sold many items included in the original estimate.
"They said, "Well, if you read the fine print on the estimate, you know, it shows that it could change,"" said Frigon. "And I understand that estimates change, and I was willing to pay five, 10% over, but this was 50% over what the original estimate was, which I just have a really, really hard time with that."
Moving mistake #3: Read the fine print
Your contract should have delivery dates and consequences for damage or late delivery.
When Frigon tried to fight the charge, he discovered moving mistake number four.
Moving mistake #4: The Broker Blunder
"I did not realize that this company was brokering our move," said Frigon. "And that's exactly what they did. They brokered it to somebody else. And then you really have no recourse at all because there's too many players involved here."
Denver7 has been reporting for years on one Colorado mover, David Zoda, who now owns H&M Movers. He has been repeatedly accused of holding people's items hostage for months and demanding more money. While there has been an investigation, no charges have been filed.
Contact Denver7 regularly receives complaints about the company people unknowingly booked through a moving broker.
So, does Colorado need stronger laws to protect people from moving scams?
"We're going to continue to look at whether our laws are providing sufficient consequences," said Weiser.
Weiser says that much like the predatory towing legislation that recently passed in the state legislature, new laws may be needed to prevent predatory movers.
Until then, moving is basically the Wild West. You're not protected, so you have to protect yourself with knowledge.
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