DENVER — With little regulation or enforcement, the risky world of interstate moving has seen a well-documented rise in what's known as "hostage loads."
We told you about Kathy Ayres, a Longmont cancer patient, who said movers packed her heirlooms in December to be shipped to her family in Virginia. The heirlooms still haven't arrived.
When Matt Wells saw Ayres' story, it brought back painful memories.
"As soon as I saw it, I knew what the story was before I even read the article," said Wells, who moved last year from Colorado to Texas.
He and his wife found Keystone Moving Group. He said they were told they were movers who used their own trucks, only to learn later it's a moving broker. Keystone hired H & M Relocation Services, the same movers that have Ayres' heirlooms.
He said after the owner, David Zoda, loaded their entire house, he insisted on being paid $3,000.
"We got into it about that's not what we agreed to. That's not what's in the contract," said Wells. "And he said, 'You're not getting any of your stuff until you pay this.'"
Wells said after he paid double the agreed price, his belongings arrived in three separate loads, late, and much of it was damaged or missing.
"For example, none of the hardware came with the furniture after they disassembled it. So we had to buy a whole new crib," said Wells.
Zoda Woult not speak on camera, but denied the accusations, writing in an e-mail "I won't let any customers or anyone else to talk trash about my company...Those customers told u lots of trash which is not true, and you have opportunity to take a look at contracts and u can see what customers choose while signed contract with our company."
Joshua Swyers, with moverescue.com, a resource funded by national moving companies that advocates for consumers who have been scammed.
"If you find yourself in these situations, unfortunately, there's there's not a ton of options," said Swyters, who said you should file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and contact your state Attorney General.
Here are some other tips if you run into problems during your move, but Swyers said that the key to protecting yourself is to know the signs of shadiness.
"Google their address," said Swyer. "If you look at their address, and it doesn't pull up to a location that looks as though a moving company would would operate out of there, if it doesn't have the logo, you should move on, that's a big red flag."
He also recommended searching the company's phone number to see if multiple moving companies names come up, an indication the company has changed names to avoid detection (but not bothered to change their number.)
Meanwhile, Wells said he and his wife are still discovering things missing and are still fighting for compensation.
"I would say stay away from moving brokers in general. It's a shady business," said Wells, who estimates $6,000 in damages. "It just won't end. It's been over a year now. And it's still we're no closer to any kind of resolution."
Click here for more FMCSA tips on finding reputable movers and avoiding scams.
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