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Call Kurtis Investigates: Where’s My Stuff? The Risk of Rogue Movers

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — When Elaine Lawrence zipped up her Duffel bag eight months ago to drive to Oklahoma, she had no idea the bag and its contents would be all that’s left of her Roseville life.

“Basically my life possessions are gone,” she said.

The single mom hired World Wide Van Lines and paid a 10-percent deposit on her estimate — but it was a different, unlicensed company that showed up.

When that mover disappeared with all her stuff, it was time to Call Kurtis.

“I don’t have a television,” Lawrence said, describing starting over. “I sit on the floor in my living room.”

San Jose-based Safe World Moving picked up her stuff in Roseville, she said, but where it ended up is a mystery.

Safe World is not licensed with the California Public Utilities Commission as a mover, but the PUC told CBS13 it’s been getting complaints about Safe World since July 2011.

But just weeks after Lawrence’s move, the company changed its phone numbers — and left her without any means to track them down.

“You can’t replace those things,” she said. “My son’s first hair clipping … my grandmother’s tea set.”

Lawrence thought World Wide Van Lines was the company that would do her move; CBS13 has uncovered World Wide is only registered as a broker with the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

But a U.S. Senate report released in September exposes problems with moving brokers, saying they “regularly confuse customers” and “create conditions for harmful moving experiences.” The report also notes, “law enforcement officials will need to put more effort into understanding the role of Internet moving brokers.”

The Better Business Bureau’s Gary Almond has seen a soaring number of moving complaints — some situations he called outrageous.

“This stuff really stops your entire life,” Almond said.

A CBS13 Call Kurtis investigation two years ago exposed problems in the moving industry with hidden cameras.

CBS13 hired a company to move a house of furniture and old belongings, but that company jacked up the price once the belongings were loaded on the truck.

When the company was confronted, they took off down the road with our stuff.

“[These companies] have this in the palm of your hand,” said Almond. “To manipulate that trust with somebody is outrageous.”

World Wide never returned repeated calls and emails from CBS13.

World Wide initially offered Elaine $2,800, but quit returning her calls, she said.

The CPUC oversees California moving companies but said it won’t get involved in this case because the movers crossed state lines.

We have learned, however, World Wide Van Lines is now the subject of a federal investigation.

With nothing but her car, basic clothing and what her family has helped her replace in the seven months since her move, Elaine isn’t holding her breath — forced to make peace she may never see her valued belongings again.

“You just have to move on,” she said.

Tips for hiring an in-state mover
1. Look up the company on PUC’s website. If the company isn’t licensed, don’t contract with them.
2. Read reviews from other customers and check the Better Business Bureau’s website for business rating.
3. Get at least three in-home estimates, not online or phone estimates. The U.S. Senate report showed online or phone estimates are often under-priced to look more attractive to customers, but the actual move ends up costing a lot more.
4. Get a binding estimate, if possible. These allow for less wiggle room on the final delivery price later on.
5. Do not use a moving broker, said Ted Stimpson of MyMove.com. He recommends consumers get estimate directly from the mover if concerned.
6. Look for experience. No consumer ever wants to spend too much money on a move, but more reputable companies are safer bets.
7. If your mover is holding your stuff hostage or you’re experiencing other problems, call the CPUC at 1-800-755-1447 or the FMCSA hotline at 1-888-368-7238.

Tips for hiring an interstate mover
1. Check the company’s current status, as well as complaints, with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
2. Read reviews from other customers and check the Better Business Bureau’s website for business rating.
3. Get at least three in-home estimates, not online or phone estimates. The U.S. Senate report showed online or phone estimates are often under-priced to look more attractive to customers, but the actual move ends up costing a lot more.
4. Get a binding estimate, if possible. These allow for less wiggle room on the final delivery price later on.
5. Do not use a moving broker, said Ted Stimpson of MyMove.com. He recommends consumers get estimate directly from the mover if concerned.
6. Look for experience. No consumer ever wants to spend too much money on a move, but more reputable companies are safer bets.
7. If your mover is holding your stuff hostage, call the FMCSA hotline at 1-888-368-7238.

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