US Transportation Secretary Warns Houstonians of Phony Movers

With a huge sheet of plastic, a moving crew shows how it wraps up a sofa to make sure it safely gets to its destination.

Atascosita resident Denise Roberts wishes she'd had a professional crew like that when she moved her daughter back to Texas from Nebraska. Roberts says she found a moving company on the internet that appears to have a lot of positive feedback. But once her daughter's goods were loaded on the truck, the company tried to charge her $1000 more than what was quoted. 

"I have been threatened by the owner, who actually made a phone call to me, that she would take me to court if I filed any complaints, said she'd taped everything. And I said, good, make sure you bring that tape to court with you, and I'll meet you there with my evidence."

Roberts says it took three weeks for her daughter to get her stuff, and what makes it worse is that her daughter is a wounded veteran.

"If you're going to rip off a wounded warrior, you're going to rip off a lot of other people."

And a lot of people do get ripped off, especially here. Houston is now ranked fourth in the nation for complaints against moving companies. Dan Parsons at the Houston Better Business Bureau says part of the problem is that anyone with a truck and a phone can claim they're a mover. They lure in customers by quoting a low price. They then try to get more money from the customer by holding their possessions hostage.

"Houston is becoming a very attractive city to move to. So you're getting a lot of people coming in, which by the way, is also tough. You come in from another city, here you are, welcome to Texas, and by the way you've been ripped off. What a lovely way to experience our city."

And the problem has gotten the attention of federal officials. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeals to people not to take a bid for moving services over the phone. LaHood says you need to do business in person because moving scams are expensive for everyone involved.

"It costs the economy because people lose all their household goods, and it ends up costing insurance companies money. And it's bad for the industry. It gives the industry a bad name." 

People planning a move are reminded that a legitimate moving company will have numbers on its trucks showing that it's registered with either TxDOT or the US Department of Transportation.

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