I will start by saying that I am a Jew and a Zionist. Despite this, I have written an article about this scam market (after being taken advantage of by them). Here it is (resources and all):
BEWARE: The Moving Scam Connection with Israel
They give you an extremely low bid on the phone or email, and tell you how professional they are, what good hands you are in, and how much you are going to save with them. They are convincing and seem very professional. Do not trust them! Once they have everything you own on their truck, they have you right where they want you. Wham! They hit you with the new inflated price, and if you don't pay they hold everything you own hostage for ransom. They get your signature on a blank contract before they load your belongings onto the truck, then they add additional money to the contract in the form of packing, boxes, wardrobes etc. They will only accept payment in the form of a cashier's check, certified check, money order, or cash before they will unload everything you own. That's right V everything you own!
They change company names, locations and telephone numbers quite frequently. They will disappear with your belongings and there is no legal way to stop them. Every law enforcement agency I have spoken with, including the FBI, has stated this is a civil matter.
However, this is an interstate extortion scheme, as well as operating a continuing criminal enterprise, through intentionally deceptive and unfair business practice. This goes beyond "caveat emptor" - or, let the buyer beware! This is outright theft through extortion.
They claim they have a signed legal contract, but any third grader can figure out if a contract is altered in any way after it is endorsed, it is no valid contract.
But, all the legal facts being on your side will not get your belongings off the truck! And, neither will the Sheriff, the Police or the FBI, who all claim this interstate transportation of your household goods is a civil matter not within their jurisdiction, and to hold all your belongings hostage in order to extort additional monies from you is also a civil matter not within their jurisdiction. And, if you don't pay, they will keep all of your belongings, auction them and/or increase your bill as a result of what they refer to as "additional storage" and "additional services". The bill continues to increase until you either come up with the money, or, they keep everything you own.
Funny, interstate transportation with the intent to extort monetary or pecuniary advantage sure sounds like theft/extortion to me which I believe is still a criminal act last time I checked.
Refer to the following:
"...The scam typically works like this: A consumer, attracted by an affordable estimate, hires a moving company through the Internet. A truck shows up and, once the customer's furniture is loaded, the estimate is increased to two, three or four times the original bid. The consumer is told that unless the new bill is paid, the possessions will be sold at auction...
...The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it receives 3,000 to 4,000 complaints each year from consumers who feel they were victimized by moving companies...the moving companies often know the law better than the authorities..."
"Consumers say movers are taking them for a ride - Inadequate federal oversight viewed as factor for helping encourage scams"
by Dan Benson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - May 6, 2002
Does this familiar? Many people have been experiencing this same problem. Our problem dealt with an Israeli moving company in San Jose, CA called AY Transport Inc. (AKA: National Moving Network Inc., AAAdvantage Auto Transport Inc., and AAA Driveaway & Truck Transport). They had retrieved our possessions from Public Storage, lied about packaging, falsified the weight, and delayed our delivery. We cancelled our move with them after showing us they were criminal, and they refused to give us our items until we paid them twice what we owed them if they had actually done the moving. We will probably never see our things again, but are trying to bring public notice to the situation to prevent them from harming others.
You probably noticed I mentioned they were Israeli. I did this for a reason. Most of the scam movers you see on the internet are Israeli. Refer to www.movingscam.com and click through the companies to see the owners V almost all are Israeli. Hmmm, do we see a connection here? Is it possible that this is a crime many Israelis know, and come to America in hopes to get away with it? We are not the only ones who have discovered this, as we see in the following article:
"...Consumer advocates charge that a network of such companies routinely engages in questionable, if not illegal, business practices and they frequently change their business name when complaints start to pile up.
They also tend to hire young Israeli men just out of the military who come here to make quick money, often without proper work visas, before moving on to vacation in more exotic foreign locales.
Danny Biran, consul at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., said it's very common for young Israeli men to come to the United States after fulfilling their three-year military commitment and before entering college.
There are a lot of Israeli guys after they finish their duty in the army they want to go to Australia, Japan, Thailand, Greece and the U.S.," he said. "They want to see the world."
But to do that they need money, and the best place to do that is in the United States, even if it means working illegally, Biran said.
"They can make a lot of money in a short time in the U.S. and then they can go visit Latin America or someplace where the dollar goes farther," Biran said.
It's only natural that many of the young Israelis find work with East Coast moving companies, many of which are owned by Israeli immigrants and nationals.
A September 1997 Jerusalem Post story estimated that more than half of the New York City area's 250-some moving companies were owned by Israeli entrepreneurs, many of whom immigrated to the U.S. in the mid- to late 1980s...
...Another Jerusalem Post story in January said the trip to the U.S. "has become practically a rite of passage for Israeli youth: the post-army trip to some exotic locale, often combined with a stint in the United States to make quick money - illegally."
After Sept. 11, more than 60 Israelis, many of whom were working for moving companies, were deported for visa violations...
Movers' ring uses shady tactics, illegal workers, watchdogs say
by Dan Benson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel V April 15, 2002
They use the excuse that people are just trying to get them because they are Jews and Israelis, and are just anti-Semites. This definitely does not fit in my situation, since my family are Orthodox Observant Jews and Zionists!
Further, they do get away with it. They know the system and know they will only get fined. They boast about making good money from it, and are unaffected about having to pay fines. Advanced Moving Systems, an Israeli-run moving company in Florida, has had several incidences where drivers were arrested for extortion:
..."It's all against the Jews. The police are lying. They are corrupt," said Zion Rokah, an Israeli national who owns Advanced Moving Systems in Sunrise, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale...
...Rokah denied that any of his employees had done anything wrong and said his company was being targeted by a police network that has targeted Israeli-owned moving companies...
..."It's all discrimination, these redneck cities. They hate Jews and strangers. They all have the same accent," said Rokah, who said he moved to Florida from Israel four years ago and found work with several movers and a year later started Advanced Moving Systems, which last year had $2 million in sales...
...Rokah said Tuesday after being told what Haugh said. "I can pay a lawyer. I will be happy if they will arrest me because I am a good fighter."...
...Rokah, who said he is facing "a normal amount" of civil suits from "five or six" customers, said he is willing to abide by a judge's ruling...If I'm doing anything wrong, I don't have a problem to pay for it," he said...
..."Redneck judges and police officers will only believe an American, not an Israeli Jew," he said...
"Movers' boss claims anti-Semitism - He says small-town fervor brought arrests in robbery case"
by Dan Benson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - May 1, 2002
I am sure there may be many Israeli movers who are honest and professional, but the numbers show an epidemic of those who are not, and are enough for me to refrain from ever using another Israeli-run moving company again. As a matter of fact, knowing other industries where Israelis have been dishonest and sly, I am doubting I will ever go back to Israel again.
Are others involved?
Maybe. Imagine this: moving companies extort you for money. Most of the people will pay up, some will not or cannot pay and will lose their things, some pay try illegal means to get their things but will fail, and others will resort to the court system and find an attorney. Now, there is a whole other scam market with attorneys, as all of you who have ever used an attorney will know. Not all attorneys are questionable, but there are enough of them out there that it is a well-standing joke of attorneys who have taken advantage of someone.
Well, you would think with the illegal activities such as these movers are involved in, we would be able to find a state-funded attorney to press charges V but you wont. This situation is classified as a specialty case, where it will cost you $200-$400 per hour in order to get an attorney to help you, with a retainer of $1500-$5000 before they will even begin the work.
Furthermore, you may get nowhere because the company could shut down once they get your attorneys first letter giving them 30 days to make amends. At this point, you lose your items and your retainer, because the attorney will not return the retainer since they did some work. Now, what happened here? Both of these parties have taken a lot of money from you, and neither of them has given you your things. Is there a connection? Maybe not. But maybe there is in that each industry feeds the other.
The moving company extorts and usually prevails. In the small percentage of cases where they dont win, the attorney does. For example, our attorney suggested we not contact local television, radio, and newspaper media for publicity - as we all know, publicity may gets things done when other avenues have failed, or we wouldnt be publishing this article. Everyone else thought we should V even other attorneys. The attorney claims his retainer is for writing a letter notifying the other party of initializing legal proceedings, and giving them 30 days to make amends.
All the moving company has to do is temporarily close doors, the attorney conveniently makes his money without too much effort, the case is closed, the moving company opens up a new address and phone number, and the process repeats itself. Sure, I may be wrong about this connection, but these types of connections happen everywhere and it doesnt hurt to be too safe. How do you find a good attorney? Well, that may be difficult. You might be able to get information from the BAR Association for the state where the attorney practices, but the BAR is a boys club and if your attorney is active, he will get a good recommendation. You could try getting references, keeping in mind the attorney (like anyone else) will only give you his good references.
You could look on the internet for his name, but unless he has made the news or has had a complaint filed against him, this will not necessarily tell you about his performance. Lastly, you could contact the courthouse where he does business and see if anyone is willing to tell you about his performance. As for his character V well, thats a crapshoot. Best case scenario - you find a good attorney, you win the case, and you get your things back. Now how do you punish the criminals and keep them from harming others?
Your attorney cant or wont help you with this because of the confusion with Federal vs. State regulations. You still have to attempt to get the company charged for extortion and fined or shutdown. Even though fining them will hurt them for awhile, shutting them down is totally different. The moving company we used acts under other names, such as National Moving Network. They have been under the investigation of the DOT and have been fined, but are still in business (www.dot.gov/affairs/fmcsa1301.htm). Maybe in the end you decide not to use the attorney at all because it is too risky.
If not an attorney, then what?
Boycotting. Get the publics attention and warn them about this practice. Educate people and organize to make changes to the legislation. But above all, tell people not to use these companies. Hopefully, the more people know, the less people they can take advantage of; therefore, making their business harder to run.
What can I do?
First, Ill tell you what you cant do. You cant sue the shippers for fraud or other state deceptive trade practices, and the attorney general cant attack the industry. Why? Because of this dirty little secret of the industry V The Carmack Amendment (also known as the Interstate Commerce Act). Refer to the following:
What is the Carmack Amendment?
The Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 11707, passed in 1906 as part of the Hepburn Act, ch. 5391, 34 Stat. 584, governs the liability of carriers for lost or damaged goods. The relevant portions of the Amendment are:
A common carrier . . . subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission . . . shall issue a receipt or a bill of lading for property it receives for transportation . . . . That carrier . . . and any other common carrier that delivers the property and is providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission . . . are liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading. The liability imposed under this paragraph is for actual loss or injury to the property caused by (1) the receiving carrier, (2) the delivering carrier, or (3) another carrier over whose lines or route the property is transported into the United States .
In other words, punitive damages are not allowed in a household goods moving case, and you can't get attorney's fees. If $8,000 worth of goods were stolen, the moving company refuses to make good on it, and it takes $20,000 in attorney's fees to sue, well, you can see that you're stuck. The maximum damages allowed is the value of the goods that were damaged, destroyed, or lost in shipment. The courts have ruled that even in cases of outright theft, misrepresentation, and negligence, the most you can get out of the mover is the cost of the goods he stole or allowed to be damaged through his own negligence.
28) Brokers - Liability Under Carmack Amendment
Q: What is the "Carmack Amendment" and where can I find the exact ruling online? Does this protect brokers from liability of loss/damage claims? If not, where can I find a ruling that does protect brokers in this situation?
A: The "Carmack Amendment" was an amendment in 1906 to the Interstate Commerce Act. Over the years the original language was changed a number of times and now appears at 49 U.S.C. Section 14706 (for motor carriers).
The Carmack Amendment governs the liability of motor carriers and freight forwarders for loss, damage or delay to shipments in interstate and foreign commerce. It has no application to brokers, see Custom Cartage, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., No. 98 C 5182, 1999 WL 965686 (N.D. Ill. 1999).
As a general rule, brokers do not have liability for loss, damage or delay to shipments. This subject is discussed in detail in Chapter 13.0 of "Freight Claims in Plain English" (3rd Ed. 1995), which is available from TCPC.
32) Carmack Amendment - Applicability
Q: Assuming the subject is either not addressed in and/or there is no contract of carriage (only the carrier's rules and/or tariff) when would or would not Carmack apply with regard to claims? Stated another way, would you briefly clarify, list, identify when Carmack applies and when it doesn't.
A: The "Carmack Amendment" applies to interstate transportation or service provided by rail carriers (49 U.S.C. 11706, formerly 11707) and by motor carriers and freight forwarders (49 U.S.C. 14706, formerly 11707). A thorough discussion of the Carmack Amendment may be found in Section 1.1.1 of "Freight Claims in Plain English" (3rd Ed. 1995).
Basically, Carmack applies to all interstate U.S. surface transportation, and to transportation from the U.S. to contiguous foreign countries (Canada and Mexico). There are a number of statutory and administrative exemptions, the most significant of which are: private carriage (Section 13505); transportation of agricultural commodities, transportation incidental to an air movement, and transportation within a commercial zone (Section 13506)
Only congress can make changes to this amendment, and, not surprisingly, the organized moving industry is begging them not to touch the Carmack. But, Florida has passed a Florida Mover Regulation Act after many fraudulent incidences had occurred.
...Under the Florida Mover Regulation Act, which goes into effect July 1, movers must deliver the consumer's belongings and put them into the home for the amount of the written estimate or face possible civil and felony charges.
Also, Movers would not be allowed to demand payment before delivery. They would have to register with the state and carry cargo insurance...
Law to rein in rogue movers - State clamps down to help consumers held hostage
by Wayne Price of Florida Today - April 19, 2002
...The bill that targets moving scams, H.B. 893, was presented on the Florida Senate floor late Tuesday by Sen. Skip Campbell of Fort Lauderdale.
It passed unanimously.
If the law is approved by the Gov. Jeb Bush, it would make it illegal for mover to fail to honor all provisions of the moving contract.
Also, it would be illegal to charge clients more than 10 percent above the cost of the estimate and to withhold delivery of household goods against the customer's wishes...
Reports Spark Moving Industry Legislation - Bill Passes Unanimously
by Local6.com - March 20, 2002
If you unfortunately find yourself in this situation, there are things you can do to help the situation. Get access to a computer, either your own, or through a library. Do the following:
h File a report with the Department of Transportation:
Toll Free: 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238)
U.S. Department Of Transportation
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Public And Consumer Affairs
Suite 600, 400 Virginia Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20024
The DOT is very aware of this problem:
h File a report with the National Bureau of Consumer Affairs:
Toll-Free: 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357)
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
h File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (even if they arent a participating business):
h File a complaint with the Attorney Generals Office in the state where the company resides. Refer to the following website with State Attorney General Listings:
h File for arbitration with the American Moving and Storage Association (if the company is a member):
American Moving and Storage Association
1611 Duke Street Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 683-7410 Fax: (703) 683-7527
h File a police report in the county where the moving address resides. Although many police departments won' touch the case because it is a civil matter, some may be willing to write up a theft report. Nothing may be done with this except provide exposure for you.
h Contact the IRS regarding fraudulent income activity, namely Illegal Source Financial Crimes. If the company uses cash or money order only terminology, report this as well. This may begin an investigation from the federal government side. Refer to the following:
IRS Criminal Investigation Communications and Education Division
Toll Free: 1-800-829-0433
h Contact congressmen in your area and the area where the company resides, and tell them your situation. This is how the Florida Mover Regulation Act was borne. Tell them you are trying to make your story public, and want to try to change the way legislation handles these situations:
You will need to know the zip code to search for. Use the zip code search engine at the United States Postal Service website, and enter the city and state of the movers business:
h Because of the amount of the widespread use of illegal aliens in this industry, contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and this may spark an investigation:
INS Customer Service Call Center
www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/alphaa.htm (here you choose your area then search for enforcement on the page
h Contact the courthouse in the county where the movers business resides, and ask how to file an Ex Parte Motion for the Injunctive Release of Goods, based on irreparable harm. If this terminology is unknown to the court representative, briefly describe the situation, and they may be able to guide you to what you need. If you cannot file this on your own, search for an attorney who can:
www.yellowpages.com (search for attorney for type of business, and search in the area where the movers business resides; then, look under the general category)
h Contact the television, radio, and newspaper media in your area and the area where the movers do business. Find a consumer advocate. Tell them your story. Report them to advocate websites. Try to get as public as possible, and someone may publish your story. This is the best way to inform others. Here are some websites to refer to:
How do I find a good mover?
h Know what your rights and responsibilities are when you are contracting with a mover. To obtain a copy of this booklet you can ask a moving company, contact a FMCSA office, or go to:
h Shop around for a mover well in advance of your moving day. Do ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. Do not make a decision based on the size of a Yellow Page advertisement. Remember - you are hiring a company to move your personal belongings, some of which may not ever be able to be replaced.
h Other websites to research for tips:
American Moving & Storage Association: www.moving.org
U.S. Postal Service - moving information: www.moversguide.com
h Do your research. Ask the company for references. Ask the company for their USDOT and MC number, their business license information, ID numbers, bonding numbers, etc.
h If they have Israeli names just dont use them V its not worth the risk. If you cant spot an Israeli name, find someone who can, or look at Hebrew baby name books or websites. If they give you American names (i.e. Tom, Ron, Marc, Steve, etc.), but they look or sound foreign, a search for their business agent with the Secretary of State as listed above may give you a clue.
h Contact the Secretary of State for the state their business resides in. Often they have business searches online where you can find the owners name, their state tax ID number, their acting agent, how long they have been in business, and whether they are still actively in business. Refer to this website for your states
h Check the Better Business Bureau in the area where their business resides, since there can be different BBB sites for different areas. This will tell you if they have complaints against them. Refer to the following website:
h Search for their USDOT number on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website:
h Go to the following websites and see if their names are on the list:
h Ask for their contract and review it. Look for things like cash or money order only, and payment must be received in full before items will be removed from the truck. Find their weighing policy, and make sure they will be weighing the truck before and after your items have been loaded.
h Have the estimate done in person. Be sure to show everything that is to be shipped. Alert the movers to any possible problems such as tight corners, steep stairs, etc. Ask the movers about packing your items yourself. Inflated packing material costs can add thousands of dollars to your bill.
h Get a binding estimate. A binding estimate may be higher, but there will be no surprises at the end of the move.
h Be sure you have enough insurance to cover your belongings.
h Read the Bill of Lading carefully before you sign it. Keep it, along with a list of valuable items, with you until the shipment is delivered, all charges are paid, and claims, if any, are settled.
h If a move goes bad and the consumer needs to retain an attorney to retrieve their household goods, every carrier and broker is required to have an agent for service of process in each state in which operations are conducted. A process agent is a carrier or broker's representative upon whom court papers may be served in any proceeding brought against them. If you choose to bring a civil action, contact your Secretary of State office for the processing agents name and contact information.
~ REMEMBER ~
It may cost you more in the beginning, but it ends up costing you less in the end.
Columbia, North CarolinaClick here to read other Rip Off Reports on National Moving Network and other various transport companies ripping off the consumerClick here to read other Rip Off Report list of other Moving Companies