YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Independent home movers from Cliffside Park and Guttenberg were among more than two dozen charged with operating without a license, as part of an undercover state crackdown targeting those operating illegally. State Police were waiting at a self-storage facility and literally picked off targets as they showed up for what they thought were moving jobs.
One “borrowed a P.C. Richard & Son delivery truck without telling his bosses, who came and got their vehicle. Another was arrested by state troopers on an outstanding warrant and was turned over to federal immigration officials. Two tried to run but were trapped in a parking lot.
All 25 face fines of up to $2,500 each, which would be halved if they apply for licensing within 30 days of when they received summonses. Seventeen of them actually showed up at the sting site in South Jersey.
We’ve all heard stories about unscrupulous independent contractors charging outrageous sums, refusing to pay for lost or damaged furniture or impounding your valuables until you pay an additional fee. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is trying to flush those out, with help from the New Jersey State Police, through “Operation Mother’s Attic.”
In a four-day sting last week, Consumer Affairs investigators posed as consumers who needed to move personal items out of storage and into a house. They booked appointments with unlicensed movers who advertised on Craigslist or other websites.
Of the 25 unlicensed movers who were contacted, 17 moving companies responded by sending workers to a self-storage facility in Bridgewater – and into the waiting arms of DCA investigators and State troopers, who checked driver and vehicle records, and inspected trucks for mechanical defects.
“Last year alone, the Division of Consumer Affairs received nearly 160 consumer complaints against moving companies,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “In many instances, predatory movers arbitrarily jacked up the total cost of a move by as much as 1000 percent over bogus estimates, and then held hostage consumers’ belongings until the outrageous billing demands were met.”
Under State law, the DCA must license all movers who operate from one point to another in New Jersey. The movers also must protect consumers’ goods by maintaining cargo liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance. Licensed companies must also maintain a bona fide business address in New Jersey, and they must provide consumers with a written estimate of the cost of the move.
“According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, over 37 million people across the country change residences each year,” Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “Our laws are designed to ensure that those who entrust their moves to companies operating within our state, don’t fall prey to fly-by-night operators who have little regard for consumers or their cherished belongings.”
Calcagni added: “The bad actors don’t just harm consumers – they harm the reputation of an entire industry. By requiring movers to be licensed, we’re requiring accountability.”
Those who dispatched workers to the Bridgewater self-storage area included Fedaa Elabed, advertising as “Mike,” of Cliffside Park, and Andres “Daniel” Acosta, advertising of Guttenburg, DCA officials said.
The others include House Movers and Ortiz Trucking, both of Jersey City; and Best Movers and Stress Less Moving, of New York, NY.
Also: Frank Wood Transportation, of Bordentown: Helping 2 Move, of Bayonne; H.P. Vandevere & Son, of Roselle; JC’s Moving, of Sewell; Just In Time Moving & Delivery, of Westhampton; Mighty Men Movers, of Maple Shade; Stevenson’s Movers, of East Orange; A Van and a Hand, of North Plainfield; Van Express, of Glen Ridge; Victor “James” Csik, of Asbury Park.
Premiere Relocation Services of Edison is licensed but was cited for using the PR Richard truck.
Seven other companies who advertised for moving work but did not send workers to the self-storage facility will also receive summonses, a DCA spokesman said.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs provides tips that include:
- Call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846 to learn whether the mover you’re considering is licensed. Be sure to ask whether consumer complaints have been filed against the mover.
- Be sure to obtain a written estimate from the mover you select. The cost can be estimated on an hourly rate, the rate of your shipment and miles traveled, or by cubic measurement.
- Never pack jewelry, money, or valuable papers with your stuff. The mover is not responsible for items of extraordinary value.
- Be sure to check your goods as they are being delivered. If loss or damage is discovered, notify the mover immediately. A damage claim can be filed up to 90 days after the move date.
- Unless you purchase additional coverage, the mover is required to compensate you only up to 60 cents per pound, per article, for damages.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website: www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov. Or call 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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