All their belongings and $9,000 missing. It happened to a Wisconsin family as they tried to quickly move to Florida.
TMJ4's I-Team found that it's happening across the country, and it's hard to catch. The family of six is now using camping equipment and some furniture they've purchased since moving. The kids are still waiting for their toys to arrive. All the company will tell them is that it's in Indianapolis.
Two months ago, Chris Baumann's family loaded most of what they owned on a truck. The truck left from Lake Mills, WI to their new home in Florida.
That's where Baumann talked to the I-Team via Skype.
"If I didn't have a headset on, you'd hear this house echoing. It's empty," he said.
That's because his belongings, and those of his wife and four children, still haven't arrived.
"Bear is an oversized pink teddy bear [our daughter] got from her grandma," explained Baumann. He said his daughter told him and his wife. "She'll be devastated.' I mean, we just started crying right there," he said.
It's the devastating reality of a family with a child in the hospital, who needed to move out of state before the start of a new school year.
"Dealing with her in the hospital, a very busy work time and, of course, the entire process of trying to sell a home and buy a home on the other side of the country all happening at the same time," describe Baumann of all the family was dealing with.
Baumann got two quotes. The one from Titan Moving and Storage was half what the other company wanted to charge. He checked reviews and even state consumer complaints.
"I believed that they must have been legitimate because they were from all over the place, a variety of different stories, glowing reports I went to yelp, a couple of others, everything looked great," he said.
Here's what Baumann missed. There is more than one Titan Moving and Storage.
The one Baumann used is in Chantilly, Virginia. It has a string of one star Yelp reviews, some of which call the company a "scam."
The other Titan Moving and Storage, in Alexandria, Virginia, has very good reviews.
"They have everything you own. It's like a home invasion," explained Jim Tremmer from the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. He tells the I-Team fraudulent moving company complaints are on the rise.
"All scams work on you thinking with your emotions instead of your thoughts and there are some things you should be looking for," he said.
Here's what he recommends:
- Get three in-person estimates
- Have a written contract
- Check references
- Ask for the business' insurance information.
Baumann thought he was taking the right steps. He had a contract and an inventory list. But, looking back he recognizes some red flags. For starters, he said the movers showed up and doubled his quote.
"I don't know why I didn't stop the train right there, I should have. Because 5 weeks earlier, they told me they own all their own trucks," said Baumann. "The back of their shirt just said moving crew. and they were in a Penske truck," he said of the crew that showed up.
The movers also required cash or a money order. Baumann chose to believe the best at the time.
The I-Team's Casey Geraldo asked Baumann if he thinks he'll get his stuff back.
"I'm optimistic because I have found many other victims of this organization and some of them have had their stuff delivered, all of them late, almost all of them late, most of them damaged and in many cases some stuff stolen," he said.
The I-Team called the company. A woman who answered claims the company spoke with someone Thursday about Baumann.
She said "We gave them all the information. Our dispatch department has been in touch with Mr. Baumann. They've coordinated where he's picking up his own items."
Baumann said he's still waiting on an address for his belongings. The company hung up on the I-Team when we challenged them on the discrepancies. They didn't answer a call back.
Baumann filed multiple federal complaints and has involved local law enforcement to get his stuff back. Federal investigators couldn't confirm an investigation.
The company isn't charged with any crimes at this time. The I-Team did locate several other similar cases in which federal investigators charged companies for moving schemes.
RED FLAGS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Not accepting credit card
- No in-person evaluation
- Trucks without company branding
- Invalid physical address
- Demanding large amounts of money prior to the move