Imagine moving a few blocks and being charged $5,000 by the moving company. It happened to a Houston family who's now warning about what they're calling a "moving scam."
Van Tran thought she was getting a good deal by hiring a moving company she found on Craigslist to help move her parents. A company called Miracle Movers had an ad offering the services of two men and a truck for $34.95 per hour with no hidden costs.
But when Tran inked the contract, she found herself stuck with a decision between paying exorbitant extra fees or risk the company confiscating her parent's belongings and selling them.
"These are not movers, these are criminals," said Tran. "I've never been upset, angry and scared like this in my whole life."
Hidden in the small print was an $80 charge to wrap items in plastic. The company wrapped everything, including many items Tran had told the movers not to. It was all loaded into a Budget truck.
When the movers refused to unload Tran's parent's belongings until Tran paid the $5,000, she called the cops. However, Tran said the police told her since she signed a contract they could do nothing to help.
Tran eventually agreed to pay $1,000 and give the company a washer/dryer combo and a laptop.
"I'm not upset that we lost $1,000. But I'm upset that they can rob us legally in the daylight in front of the cops," said Tran.
Worse yet, Tran said the movers damaged furniture. Now, the owner is MIA.
Tran said the owner she originally talked with called himself Alvin Jones and reported being from somewhere in Washington State. Calls to the number he provided Tran now go straight to voicemail. Jones also failed to return a message 39 News left two days before the publication of this story.
"Unfortunately the problem with a lot of these movers who aren't registered is that they're basically working out of the back of a truck and they're changing their names all the time," said Monica Russo, an investigator with the Better Business Bureau.
Miracle Movers has indeed disappeared from Craig's list, but the people from the company aren't gone. According to Tran, they've since called to threaten her for posting internet warnings against the company.
The threats have prompted her to buy a shotgun.
"So if they come back to retaliate against us at least we can protect ourselves," she said.
Now, she's telling her story in hopes of protecting others.
According to the BBB, any legitimate mover should be registered with the State of Texas as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation. To check on a mover's legal status, go to www.protectyourmove.gov.