She paid movers over $1,000 to move to Lincoln; they never showed up | crimes-and-courts

JENNA THOMPSON Lincoln Journal Star

When 24-year-old Lauren Vlach traded the country music, barbecue and cowboy boots of Tennessee for the rolling Great Plains, she was nervous.

Nashville is nearly 750 miles from Lincoln. The distance presented a challenge to safely and affordably transport their personal belongings.

As a new mover, she wanted to hire an assistant but was on a tight budget with medical bills and student loans.

Vlach found a website that offered her quotes from a number of moving companies. All that was needed to get an estimate was her phone number.

“It was a very mindless, quick thing when I entered the information,” she said. “I was just curious to see how much it costs.”

What Vlach didn’t know was that one of the companies she contacted – the company she eventually chose – had been rated an “F” by the Better Business Bureau and had a history of cheating its customers.

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Vlach would become his latest victim.

She is not alone. In 2021, Lincoln-area customers filed 1,100 complaints against movers with the Better Business Bureau.

“It’s a very personal and tragic situation for any victim of fraud for any amount of money,” said Josh Planos, vice president of communications at the Better Business Bureau.

After paying a $1,050 deposit, Vlach stopped hearing from the company. On the day of the move, the trucks never arrived.

Vlach rented a U-Haul and made it himself, making an already expensive endeavor even more expensive.

“I was hit financially from all sides just last month,” she said. “Right now I’m on the verge of real credit card debt and it’s really annoying.”

She tried to cancel the moving service – she even contacted her credit card company – but the money was lost.

Planos, who said 40% of moves take place between May and August, warned that move scams are becoming more common.

Consumers should protect themselves from potential scams by doing their research before hiring a mover, he said.

He said customers should make sure a mover has an actual address and brick-and-mortar facility. He also warned to avoid movers who arrive in unmarked trucks on moving day. They are known to load the floats and are never seen again.

Planos recommends Googling the company name followed by the keyword “scam” to see if other customers have flagged the company as fraudulent. Googling a business can lead to fake reviews, which Vlach learned while trying to research her scammer.

Vlach is just one in a long line of people who have fallen for moving scams.

Last April, Emily Engelbert and her family moved to Lincoln from Edmond, Oklahoma but, like Vlach, were forced to relocate themselves after being cheated on.

Engelbert became suspicious that her moving company was improper when she couldn’t remember the day of the move. Then, without warning, the move’s price doubled to $4,400.

After receiving payment, the movers didn’t respond to her calls — until moving day, when they said they were on their way, just as Engelbert and her family had finished packing their U-Haul and were on their way to Lincoln.

She told them, “Turn around, we’ve already left.”

She lost the money, but the movers had no chance of stealing her stuff, she said. After delving deeper into the company, she found customers who claimed they never received their items.

Englebert said she would no longer use movers unless there was a recommendation from a reliable source or it was a local company.

“I would do a lot more research than we did with this place,” she said.

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