The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has begun cracking down on unlicensed movers — hard. Earlier this month, the division sent investigators out to do a two-day sting operation in order to catch movers who were operating without a state license. While the initial sting uncovered 18 unlicensed vehicles, closer scrutiny showed that more than 30 moving companies were operating without licenses.
To snag the unlicensed movers, investigators responded to their listings on Craigslist and other free Internet classified ad sites. Investigators told movers that they were a father and daughter, and that they needed to move the daughter’s personal possessions. When movers arrived, their trucks were inspected for mechanical defects, while investigators worked with the state police to check driver and vehicle records. Records were also checked by the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates interstate moves.
Consumer Affairs investigators targeted free Internet classifieds because many movers advertising there are not professional movers, but have started working as movers in order to make ends meet after losing their jobs during the recession.
That was the case for Amine Jebali, an unemployed Jersey IT specialist, who told The Star Ledger, “I’m doing this on the side as a moving ‘helper’ to feed a pregnant wife and two-year-old child…I present myself as a ‘helper,’ not even a moving company.”
Not all movers caught in the licensing sting turned out to be unlicensed. Some arrived in trucks displaying license numbers with old expiration dates, but not all of those licenses were expired — some companies simply hadn’t received their updated tags in the mail yet.
“Unlicensed movers put consumers and their possessions at risk, since many do not have insurance,” Consumer Affairs Division director Thomas Calcagni commented to NorthJersey.com yesterday. “Other than a cell phone number, consumers may not know anything about an unlicensed mover. Licensure requires the mover to tell us who they are and where they are located.”
Nineteen movers were checked during the sting operation itself, and 15 more were fined based on having advertised their services.
New Jersey moving companies are required to renew their licenses once a year. To keep their licenses active, movers must have cargo liability insurance and must file their names and business locations with the state. They must also pay a $400 fee. Unlicensed movers snagged in the sting operation will be given a choice to comply with the licensing law and pay a $1,250 fee, or to request a hearing.