Mover Gets Hired on the Spot, Gets Right to Work as a Thief

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Gail Valente didn’t know she was sending a convicted felon out on a job. But when two of her movers failed to show up for work, the owner of Rex Moving in St. Petersburg, Florida was in a tight spot.

“I can do that,” said Charles Worden, who was doing construction work on her house at the time. “I’ve done it many times.”

Gail agreed and Charles got right to work, pilfering Beth Benson and, it seems, several other Rex Moving customers.

The interesting thing is that Ms. Valente apparently found out about the thefts before her customers knew what was going on. Her first move? Alerting the authorities. Her next move? Calling her customers to let them know they’d been robbed. That’s both a bold and humbling thing to have to do.

Luckily, the items were recovered.

Ms. Valente tells WFTS in Tampa Bay that she runs background checks on all her employees. That may be true. But in a pinch, she made the decision to send someone into a customer’s home without knowing much about him. Maybe this was the first time she ever had. It will likely be her last. 

Something to keep in mind when you are vetting a crew that you hope garners you sterling reviews.

Want Your Stuff in Self-Storage to Be Safe? Here’s What You Need to Ask

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Category: Self Storage

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Imagine you’re standing outside a self-storage facility. What do you see in front of you? Thick-walled buildings with metal doors bolted and locked up tight? Security cameras? Access code keypads? A tall fence with iron spikes? Heavy front gates and a sign warning would-be burglars about the 24-hour surveillance system?

All self-storage facilities have … some of this stuff. Some places have all of it and even more, providing maybe some peace of mind to anyone storing there.

That’s the idea anyway. But that’s not how it always works.

Colorado’s KDVR News tells us that a certain Denver-area self-storage facility has been burglarized at least fifteen times since January of 2017. That’s right, fifteen! (Which is exactly how many games the Cleveland Browns have won since January of 2013.) From the report,

“In many of the cases, the locks had been cut off and people renting the units weren’t aware their things had been stolen until Public Storage alerted them.

One renter told us he lost everything from leather chairs to sports equipment in February while another renter even lost her deceased parents ashes.

Another man lost $8,000 in items.”

The facility in question? They have iron gates that will not open without the required code. They have surveillance cameras in place. Some of the units are located along the interior corridors of the restricted-access building, providing an even extra layer of security.

So how does even one theft occur, let alone fifteen thefts?

For starters, in at least one instance the facility’s security cameras were, according to the police reports, “not plugged in.” In many instances, the locks on the doors to the burglarized units had been cut, which requires nothing more sophisticated than a stout pair of bolt cutters.

But come on … fifteen times?

We see two possible explanations. Someone who is renting a unit, and therefore has the necessary codes to get into the place, is going in at night (or maybe even the middle of the day) and popping other people’s locks. Assuming the facility’s management is interested in putting a stop to things, they would have checked their security footage and shared what they saw with the authorities.

In terms of that place in Denver, according to KDVR’s report, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Which leads us to our second possibility: the series of thefts could just be an inside job by anyone from a low paid employee to a corrupt head of the company.

No, we don’t have proof of either of these happening at the facility in question, and we aren’t making any direct accusations here. Maybe there are a couple of guys out there who are really good at hopping fences and slipping into locked buildings – and then slipping back out and hopping back over the fence carrying their loot which, in one of those cases, included leather chairs. I’m just saying.

So how can we protect our stored belongings when we don’t even know who we’re protecting it from?

The simple answer to how to best protect yourself is to eliminate as many potential culprits as humanly possible. Look for these things in mass in a self-storage facility:

  • Serious exterior security
  • High fences with iron spikes
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Code-controlled gates and doorways

But even these offer varying degrees of security. Questions to consider include: Do the cameras record grainy still-shots of moving objects or HD video resolution? Is the footage monitored in real time by a human being (who is not sleeping) or does it just get stored somewhere until a theft has already occurred? Are the codes for the gates and doorways changed regularly? Is each customer assigned a unique code to detail who has come and gone when?

You should even ask if a facility records the license plates of vehicles entering and exiting the premises, or whether they check photo IDs of people on their way in. Also, is there is a backup power supply for all those codes and cameras in case of an outage? Don’t be shy about asking such questions. These are things you are paying money for and need to know.

What else should I know?

Other important variables (which you don’t even have to ask about) include

  • If the facility is well-lit at night
  • If the facility is located in a higher-crime area
  • What the surrounding environment consists of, such as, does it stand in developed suburbia or out in a landscape of abandoned lots and industrial parks?

There are also things you can do yourself to decrease your chances of being victimized. Using a lock the facility provides may be convenient, but your better bet is to get your own lock. Law enforcement types and criminals alike will tell you that a padlock is no match for the well-equipped thief. A disc lock or a cylinder lock (if the facility can accommodate one) is much more difficult to cut.

While we don’t recommend it, if you must put certain valuable or irreplaceable items into storage, put them in the rear of your unit to make them less visible and thus less vulnerable. And for the protection of everything you are storing, be aware that while a self-storage provider may offer some kind of coverage against fire, flood or catastrophe, they are under no legal obligation to do so. What’s more, they will, by and large, refuse to be held accountable for any loss due to theft. Most facilities will require renters to have their own insurance policy for their belongings, but your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, even if it covers stored items, may not allow for reimbursement for items damaged by mold, mildew or infestation, regardless of who may be at fault.

And finally, do a little searching at home.

A quick Internet query may turn up some bad news about the self-storage facility that looked so good in person. Now, whether one incident at this or that place may not be grounds for outright rejection in your book. That’s your call. But fifteen thefts in ten months?

You might want to keep on searching.

Identity Theft Is A Serious Risk for Moving Companies

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Last month, an Atlanta man hired a random moving company he found online, put down a deposit for his move, and …

You know where this is going.

The “company” the man hired, he soon found out, was not a real moving company. It was a scam website that used the name of a real moving company located across the country in California. This scam website, the victim told Atlanta’s WSB-TV, even linked to the real company they alleged to be’s website.

The only victim, in this case, was the man who hired the scammers—a man who happened to be a lawyer with the skills and resources to get his money back. Meanwhile, the real moving company out in California would have had no idea what was happening if the man hadn’t reached out to them. But things could have turned out much differently. They usually do.

What do they do?

We see it all the time: someone sets up a phony moving company using a real moving company’s name to appear legitimate, then proceeds to swindle people out of their money, not only by charging a deposit for their non-existent services, but by using the victim’s credit card information to make additional charges. Or in some cases, just go shopping.

But the scam can also affect the moving company whose name has been stolen. Victims can start posting bad reviews on the real moving company’s Yelp page, filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau, or even contacting law enforcement authorities in an effort to get their money back while trying to make sure no one else uses these “scammers”. The effects for the legitimate moving company can be devastating.

How do they do it?

All businesses have an Employee Identification Number, or EIN, which works sort of like a social security number. These numbers are a matter of public record and are readily obtainable, sometimes even online. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that this right here can cause problems.

But that’s not the only piece of your company’s identity floating around out there; Besides your company name, address and phone number being readily available, some states require businesses to display their business license on the wall of their establishment, with their state registration information framed and hung for all to see.

With any of these few bits of information – printed out on a copy of your company letterhead, an extra nice touch as The Balance explains – it can be fairly easy for a person to set up a line of credit in your company’s name.

The savvier scammers out there even know how to change the information on your state registration files, one of the many additional schemes that Business ID Theft tells us to look out for. Spend some time reading through the various steps you can take to protect yourself and your company.

While you’re at it, check this page to review your business filings, and make sure you’ve kept up to date with all the required paperwork.

Here are some simple things you can do to prevent company identity theft:

  • Run periodic credit checks on your company
  • Read through your monthly credit card and bank statements carefully
  • Check Yelp for any false reviews
  • Be aware of your social media presence. Who’s posting what about you or what’s on your own Facebook page
  • Monitor your BBB rating if you are an active member
  • Set up a Google Alert for your own company’s name
  • Simply Google your company name every once in a while

Making sure you don’t end up with a sullied reputation is, sadly, a part of doing business. But you’ve worked hard to build up your business and your good name. Take the necessary steps to make sure no one out there destroys it.

Burglaries Inside Storage Units Are Becoming Common, but Can Be Avoided

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[Synopsis: In developing business relationships, quality is just as important as quantity.]

In our very first HireAHelper newsletter (Anyone out there remember?) we raised the idea of making friends with the folks at your local self-storage facility to develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. At any time of the year (and particularly during the busy season when so many people are coming and going) having a solid working situation with your industry colleagues can pay huge dividends.

But it also pays to know who you are shaking hands with. In any industry and profession, you are going to run across some bad eggs. The moving industry is certainly no exception. And neither is the self-storage sector.

Recent events in Independence, MO and Santa Cruz, CA remind us of this.

There in Independence, multiple break-ins of storage units left several customers feeling shaken and unsure of the industry.

“I always thought that if you put your things in something like that you are trusting those people to have security and watch over your stuff,” Hall said. “They just don’t.”

The situation repeated itself in Santa Cruz, CA. Dozens of customers had their valuables rummaged through and stolen, and multiple people were found living inside the storage units. That storage unit was eventually inspected by the city Planning Department and declared a public nuisance, but not before plenty of people got burned.

disclockTips such as not storing more than $5,000 in goods, purchasing insurance and using disc locks are offered when people get victimized. But the onus should ultimately fall on us within the industry for referring quality and safe services, as opposed to consistently pushing for maximum quantity. The latter is how we destroy our brand as an industry.

Business is all about relationships. And success in business is all about successful relationships. Successful relationships, in turn, require integrity and clarity from both sides of that handshake. If you hear there have been issues with a storage area, if you are dubious of your local storage units after seeing them, or if you are simply cramming as many customers into one place of business as possible, consider finding more alternatives.

As we continue down the roads of our own success, picking up people along the way, it’s important to remember to choose our friends – and our allies and business associates – wisely.

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