Are Thieves Targeting Rented Moving Trucks for People's Precious Valuables Inside?
Authorities are warning people that moving trucks have become a target for thieves. It happened to Ben and Kassandra Benton, who woke up after stopping at a hotel for the night to find that all their possessions, including their son's urn, were gone.
With thousands of Americans having moved during the pandemic, many turned to rental trucks to help them transport their belongings.
But authorities are warning people that the well-marked vans and trucks have become a target for brazen thieves, who are not just after the vehicles themselves, but mostly the treasure trove of valuables families have boxed up inside.
Don Reid and Miranda Justice tell Inside Edition they were moving from Alaska to Florida when the truck they were using to transport their belongings was stolen from a Washington hotel parking lot where they had stopped for the night.
Surveillance video shows the moment the thief started pulling away. Inside the lobby, the manager noticed something was wrong. A hotel worker even tried chasing down the truck in his own van, but the thieves got away.
Police later found the truck abandoned, but all the contents inside had been rummaged through, bodycam video shows.
“How can people be so awful?” Don said. “We had boxes packed to the roof, all the way to the back of the truck, and they went through every single box, opened it up. Anything that was worth the value they took out. The rest of it they dumped on the floor.”
Georgia police investigator Steven Fields says most of the heists happen at hotels when families stop overnight while moving across the country.
“The U-Hauls are able to be manipulated, where they can get hot-wired very easily and they're gone within a matter of minutes,” Fields said.
Once the bad guys spot a moving van, they wait until dark to strike.
It happened to Ben and Kassandra Benton, who say they woke up to find the truck packed with just about all their possessions had been stolen.
Worst of all, inside the truck was an urn containing their son’s ashes, which was never found, Kassandra said.
“You don’t wish it on anybody. Losing the ashes, going through all that all over again was horrible," Don said.
To try and protect your belongings, police recommend a steering wheel lock to deter criminals. You can also invest in a small GPS device to assist in tracking down your truck.
In a statement, U-Haul says: "We sympathize when any customer is a victim of theft. When our customers are victimized by criminals, U-Haul is likewise victimized and share in their frustration. We employ a robust investigations unit that works closely with law enforcement in the tracking down of these criminals to ensure their prosecution. U-Haul directly assisted federal and local authorities just last [month] in the successful capture of the New York City subway shooter who had rented a cargo van in Philadelphia. U-Haul has assisted numerous customers over the years in recovering their stolen belongings, and regularly assists law enforcement and prosecutors when our equipment falls victim to criminals.”
U-Haul also advises customers to proactively take the following steps to reduce the risk of equipment and property theft when moving:
- <em>Always park in well-lit areas and within view of security cameras. </em>
- <em>Do not leave keys in the truck where others can access them. </em>
- <em>Lock doors to the truck cab and place secure locks on the rear cargo doors of your truck and/or trailer. (U-Haul sells these locks at all its stores.)</em>
- <em>Place secure locks on the chains connecting your personal vehicle or moving truck to your trailer so the chains cannot be easily disconnected. (U-Haul sells these locks at all its stores.)</em>
- <em>Back up your moving truck or trailer to a garage, wall or other solid barrier so that possessions cannot be unloaded without the equipment being moved. </em>
- <em>Avoid leaving your moving truck or trailer parked and unattended in areas of town where crime is prevalent. </em>
- <em>Avoid loading your possessions into your truck or trailer and leaving it parked and unattended at any time, particularly overnight, if this can be helped. </em>
- <em>Do not lend the equipment to anyone who is not an authorized driver on the contract or provide the keys to someone you do not know. </em>
- <em>Follow precisely U-Haul instructions for equipment pick-up and return. </em>
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