Ultimate Van Lines Holds Belongings Hostage

Dear Consumerist,

We hired Ultimate Van lines, based in Dallas, TX, in April 2008, to transport our furniture and other household property from Fortville, IN to Lake Forest, CA, with an estimated delivery time of 7-10 days after pickup. Pickup in Fortville, IN occurred on 4/29/08. They have still not delivered our property to us as of 5/24/08.

They have stonewalled us in our attempts to contact them (they did not answer their phone, or return phone or email messages the first week). They have offered multiple excuses as to why our items have not arrived. They will not divulge the location of our property so that we can go reclaim it. They seem to change the rules of our contract every time we call. They are not consistent in how they explain how their company works or why this delay has occurred. They claim not to receive faxes, emails and phone messages from us regarding payment of our final balance. We are concerned that our property has been stolen from us and that we may never see it again.

I have filed cases with the Better Business Bureau of Dallas and the National Consumer Complaint Database. The police in Lake Forest and Orange County do not seem to know who to refer me to. I faxed the FBI on Saturday in the hopes that they might help us. At least the FBI seems willing to review our case.

We have lost thousands of dollars worth of property; besides furniture, appliances, and clothing, we have lost memorabilia and some financial records.

What is more, my children (my daughter: 3 years old, and my son: 7 weeks old) are sleeping on the floor while they wait for their beds to arrive. We purchased cheap air mattresses in Wal-mart’s camping section. My son no longer has a crib, because Ultimate Van Lines never delivered it.

There is evidence that Ultimate Van Lines has perpetrated this scam before on the internet. Unfortunately it was only after we realized there was a problem that we located poor reviews of them online. Customers at ripoffreport.com, my3cents.com, and movingscam.com reported their property being held hostage and cash amounts extorted from them upon delivery.

Please help ensure that Ultimate Van Lines is not free to victimize other customers in the future. We’ve already paid thousands of dollars to relocate to California, and if we hire a lawyer to litigate our case, we will have to pay thousands more. We just want our things back.

I am appalled about all I’ve learned regarding moving companies and their scams since this happened to us. Those who perpetrate these crimes really seem to operate above the law. I’ve heard that the police are powerless to help when movers hold property hostage and extort money from their victims. I want to help put a stop to at least one company making money this way.

- Heather C.

And that’s why you want to check out a moving company’s reputation BEFORE you sign up with them.

How To Avoid Moving Scams
How To Find a Reputable Mover
Things To Know Before You Freight Ship
8 Tips From A Moving Company
Trouble With Your Movers? Call The Department Of Weights And Measures!

But that’s not going to help you out of your current predicament. You want to contact the California Public Utilities Commission, which has jurisdiction over moving companies in California.

Comments

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  1. jchabotte says:

    Step 1: Go to whatever local office you can find
    Step 2: call the police and “report a murder”
    step 3: ???
    Step 4: Get your stuff back.

  2. heavylee-again says:

    Damn, that sucks. But I think you’ve done well, Heather, at contacting law enforcement to get them involved. Is there a way to report your property stolen so that they can be charged with transporting stolen property across state lines? That way you can get other LE agencies involved, possibly threatening their TX/US DOT licenses.

    Possible contact info:
    Mrs. Yaara Bachar-Wolpers, President
    YEARA26@HOTMAIL.COM

    ‘Tina’ may be a manager there.

    Wow, one rip-off report says that a driver tried to rape a female customer when delivering her belongings!

    Hehe, from their website, “At Ultimate Van Lines, our credo has always been Honesty, Professionalism, Reliability, and Accountability.”

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    ugh, moving lines are the scourge of the earth. hired a dc-based moving company to deliver our stuff to NYC and it was a major ordeal. They definitely have you by the balls.

  4. Crymson_77 says:

    I think contacting the FBI was your best course of action. Since the crime is across state lines, it is therefor federal and falls under their purvue. I would highly recommend contacting the AG from each state they were likely to pass through transporting your items and inform them of the issue. Contacting the state police from each state may also help. Bring down the dragnet on ‘em!!!

  5. ARP says:

    What about your contract? What does it say? I know you may not be a lawyer, but you should look through that thing again to see what your rights are. You may have signed up for Arbitration, agreed to extended delivery times, have a limit of damages or replacement value, etc.

  6. GrandizerGo says:

    @jchabotte:
    And face prosecution for filing a false police report…

    Rolls eyes at stupid comments…

  7. ninabi says:

    I read that using the charge of “racketeering” works. The biggest problem is that no one seems to know where or what charges can be filed because the problem crosses state lines.

    Here’s a link to an article about a woman who was able to file charges

    [www.movingscam.com]

  8. Fawkes says:

    Wow,looks like they messed with the wrong lady!

    from the BBB website:

    BBB Accreditation Status

    On May 20, 2008 the accreditation was suspended due to failure to respond to one or more customer complaints filed with the BBB. The matter will be reviewed by BBB’s Board of Directors at its next meeting.

  9. Laffy Daffy says:

    Moving scams are quite common. Low initial charges followed up by considerable unexpected back-end fees — and if you don’t pay, you don’t get your stuff. Jurisdiction falls between a lot of cracks. The police won’t do anything because it’s usually considered a civil dispute; there are federal agencies oversee the movers but can’t enforce any rules because of the way the law is written. It’s really sad.

  10. ElijahDProphet says:

    When we moved from Albuquerque, NM to South Bend, IN we didn’t use a moving company, we used a freight company. Loading and unloading the truck ourselves was a little rough, but these companies have been around for 30+ years so we felt fairly confident using them. We had great service from ABF/Upack, they were really helpful when our destination address changed while our stuff was in transit.

  11. TangDrinker says:

    Until you get your stuff back, Heather, you might want to check out Freepeats – I believe there is one in the LA region (not sure how far that is from where you’re living, but someone might be willing to help you out with shipping) – it’s a great source for free baby/kids gear.

    [freepeats.org]

    good luck with all this.

  12. Nighthawke says:

    Go with a name brand mover like United Van Lines. Or, rent a Pod or cargo module, then draft/invite/bribe some of your friends of relatives to help out in loading it up.

  13. laserjobs says:

    I have used ABF self pack systems to another country and they were fantastic. From all the stories I have heard about moving companies, I also prefer using a freight company.

  14. tptcat says:

    Ughh…what a nightmare. I hope this gets resolved in Heather’s favor and that the moving company gets what they have coming to them.

    Last year my wife and I moved from Rochester, NY to Austin, TX and I was dreading finding a moving company. After searching Consumerist and the moving scam site, it appeared that United would be a good choice. In the end, they far exceeded my expectations. They were very thorough, they stuck to their contract (they refunded me money because the actual weight of our goods were less than estimated), they very communicative.

    I can’t speak for all the United branches, but the Rochester, NY branch is great. Some of the best customer service I’ve ever received in any industry.

  15. Wormfather says:

    Well, looks like we finally have our first valid lawsuit since Mr. Firedog Cameraphone streaming in the bathroom case.

  16. Pylon83 says:

    Seriously, now is not the time to be cheap and try to save a buck by not hiring an attorney. They have had your stuff for a month, the police won’t help, you’ve already spent thousands on the move, and they have thousands of dollars worth of your stuff. Hire an attorney and drag them into court.

  17. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    I handled one of these cases at the last law firm I worked at. It’s much more common than you think. Sadly the BBB won’t do much. I would see if you could find a lawyer to do it on a *contingency* basis. There is a strong argument for the movers paying your legal fees if in fact they are completely wrongful in their actions, so go for it, what do you have to lose? At least filing an emergency petition will get their attention and possibly get them to re-think their position.

  18. wooblocks says:

    This contact info was offered at
    [www.movingscam.com]

    and at:
    [ecpa.cpa.state.tx.us]

    Name: Ultimate Van Lines
    Phone: (954) 548-0050
    Address: 2929 Wycliff Ave Apt 2122
    Dallas, TX 75219-6649
    Original Business Start Date: April 2006
    Principal: Mrs. Yaara Bachar-Wolpers, President
    Customer Contact: Mrs. Yaara Bachar-Wolpers, President
    TOB Classification: Movers, Moving Services-Labor & Materials, Moving Supplies
    Additional company management personnel include: Mr. Leyor Iulius – CEO

    Hope it helps. No personal contact info available for Bachar-Wolpers or Iulius.

  19. Skankingmike says:

    lesson learned here is if you’re too lazy to move the stuff yourself then you shouldn’t move

    or you need to buy a gun and start raising hell this companies office.

    either way.

  20. allstarecho says:

    Actually, a call to the company’s home state road weights and measurements department will get the stuff back. All states have one and it may be through the state’s department of transportation or through the state’s highway patrol. Once they get involved, this hits the carrier where it hurts.. their ability to use the roads.

  21. silver-spork says:

    Nationally, United Van Lines seems to be good but sometimes they use local affiliates. Never use Black Hawk Moving and Storage (Chicago-area affiliate). They “stored” our stuff for weeks, then “lost” several items. Then we got letters for months from the company asking if they had mistakenly delivered other peoples’ items to our house.

    This move was a corporate move (free to us), but if we move again, we will move ourselves.

  22. Petaluma says:

    The particular government agency you seek is the ..
    Office of Compliance and Consumer Assistance

    [www.stb.dot.gov]

    Either way it is a federal offense so you should get some action.
    Remember that “mandatory carrier insurance”(that is required by law) is at most .40 to .60 cents per pound per item. Good for the marble statue sucks for your antique china.

  23. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    This is when you set agree to give them more money, then show up with a gun. Sure, it may be a bit more dramatic than necessary, but so so satisfying.

  24. heavylee-again says:

    @Skankingmike:

    lesson learned here is if you’re too lazy to move the stuff yourself then you shouldn’t move

    or you need to buy a gun and start raising hell this companies office.

    either way.

    What an asinine comment. It would be totally impractical for many people that have a mid-sized house (or larger) and especially those with small kids to move themselves. Then add in a long-distance move, and it amplifies the nonsense of it. Money spent on a good moving company is often well spent.

    And yeah, setting yourself up for a felony arrest by threatening people with a gun is a great way to make the situation better.

  25. tptcat says:

    @Skankingmike: You’re an idiot. I don’t think I need to explain why. Your comment speaks for itself.

  26. Wormfather says:

    @heavylee-again: You may want to have your sarcasm meter looked at, it may still be underwarranty.

  27. Skankingmike says:

    LOL thanks @Wormfather:

    Though i still think it’s lazy to not move yourself my parents did it, I’ve done it. It’s called friends and family you should get some they help you move, rent a truck or trucks and whammy you’re moved! i know it’s hard to grasp but yes some people don’t have the money for or trust moving companies.

  28. MissTic says:

    There is some good info here too – [www.protectyourmove.gov]

  29. mthrndr says:

    I got burned by a moving company four years ago. Never hire a moving company without researching them first. If they show up with a non-branded truck, don’t let them in your house. If the deal seems to good to be true, IT IS. There is no ‘probably’ about it. Fortunately, I got my stuff back after the FBI found it in a storage locker (but not without first banging heads with the storage company, since my name wasn’t on the ‘lease’). The company has since disappeared, after the owner fled to Israel, but not without first burning 125 families.

  30. mthrndr says:

    @Fawkes: The BBB is worthless. All they’ll do is post that ‘accreditation’ nonsense. They have no legal say and they probably never reviewed this company in the first place. Don’t bother with the BBB.

  31. orielbean says:

    I hate packing a truck yourself as typically you don’t load the truck correctly, and you end up with a lot of damaged stuff at the end of a cross-country jaunt.

  32. ShreeThunderbird says:

    We didn’t deal with Ultimate Van Lines, but had a bad experience with
    another moving company when we moved from California to Idaho three
    years ago. Our fault was in believing that a company advertising on a
    legitimate web site would also be legitimate. Not so. We later
    discovered online the moving company had a terrible reputation and
    had it’s interstate license revoked more than once. It was also
    revoked during our dealings with them. I won’t go into a lot of
    detail here. We only had the company move and store furniture and
    shop equipment that was to bulky or heavy for us to do. The company
    required two trips to deliver about half of our furniture. On each
    trip most of the van was filled with other customer’s furniture.
    Several furniture items were damaged beyond repair. One specific
    piece of shop equipment was worth $3200.00 new – we have never
    received it. Needless to say we had many phone conversations with
    these people and heard many empty promises. Finally, we looked into
    legal help. Apparently the federal laws regulating interstate movers
    were written by moving companies because they are very anti-consumer.
    State agencies will not or cannot deal with these companies no matter
    where their offices are located. Finally, the movers turned our
    “case” over to some supposed arbitration company who offered us a
    settlement based on an inaccurate estimate of the weight of the
    missing items. The offer was for $165.00.

  33. Skankingmike says:

    @orielbean: thats when you know people who are engineers or perfectionists (usually the same person :P)

    they do that for you.

  34. sea0tter12 says:

    I had heard so many horror stories like this that when we moved from Virginia to North Carolina, I hired a moving company to come pack our UHaul (to prevent damage and lift the heavy stuff we couldn’t), then we drove it to NC. Then I talked a bunch of my burly cousins and family members in NC to come help unload. Best move ever — our stuff never left our sight, and it wasn’t just me and my husband trying to lift everything.

  35. chewiemeat says:

    Movers suck.

    Grabel Van Lines moved me across the country and initially quoted one price on an estimation of a certain weight and space requirement in their trucks. After they delivered everything and left I later received a bill for more than DOUBLE the amount I was quoted. If your entire business is centered around estimating weight and size of a job, how can you be off by 100%?

    Unfortunately, I own too much stuff to move on my own. And I am scared to move things like my home entertainment system on my own. If something goes wrong, I’m out almost $30,000 in equipment whereas if that happens under a professional’s watch – I’ll be covered.

  36. IrisMR says:

    I know it sucks to pay more but it’s time to sue. There’s no easy way out of this. …well, I hope for your family there is. Theses scammers have to pay.

  37. glorpy says:

    @UnStatusTheQuo: I wonder if they would be as unresponsive if they were formally served with an intent to sue?

    Forget the BBB and local police. You’ve called the FBI, which is good, but you should also line up a lawyer and get that ball rolling too.

  38. DWMILLER says:

    2929 WHITE CLIFF AVE SUITE 21
    DALLAS, TX 75219
    186) 668-3510
    USDOT Number: 1712165
    MC or MX Number: 628095
    I hope this can help it has their dot and mc numbers.

  39. privateer says:

    Interesting that the address is in an iffy Dallas neighborhood, but the phone number is Broward County, Florida. BTW, the street name is Wycliff, not White Cliff. Given the move was across state lines, there must be some federal government role in prosecution.

    I just moved to Seattle from Dallas after living there 15 years. I used a company based in Seattle called Moving Link. They have a network of agents across the country who go out and estimate what you have and then bid out the move to several trusted, established moving companies. It’s very competitive, so the costs are low. Moving Link’s fees are paid by the moving companies as a result of the referral, as far as I understand. They offer full value coverage, not the ridiculous 60 cents per mile plan some provide.

  40. quail says:

    One other thing of note is that even when using a reputable mover, you still should worry about warehousing. If you need your stuff warehoused do as much research on those guys as possible. The best bet is to have everything dropped off at a personal storage unit.

    NPR did a story about all of this some months back. Moving scams are a growing problem.

    I hope this family can get things resolved.

  41. Loki_Monster says:

    If you do seek the advice of an attorney have him or her check out whether or not there are any identifiable assets. The problem is that a judgment isn’t worth anything unless there are assets to collect that judgment from. This entity may not have easily traceable assets, and you’ll be out what you paid the attorney, you’ll be without your stuff, and you won’t be able to recover anything.

  42. nycaviation says:

    I feel bad, but why would you hire a company from 1/4 way across the country to trek up to your place and then move you an even greater distance? There’s no movers in Indiana? Or did they just offer a great deal?

    If a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

  43. TechnoDestructo says:

    @GrandizerGo:

    False?

  44. jwissick says:

    Maybe Lojak should start making a device to track your moving company and you can call the police to get your stuff back if it is not delivered.

  45. Serpephone says:

    My father-in-law is an ABF driver and he routinely drops off containers for people to load. He said individuals use ABF all the time for cross-country moves with few complaints.

  46. Serpephone says:

    @wooblocks: (954) is NOT a Dallas area code–looks like a Florida phone number

  47. Vanvi says:

    @Skankingmike: Sorry, hiring a moving company to move you from IN to CA is not lazy. This isn’t a cross-town move we’re talking about.
    On another note, I’ve come to the conclusion that at least 90% of moving and car-shipping companies are scams based on my experience and stories from others told to me during my horrible experience. A lot of these places are just call centers too, they book your job but just go and hire whoever’s driving out that way at that time. So there’s no real way to know what you’re getting.

  48. Orv says:

    @heavylee-again: Impractical, maybe, but there are so many of these horror stories out there that I’m starting to think there’s no such thing as a safe company. The whole moving industry seems to be a big scam. At least if I move my own stuff I have control over it the whole time.

  49. Breach says:

    Best thing you can do is always have a backup plan, research them before you buy in, really know who and what you are dealing with.

    I feel sorry for these people, and I kind of don’t too as they did not protect themselves from this shoddy business either. Either way it is unacceptable that the people that run this “business” are not in a federal prison. Hope they get their stuff back.

  50. lockdog says:

    Licensed? Bonded? Insured? Ask those three questions of any moving company and get certificates verifying each. Then call the companies on the certificates to verify that everything is current. Then and only then should you hire a moving or even furniture delivery company.

  51. RvLeshrac says:

    @boones farmer:

    Once the value of the property has reached in excess of $X00/$X,000, it becomes a criminal matter.

    You report it as theft-by-taking, plain and simple.

    And the OP did the right thing in contacting the FBI, as this involves interstate trade.

  52. Buran says:

    @Serpephone: It is. My now-ex bf is in the Pompano Beach area and that is his area code.

  53. MCShortbus says:

    I hope you had an itemized shipping list…

    Taking them to court is an excellent idea, but I would not be surprised if after filing the suit a lot of your goods turn out to be “broken”.

    I have to comend the restraint that has been exercised here. After a week I would have done my impression of the lady who showed up at the Comcast office with a hammer…

  54. MissGayle says:

    Well, here’s an opportunity for some brilliant tech guy to make a forture – some type of GPS devices that you can buy or rent to slip into a few random boxes you pack or attach to some expensive equipment in an out-of-the-way place (or internally). That way, you’ll be able to track your stuff by satellite online and know exactly where it is.

  55. Machina says:

    GPS usually won’t receive a signal inside a metal shell, be it an airplane, or inside a moving truck.

    All I can say, is uhaul for the win. I remember moving as a kid, and my family always did it the Uhaul way with my dad and mom in a truck each.

  56. aaronw1 says:

    I agree with what one commenter said up above – there are a *LOT* of resellers/aggregators which makes it hard to know exactly who you’re dealing with when it comes to who has subcontracted who. It’s extremely difficult to figure out who exactly you’re dealing with once the shipment leaves your eyes. Generally speaking you may want to find out who the local/state govt in your area uses for movers – those companies typically do a lot of business for the govt and are held much more accountable.

    Missgayle – GPS requires line of sight to the satellite, it won’t work inside a box (and for sure not inside a warehouse).

  57. hlgask says:

    we finally got our stuff yesterday, 35 days after it left Indiana! everything seems ok. a few glasses broken, our mattress box springs’ plastic corners all shredded…but so far, nothing missing and nothing too terribly damaged.

    the guys were friendly and reiterated several times that we didn’t have to give them ANY tip. however they were also clear that they thought one would be nice. the 2 guys w/them that did MOST of the moving seemed to have been hired off the street in the morning, and we were worried the tip was all they’d get, so we did tip $160.

    i thought in all fairness i should post here that we got our stuff. its so nice to not be sleeping on the floor anymore! and my son (2 months old) has his bassinet & crib back. thank goodness.

    i really think we were treated better than many UVL customers b/c of the exposure we got after posting on the Consumerist. and i want to thank everyone here for their advice & comments. it was all a huge help to us. i wish laws could be changed to protect people from these scams. hopefully someday that will happen!

  58. victortina says:

    I recently used Ultimate Van Lines and felt obligated to relay my experiences online so that others are not swindled as I was. Ultimate Van Lines is unprofessional to say the least, CRIMINAL is more accurate. My belongings were jumbled, broken, lost, and stolen. The people that work at the company, mainly Victor and Tina ought to be ashamed for their fraudulent and immoral actions. The drivers and movers that are used by Ultimate Van Lines are also bottom of the barrel human beings and are not to be trusted in any fashion.

    DO NOT HIRE ULTIMATE VAN LINES! I say this as a modest citizen who believes in honesty and morals. I do not want to see anyone else scammed, ripped off, and lied to as I was by this horrible so called company. Hopefully, someone with the ability to shut this operation down will soon do so. Until then, do not use this company by any costs or means, no matter how sincere or honest they may sound.

  59. el_seed says:

    I hired Ultimate Van Lines to move in April & am still Waiting for my things.They have a good sales speech, but are just scam artists, typically the same things I’ve read about online are the same problems I’ve encountered. They have it down to a science. I’ve used a lot of very good movers in the past who were honest, helpful and have gone above & beyond to accommodate their clients, but Ultimate Van Lines are thieves. Do not under any circumstances hire these people.

  60. GarrickPass says:

    We saw this post too late. I need to lurk on Consumerist more often. Ultimate Van Lines loaded our things into a van and then altered the bid from $4500 to over $11000. They refused to deliver until we’d paid (by Visa, since our move was expensive enough already — They added 3% for using the card, too) and then what wasn’t stolen was smashed up.
    They are definitely scam artists. Matt@ultimatevanlines.com is a good sales guy, but he sells a shady product and then vanishes into the woodwork like the rest of the operation.
    I’m reporting Ultimate Van Lines to every agency I can find to hopefully put a stop to this.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I used Ultimate Van Lines to move across country, it seems they pull the same scam on everyone. They are not a moving company, they are scam artists that have it down to a science. It’s a shame that people like them give a bad reputation to the moving industry, I’ve had several good movers in the past–Global, Bekins are all very reputable and trustworthy. Under no conditions hire Ultimate Van Lines, moving is stressful enough, They will give you nothing but grief

  62. Anonymous says:

    Ultimate Van Lines has changed their Company Name to Hurricane Movers. They are located at the same address under different names but the same people are running the Company. The owner is wanted for one of his drivers from the first company he owned T-Boned A DART Bus in Dallas Texas. I can give you his name and previous DOT Numbers.