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The shipping container scam plaguing Canada is growing by the day, which has resulted in more and more victims coming forward and telling their horror stories. The scams are targeting innocent customers hoping to purchase containers online, sight unseen.
Additionally, legitimate companies are having their names sullied by scammers’ ripping off their names and websites. Small companies and individuals looking to buy a used container for sale are being duped into paying for a product that they will never receive. CBC recently reported on this growing nuisance – click here to read the news story.
How Scammers Operate
The majority of scammers put up new websites and social media outlets that mimic a legitimate shipping container company’s site, so it looks like the real deal. They even incorporate the actual address of the company they are pretending to be, except that the scammers replace phone numbers and email addresses with their own.
Next, one of their “Sales Representatives” interacts with a potential buyer and swindles them into sending a payment for the “Product” via an e-transfer. Once the payment has been completed, the scammers disappear. This, in a nutshell, is how a shipping container scam is carried out.
How to Avoid a Container Scam
If you are looking for a used shipping container for sale, take proactive measures to ensure that you don’t become the next victim of a scam. We have compiled a checklist of information to help you. Make sure you review this before exchanging any money with a vendor.
1. Confirm how long a website’s domain name has been active
One of the preliminary ways to avoid being caught up in the shipping container scam is to validate how long the website domain has been active. We recommend using Whois as your trusted resource. Most legitimate companies will have a website that is older and established while a fraudster’s site will be new since they put them up and take them down on a seemingly daily basis.
2. Make sure they have a legitimate company address and name verified in Google Maps
An established, credible company will more than likely have a verified listing on Google Maps. Let’s reference the first point and say you are looking at a website that looks legitimate, and you have checked the age of the site, and it’s new. At this point, you are still not sure if the information you’re seeing is fake — because after all, legitimate companies might put up new sites. So, take a look at Google Maps.
If the company shows up on this and its profile is verified, but the contact information does not match what you see on the site, then go with the contact information on the verified profile. Google puts stringent verification methods in place to avoid scammers abusing its platform because that reduces consumer trust, and Google won’t have that!
3. Verify that they have a landline phone number that is answered immediately
This one is a little harder to verify, but it can be done. For starters, a landline will have the area code of the area where the company is located. A cell phone might not indicate a location. The phone number on the website, social media pages, Google Maps, etc., should all be consistent. The landline phone should also be answered immediately; if there is a delay in the phone being answered, that could be a poor sign.
4. Find out how long have they been in business
Look at the About Us section on the website. Is there a lot of information on that page, perhaps too much information than what could be typed out in an hour? Now, this is not a concrete sign since a good scammer could simply put in lots of content. It is generally a bad sign if the site doesn’t have a strong About Us page. Chances are a scammer will want to publish something quickly versus put a lot of effort here.
5. Compare prices from different vendors
Just like you do with every other type of products, ask different vendors for a quote. This will give you an idea about how much you should pay for the container you are looking for. Scammers like to advertise prices that are too good to be true, so if it sounds like it is, then it probably is. Scammers like to post low prices in ads on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and other directory sites to entice prospective buyers.
6. Beware of only paid advertisements, and no organic presence on search engines
This is a big factor in determining a real company versus a fake one. In order to appear in organic search results, a company must have a website that has been around for some time and utilizes search engine optimization (SEO) ranking tactics, which take time and must be valid.
If a site comes up high in organic search results, then it’s very likely to be legitimate, unless the scammer is just that dedicated and invested in the fraud process. Now, if the site is only showing up in paid advertisements on Google (paid rankings section), then that is not a good sign. It is not necessarily a dealbreaker, since a legitimate company might also pay for advertising, but beware. A scammer putting up a new site isn’t going to have the time to get their site organically ranked.
7. Visit their social media pages
Much like the website, look for the age of the social media page. If it is very new, then that can be a potential red flag. Also, look at the reviews of the company on that social media page. A rip-off social media page will either have no reviews, or very few reviews. In addition, the reviews will be recent, and mostly glowing. A valid page should have many reviews that span a long time. You may see some negative reviews, but a credible company will respond to customer grievances and show that they have taken remedial action.
8. Buy directly from a reliable container supplier
Buying directly from a reliable shipping container supplier can be done in a few ways. The absolute best way to do it is in-person and avoid phone calls or emails altogether. If you can’t do that, especially in the COVID-driven, ‘new normal’, then at least go with a company that has a reputable name in the industry. Do not respond to any ads from Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace, as those are the scammers’ favorite spots to lure in victims.
9. Ask to view the container on-site
If you ask to view the container on-site and the representative on the phone says “no,” then that is a HUGE red flag. Do not proceed any further with the deal. A real company has no reason to say no to you viewing containers on the property in person. In fact, they will likely encourage it because that ensures a customer is 100 percent confident in the quality of the used shipping container for sale. Scammers, on the other hand, are going to say no because they don’t have sea cans for you to view!
10. Do not share any banking information
The success of a shipping container scam depends on how quickly the fraudsters can funnel funds out of an unsuspecting buyer’s bank account. Be wary if you are asked to provide this information too early in the process and until after you have confirmed all the above details. This is the best way to be sure you are buying a used shipping container for sale from a credible supplier.
Looking for a Used Shipping Container for Sale?
If you are looking for a new or used shipping container, make sure you are dealing with a well-known, established supplier. Conterm has been providing containers since 1972. You can count on us to help you find the right container for your needs. Contact us for more information about the sizes and prices of our new and used shipping containers for sale.