Shipping Container Scams and Fraud: How to Protect Yourself
The shipping container industry is booming, and its growth has started a concerning trend: the rise of shipping container scams and fraud. In a global economy where shipping containers are foundational to trade and commerce, unscrupulous individuals and groups have sought to exploit the industry’s rapid expansion. These fraudulent activities can occur at any stage of the transaction, from the initial contact to the final delivery and beyond.
If you are going to purchase a shipping container, we suggest you read these ways to avoid a container scam or fraud.
4 Types of Shipping Container Scams
Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, employing various tactics to deceive unsuspecting victims. Below, we dissect some common scams and how they can impact your business.
- Fake Facebook Pages and Websites
Perpetrators have been known to create convincing online storefronts or social media profiles under false names, often mimicking actual shipping companies. Unsuspecting customers may be lured in by the promise of dirt-cheap prices, only to find out that the containers do not exist, or worse, that their payment information has been compromised.
- Stealing Existing Company Names
Some scammers simply appropriate the names and logos of legitimate companies, hoping to siphon off traffic or steal the trust of web users. They may even create fake employees and customer service representatives to lend legitimacy to their fraudulent operations.
- Phishing emails
Phishing is a common and successful method for fraudsters to obtain sensitive information, especially financial data. These emails may look like they’re coming from a legitimate shipping container company, requesting login credentials or financial details. Once obtained, your assets are at risk.
Additionally, be wary of clickable links that could be used to hack into your computer to steal information.
- Payment Scams
These can take many forms, from demanding payment via untraceable methods to convincing victims to make multiple smaller payments rather than one lump sum. Once money has changed hands, the scammers vanish, leaving their marks out of pocket and without the shipping containers they believed they’d purchased.
Tips to Protect Yourself Against Container Scams
The best defense against these scams is a healthy dose of skepticism and diligence. Here are some tips to help you steer clear of fraudsters and protect your investments.
- Confirm Website Authenticity
Use domain checking services like https://who.is/ to verify the legitimacy of a website. Websites with less-than-stellar pasts can be a revealing indication of potential scams.
- Verify Company Information
Before making any deals, ensure the seller has a legitimate company name and physical address. Use Google Maps to check for a precise location and verify postal codes and phone numbers.
- Investigate Business History
Dive into the seller’s business history. Long-standing businesses that have a detailed transaction history are more likely to be genuine.
- Compare Prices and Market Rates
Be wary of prices that are too good to be true.
Research the market to benchmark average prices. Unusually low offers can be a sign of a scam.
- Use Secure Payment Methods
Prefer secure payment methods or credit cards that offer fraud protection. Avoid unorthodox payment channels or direct bank transfers.
- Container Inspection
Always request and review detailed photos of the shipping container. Better yet, inspect the merchandise in person or through an authorized third-party agency.
- Guard Your Financial Information
Never share sensitive banking or personal information over email or unsecured websites.
Warning Signs and Red Flags
When engaging in a shipping container transaction, remain vigilant for the following warning signs:
- Suspiciously Low Prices
Scammers often attract victims with prices well below market value. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Poor Communication and Lack of Transparency
Legitimate companies value customer communication and are transparent about their business practices. If you experience elusive or unresponsive communication, reconsider the transaction.
- Unreliable or Unverified Sellers
Do not do business with sellers who are difficult to verify or produce little background information when asked.
- Questionable or Missing Photos
Visual evidence is powerful but can also be misleading. If the quality or content of photos seems dubious, conduct further investigation.
- Must Be Bought Online
A refusal to facilitate an in-person inspection should be a significant red flag.
- Beware of Only Paid Advertisements
Trustworthy companies invest in building a legitimate online presence. If a company only appears in paid search results and has no organic search presence, proceed with caution.
- Require Payment Through Crypto or Pre-Paid Cards
Irreversible payment methods like cryptocurrencies, pre-paid cards, or wire transfers are the payment forms of choice for scammers.
- Spelling Errors or Odd Language
Scammers often use poorly written or translated content. Be wary of linguistic inconsistencies.
- High-Pressure Sales Tactics
Scammers will often push for quick decisions, hoping to incite fear of missing out on a supposed deal.
- No Contact Information or Location
A legitimate company should have robust contact details readily available. If there’s a lack of clarity around where and how to reach them, it’s safest to avoid the transaction.
To drive home the importance of vigilance, it’s critical to examine real-life examples of fraud within the shipping container industry:
Case Study 1: A new company offered containers at 70% below market rate. When the containers never arrived, customers realized they had fallen for an elaborate scam. The scammers had created a fictitious social media presence and website to appear credible.
Case Study 2: A phishing email prompted numerous payments for alleged customs and port fees. These fees were entirely fabricated, and the email activity was traced back to an offshore location with very few legal options for victims.
Reporting Scams and Seeking Legal Recourse
If you suspect or have been a victim of a shipping container fraud, it’s essential to step forward. Reporting the scam to local law enforcement, consumer protection agencies, and trade authorities can protect others and potentially lead to restitution. Seeking legal counsel is crucial, as well, especially when dealing with international fraud.
Additionally, contact any company that may be getting their identity stolen.
The prevalence of shipping container scams serves as a sobering reminder of the need for caution in our digitally connected world. By staying informed about the various types of fraud and arming yourself with practical protections, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim. Vigilance is key, and in a field as critical as shipping and logistics, it’s not just about avoiding financial loss — it’s about maintaining the integrity of the global supply chain. Remember, if a deal feels off, it most likely is. Trust your instincts, and always verify before you buy.
Looking for an Honest Container Dealer?
If you are looking for an honest, reputable shipping containers dealer, you can count on Advanced Container Co. We have been in business since 2000 and we have over 40 years of container industry experience. We sell, rent and modify shipping and storage containers.Read More About Us See Our Work Contact Us