Shipping Container Scams: Top Five Fraud Prevention Tips
Shipping containers are trusted by many for secure storage and transport. And while many customers face a common fear of losses due to theft and property damage, an alarming number face an even bigger threat. Recently, shipping container sales have become a target for fraud in Canada.
Beyond the risk of property loss, customers buying shipping containers face even bigger losses due to non-delivery. An alarming number of buyers across Canada report buying shipping containers only never to receive them.
Behind the Alarming Shipping Container Scam
When it comes to fraud, shipping containers are not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But over the years, scammers have gotten creative, proceeding to expand their targets.
In particular, shipping containers have become increasingly lucrative. Like real estate, logistics, and warehousing, the demand for alternative storage and even construction solutions has rapidly grown. Combined with evolving applications for shipping containers from commercial to personal use, the market is booming — and ripe for fraud.
How do shipping container scams work?
These fraudsters rely on this growing demand to attract customers with competitive pricing, reportedly from the biggest names in the shipping container market. Victims report being enticed with unbelievably low prices and further convinced by the supposed provider’s legitimate and established names. Customers only realized they were scammed upon non-delivery of the containers they bought.
Protect Yourself from Shipping Container Fraud
Who doesn’t love a discount, especially when offered by supposedly reputable providers? This is precisely how an alarming number of customers were involved in shipping container scams in Ontario. It’s a lesson learned the hard way — when the offer is too good to be true, it’s often not real.
If you are in the market for a reliable shipping container, the losses and frustration experienced by many other customers should serve as cautionary. Just as you place a premium on the quality and structural integrity, you also need to verify the provider’s identity and track record.
Remember, shipping containers are an investment — they’re designed for secure storage and transport through seasonal and road conditions. It should be a cause for suspicion if advertised for sale at thousands of dollars below market prices. Plus, even when a supposed provider has a website or address listed online, it doesn’t automatically mean their business is legitimate.
How to Avoid Shipping Container Scams
1. Be wary of discount
Simply, shipping containers are not cheap — they require an investment. Because prices escalate during peak demand, it’s not surprising that a lot of customers fell for the scam, thinking they could buy a 20-foot container for just $2,000 when the market price is $4,500. Losses from non-delivery, necessary replacement, and inventory delays, among others, cost a lot more than what you would have initially paid for a legitimate container.
2. Know your supplier
Scammers are getting a lot more creative these days, so having a website and address listed online are not clear-cut indicators of their legitimacy. To protect yourself from fraud, look closely at the domain name.
Many fraudsters copy a legitimate provider’s content to deliberately confuse customers who do not notice that the domain names are very similar, except for one or two letters. For example, fraudsters targeting Sigma Container may list their domain as www.sigmacontainers.com or www.sigmacontain.ca — the correct one is www.sigmacontainer.ca.
As it’s not enough to simply look at their website, get in touch with the provider. Be wary if their contact information is limited to a mobile phone without a landline and email. Contact them directly for a quote, and take note of the name and information of the person you are dealing with to verify that they are associated with the company.
Finally, before handing over any payment, make sure that it is deposited directly to a business bank account, not a personal one. One safeguard is asking for proof of ownership and the location of the depot where containers are stored.
3. Ask about customs clearing
Long before alternative applications like modular storage units and mobile offices, shipping containers were transport solutions. If you are buying a shipping container for this purpose, make sure it is cleared through customs.
This process starts with the provider, who will need to provide necessary documentation certifying that the container is customs cleared. This is even more important if you are importing or shipping out the container.
4. Ask to see and inspect the container
There’s a reason why “try before you buy” is so popular — it’s effective at providing customers with a preview of their product and a guarantee that it’s worth their investment. Before you buy a shipping container, you must inspect it.
Not only does this cover the basics like the logistics of storage or transport and required sizing, but it guarantees that you’re investing in a quality container. Meeting the supplier in person also gives you the opportunity to assess their trustworthiness, which can be further reinforced by a reliable customer support line for arranging the payment and delivery, and requesting a replacement or repair in case of damage. Skip any supplier who is not transparent with you, and declines to accommodate an inspection.
5. Look at reviews and references
Finally, no matter how many attractive ads a supplier puts out, there isn’t any that is more honest and effective than customer reviews and references. It’s the same reason why many customers often make purchases based on word-of-mouth from family and friends, and to a rapidly growing extent, online reviews and references.
See what others have to say about their experience with the shipping container company: make sure that positive feedback is consistent, and investigate negative ones to see how the supplier responded. Go one step further and verify the identity of these customers to make sure that they are legitimate buyers as well.
To learn more about shipping containers for sale in Ontario, call Sigma Containers at (855) 340-3342, or contact us here.