Shipping container scams and tips to protect yourself from online fraud

As you may be aware from your online research, the shipping container industry has been targeted by online sales scams. These are usually found on platforms such as Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or via fake websites. This has been an ongoing issue for the last few years and has affected many legitimate shipping container companies in Montreal, Toronto and Canada including ourselves.

How the scam works:
Through social media platforms or newly created websites, scammers will post shipping containers for sale with prices that are significantly below market value to entice customers to buy from them. They will put you in contact with a “representative” that claims to be from ATS or another legitimate shipping container company. However, they will replace the phone number and email addresses with their own.

Once the customer commits to purchasing the equipment, an invoice is provided that may even include the real logo & address of the authentic company. An up-front payment (typically 50%) is requested via e-transfer. Once payment is made, they will never be heard from again.

How to protect yourself against a shipping container scam:
If you are looking to purchase a shipping container, there are a few warning signs to look for to ensure you don’t fall victim to this scam.

1. Beware of pricing that is too good to be true

While shipping container pricing can vary somewhat due to market factors (USD, steel pricing, supply/demand, etc), the pricing between suppliers should not vary drastically for equipment of comparable condition. Quotes that are too good to be true, should probably be treated as such.

2. Verify contact information of the company they are claiming to represent

The scammers alter contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses to be able to communicate with the customer. Phone numbers of reputable shipping container companies can be compared to official numbers listed in Google Maps (verified by Google) and called.

3. Beware of requests for prepayment

Most reputable companies will not request payment up front or will offer alternatives such as payment on delivery of the shipping container. Be wary of payment requests exclusively by Interac E-transfers as these are typically non-traceable by most Canadian financial institutions.

4. Review the invoice provided for sales taxes

More often than not, the sales taxes on fraudulent transaction are wrong. They either do not have the correct sales taxes (ex: GST/QST/HST) or alternatively, will not charge the right percentages. They also do not have the tax registration number of the company making the sale. This is a requirement for legitimate businesses in Canada and can be easily verified with Canada Revenue Agency on the following link:

https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-businesses/confirming-a-gst-hst-account-number.html#h1

5. Website domain name

Legitimate companies typically register their domain names and they have been in existence for many years. Scammers like to create new websites regularly to execute this scam. As soon as one site is reported as fraudulent and taken down, another is created. We recommend verifying the length of time the domain has been in existence as it may be an indication that the website is not legitimate. This can be done through: https://www.whois.com/whois/

6. Email addresses

Authentic businesses typically use their domain names in official communications. For example, our official website is www.atscontainers.com and our email communications only occur using our domain name @atscontainers.com. Scammers will attempt to appear legitimate by using variations of this such as: atscontaiiners@gmail.com

More Information:
If you are looking for more information on this shipping container fraud, we have linked several media outlets that have reported on this issue in the last few years.

CBC Canada-
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/shipping-container-delivery-scam-fraud-1.5864806
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/shipping-container-scam-kijiji-1.5857380

Better Business Bureau –
https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/26713-bbb-scam-alert-in-the-market-for-a-shipping-container-watch-out-for-this-con

Global News Calgary–
https://globalnews.ca/news/7591981/calgary-police-sea-can-scam-probe/

Radio Canada Quebec –
https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1891877/fraude-fausse-vente-conteneurs-police-quebec

Journal de Montreal –
https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2021/03/07/identite-usurpee-par-des-fraudeurs

If you would like to discuss further or verify information that you have received in connection with a shipping container quote, please contact a member of the ATS sales team at (866) 846-0270 and it would be our pleasure to assist you.