If you are looking to buy a shipping container, watch out for the so-called “Sea Can Scam.” This crafty con uses real business addresses to trick people into paying for a shipping container that doesn’t exist.
How this scam works
You see an ad online for shipping containers at a very competitive price. You reach out to the business and are directed to a professional-looking website. You even do background research by searching for their physical address online. An online map shows their address is in a shipping yard. Everything checks out!
After some back and forth with a customer service representative, you agree to purchase the container. You are asked to pay up front before you can arrange pick up.
However, after paying, the customer service reps become difficult or impossible to contact. If you visit the business in person, you find there is indeed a shipping container company at that address. Unfortunately, they are a different business with no knowledge of your purchase or the website you visited. Scammers use the addresses of legitimate businesses as a cover for their scams. They steal your money and personal information while damaging a real business’s reputation.
How to spot these scams:
Double check the business’s contact information. Before contacting a business, review their website and contact information carefully. Physical addresses are usually a good indication that the business is for real, but make sure the website matches information you can find on local maps. For example, if a business’s contact phone number on their website is different from what appears for that address on Google Maps, consider it a warning sign. Another red flag is a physical address that comes up as an empty lot or a residential home when searched.
Read reviews. Be sure to read reviews, and not just those that appear on the business’s website. Search for reviews on third-party websites and keep a close eye out for any reports of scams or less than honest business practices.
Be skeptical of extremely low prices. If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.