Shipping Container Scams: How to Spot and Avoid

Identifying Shipping Container Scams: Strategies to Spot and Prevent Fraudulent Practices

Shipping container scams have become quite common in the shipping industry with the rise in trade demands. Many individuals, companies, and groups try to scam customers looking to lease or buy shipping containers. Container scams cause supply chain disruptions by robbing investors of their money and destroying their trust in the trade market. Identifying shipping container scams at the right time and reporting them is essential. Let us learn more about how to prevent shipping container scams. 

What is a shipping container scam? 

The shipping container industry is flourishing in the supply chain business and receives significant investment from shippers, shipping companies and individuals yearly. The container manufacturing company sells different types of freight containers to shipping companies and container leasing companies. Individuals, organisations and traders can then lease or purchase cargo containers from the container companies.  

A shipping container scam occurs when an individual, business, or company falsely poses as a container leasing or selling company in front of legitimate buyers or lessees. These illegal supplier companies are focused on getting money and do not deliver the shipping containers. Such container scams tend to lure lessors and buyers of shipping containers by promising them extravagant discounts, offers, and services. Organisations and individuals are tricked into feeling that they have saved a lot of money and are still getting high-quality containers when, in reality, they will not even receive any containers. There are various container scams; let us learn more about them. 

Types of shipping container scams 

Sharing a common goal of tricking and deceiving people, the shipping industry has different types of container scams.  

  1. Fake website pages– Perpetrators often create a reliable and convincing digital presence by building their business website and social media profiles on multiple platforms. They strategically plan the whole container scam by presenting a wholesome online presence. Scammers sometimes mimic other big shipping companies and steal their identity.  
  2. Identity theft– It is a prevalent type of container scam where scammers deceive the customers by posing as big, legitimate companies. They steal their name, logo, and other site details to divert traffic to their website and steal their customers. In such types of scams, fraudsters try to prove themselves reliable by having fake employees who contribute to the company’s legitimacy in front of customers. 
  3. Phishing – Many scamming companies aim to obtain personal information from target customers, especially information about their finances. Such sensitive information is gathered using phishing emails. By sending emails that seem credible, scammers ask customers to log in using their credentials and input their financial details. Customers who enter the asked details immediately risk their assets and data. Phishing also occurs using clickable links sent through mail. Clicking on these links allows scammers to hack into your system and steal information. 
  4. Transactional scams – Shipping transactions must be made using legitimate sites. Blockchain technology in the shipping industry helps to perform legal shipping transactions. Scammers demand customers pay via unrecognised gateways and often ask them to make transactions in small amounts instead of transferring the entire amount in one go. After receiving the desired amount, companies vanish and cut off all customer contact. 

Customers unaware of shipping container scams are easily tricked into believing in the container rates and offers. When customers notice the fraud, they have already been robbed of their money, and their personal information is compromised. 

What are common shipping container scams? 

Customers can fall for container scams due to various reasons. 

  1. Offers and deals– Shippers and trade companies want to own and lease low-cost shipping containers. Scammers offer attractive offers and deals with heavy discounts. Since they pose as reliable companies, customers fall prey to their traps in the greed for shipping containers cheaper than the market price. 
  2. High-quality containers– In many cases, customers are shown pictures of completely new and good-condition shipping containers. However, upon receiving it, customers find the shipping containers damaged and in bad condition. The containers neither match the specifications the lessor and seller stated nor have the same quality as promised. The scammers vanish, taking all the money. 
  3. Higher return on investment – Fraudsters also lure customers into purchasing or leasing a larger fleet of containers. Sometimes, once they make the contractual payments, many hidden charges are levied on the customers. In greed of a higher ROI, customers fall prey to such scams. 

Warning signs of shipping container scams 

Shipping container scams can be spotted by focusing on the company’s details. Shippers and organisations willing to buy or lease shipping containers can avoid shipping container scams by looking for these warning signs. 

  1. Surprisingly low container rates – are one of the easiest ways to attract customers. Scammers offer suspiciously low prices and discounts, so look out for any such thing. 
  2. Lack of transparency – Legitimate selling and leasing companies are transparent in billing and value customer communication. If a company is unresponsive or suspicious, reconsider it. 
  3. Unverified – Container leasing companies with no reliable online presence and little background information are most likely to be scammers. 
  4. Refusal of on-site visits – Companies that deny on-site inspection of shipping containers before buying or leasing them are major fraudsters. Legitimate companies provide visual proof to the customers before billing or transactions. 
  5. Payment options – Fraud companies often ask customers to pay using irreversible methods such as cryptocurrencies and pre-paid visa cards since these are pseudo-anonymous.  
  6. Appearing for paid ads – If the company is not showing in organic research and is only appearing for paid ads, there is a high chance that it’s a container scam. 
  7. High pressure for purchases – Companies that pressure you to close the deal and make transactions without completely assuring you of the details and contract are undoubtedly a fraud. You must not get swayed by limited offers and deals that give you deadlines and develop a fear of missing the deals. 
  8. Lack of knowledge – Fraudsters may have surface knowledge of the containers but would fail if asked about container specifications in detail. Mistakes in their websites can also be detected in the form of spelling errors, irregularly translated content and inconsistent linguistics. 

How to avoid a container scam? 

Individuals and organisations can avoid shipping container scams by following these tips- 

  1. Checking for website authority – Verify the company website by reviewing all past content. Websites that have recently formed and do not have a wide organic presence are most likely to be scams. Check for consistency and expertise in shipping containers. 
  2. Verify company details – Go on Google Maps to check for the company location, try contacting them with the contact information provided and check if the reviews posted by people on their website are genuine. Look at the privacy policies to see if there are no hidden terms. 
  3. Be aware of market prices – Knowing the current market prices of shipping containers allows customers to bargain leasing and selling; companies offering an unreasonable margin and extravagant discounts can be a sign of container scams. 
  4. Ask for an on-site visit – Before leasing or buying shipping containers, always ask the company for visual proof of the containers. If possible, an on-site visit can help validate the company. This will allow you to verify the condition of the containers you will receive. 
  5. Protect your financial information – Avoid sharing your banking information with shipping companies that appear online. Make payments only through secure portals and avoid dealing with companies that ask for sensitive information in the early stages of the deal. 

These are a few ways customers and organisations can avoid shipping container scams and deal only with trusted and reliable shipping companies. 

LOTUS Containers is a shipping container service provider in Hamburg, Germany. We have partnered with more than 300 container depots to extend our shipping container services worldwide. We lease and sell different shipping containers in a range of dimensions. A few types of containers available with us include reefer containers, 53ft intermodal containers, and dry van containers.

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