Consumer Warning: Ship container scams leaving buyers all at sea

Candice EvansGeraldton Guardian
Lynette Hewitt's stunning reflective photograph of shipping containers in Fremantle.
Camera IconLynette Hewitt's stunning reflective photograph of shipping containers in Fremantle. Credit: reflectionsofperth/Instagram

If you’ve been looking to buy a shipping container for storage, transport or even to live in, it’s important to watch-out for scammers making leaky promises.

WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection is aware of 10 victims who have lost $35,500 after they responded to online adverts for discounted shipping containers and transferred money to several websites that turned out to be fake.

The victims were even provided with ABN information of legitimate businesses, before being asked to pay for the container via bank transfer.

After the payments were made, minimal updates were provided about the “arrival” of the containers, with some victims reporting the scammers had been demanding more funds due to “delivery issues”, or requiring “customs” or “insurance” fees be paid.

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As WA ScamNet works to shut down the First Choice Containers, Container Discount, White Horse Towing Ltd and Container Sales Au sites, consumers are urged to steer clear and be alert to other fake pages that may appear in their place.

This scam is different to the shipping container investment schemes we have warned about previously, in which consumers are offered the chance to lease a sea container on the understanding it will be re-leased on their behalf and provide returns of up to 20 per cent.

Key signs that a website could be operated by scammers are when goods are being advertised well below market prices and the only way to pay is via bank transfer.

It is important to only use secure payment methods such as credit card or PayPal, which allow you to dispute transactions when you do not receive the goods or something goes wrong.

Take the time to locate the website of the legitimate business and make independent contact to verify whether the offer is genuine. Also, carry out an internet search of the website and business and read the comments and reviews from other consumers who have used the same site.

More information about online shopping scams can be found on the WA ScamNet website: www.scamnet.wa.gov.au

Candice Evans is senior regional officer for Consumer Protection in the Mid West and Murchison.

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