Here is some general advice on identifying scam websites:
Top tip: Check the company details from their invoice
Some scam sites in operation in the UK right now are using stolen company registration and VAT registration numbers.
If you are suspicious you can check information about a company. You can enter the company registration number and it will report back the company registration info.
Please don’t rely on this check alone, please check our comments in the paragraphs below about how the scammers are now using very similar names to real companies to get around this exact check.
Don’t trust our link? – this links to https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company or search for ‘UK government how to check information about a company’ and make sure you are using an official government website.
You can can also check their VAT number here.
Bear in mind with a recent scam site, the scammers behind 486cabinsandcontainers.co.uk have taken company info from registered company 486 Ltd to look legitimate. It may be worth digging deeper than just the company name that is returned (Eg plug the company reg number back into google to see if more than one company pops up. If a company that doesn’t sell shipping containers pops up in the search results, call them to ask if they know about the other website name?)
This has happened again with Speedy Containers, they have used the name and address of a company ‘speedy one’ on their website which is totally unrelated. We assume if you make a booking and receive and invoice that they will use the official company reg number for this unrelated ‘speedy one’ business on their invoice to you.
We now assume this is their latest tactic to appear legitimate or to get around your possible checks.
Any invoice charging VAT must legally have the VAT registration number clearly shown on the invoice for the company that is charging the VAT to the customer. Otherwise either 1) its not a proper or legal invoice or 2) they are committing VAT fraud of some sort.
This link above will take you to the official EU vat registration check website. Once again if you don’t like our links you can google this info yourself but ensure you are using an official EU website (there is also an official UK government VAT check system, but this will only report back UK registered companies)) You can enter the VAT registration number in for any company in the EU with a VAT (or equivalent) registration. The box does ask for the requestor’s VAT number as well. If you’re a private individual and don’t’ have your own VAT number, you can put the same VAT number in again (i.e. this system will still work if you appear to be checking your own VAT number / if you enter the same VAT number into both boxes)
Assuming the search returns a company, you need to check this company out to ensure they are the same people you are buying from. Look them up on google, If they have a different website to the one you have been on, call the number on this different website and ask them if the invoice you have is genuine or not.
This has been a sure fire way to catch out all recent scam websites that have been in operation in the UK. As they are not registered companies and as they are not registered for VAT, they will not be able to provide genuine company. This may appear onerous however this is the only 100% sure fire way we can suggest to catch these scammers out at this time. Please bear in mind the scammers are evolving their tactics all the time.
Other top tips to avoid scammers:
Search for the company on Google
Many scam websites will only recently have been created and won’t appear in the top few pages when you search for ‘shipping containers’ or related phrases. Instead, they may use paid adverts on Google to appear on the first page. If you clicked one of these paid links it is also worth searching for that company again on Google to see how often they appear. An established shipping container company will have many other links on Google from other sites e.g. social media sites, directory listings and review sites.
Check their Accreditations and Memberships
Recently some of the scam websites have started copy trade association logos and other memberships and accreditations to make it appear they are legitimate.
You can always check any accreditations and memberships with the organisation in advance. Google the trade association and contact them directly, in the event of wanting to check an ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 accreditation you can contact ‘The British Assessment Bureau’ website: https://www.british-assessment.co.uk/
Check how long the website has been live
All of these websites have been registered within 3 months of going live. Most of these scam websites have been taken down before they are 9 months old.
Most of these websites claim to be the ‘UKs biggest’ or the ‘UKs leading supplier of shipping containers’. this from a company / website that’s under 12 months old is a sign that something is wrong.
You can check when a website was first registered using this website lookup tool: https://www.whois.com/whois/
This is by no means a watertight check. Some legitimate business will have young websites, but its a very small minority of legitimate outfits with a very young website. Also there is nothing stopping the scammers from getting more organised, or they may be able to buy up website names that have previously been registered.
However right now this appears to be an effective indicator of a scam website.
Check their Social media history?
These days even minor brands will need and want to run their own social media pages, so check these pages out.
Is there a very short and sporadic posting history for a company claiming to be very big in the marketplace? This should seem odd and may raise concerns.
Have they got reviews activated. Have they got any reviews? Are all of these reviews spread out over time or have they all landed within a few days of each other? If a site has got 50x 5 star reviews that all appeared in a week, and then only one or two reviews for the months surrounding it – you should treat this as suspicious.
Do they have pictures of their deliveries being done? have customers sent in pictures of deliveries saying thank you? have drivers tagged the company in their own Instagram posts when delivering containers for the company? These are all great ways to suss out if someone is genuine or not. Doing all of this across a few social media platforms will be a massive undertaking for any scammer to do well – especially if looking to fake third party content (eg photos sent in) and to have an even spread of these over a long period of time.
Have reviews been turned off on their Facebook page? (is there no option to leave a review?) – Be very wary about buying any large value item from a trader who doesn’t want public reviews for their business.
Don’t automatically trust a good looking website.
All versions of recent scam websites we have seen have looked very professional, arguably as good as if not better than the average website run by a legitimate trader.
However – if the scammers put any information on their websites that is someone else’s copyright or owned by someone else – then the owner of this copyright or similar can contact google and have the website de-listed very quickly. The scammers know this so their website will be devoid of any company information (registration numbers, registered addresses, memberships and accreditation’s) but they may still list a fake office address to help the website appear legitimate.
Call any other container trader.
Frankly, any legitimate container trader would much rather loose the business to a legitimate competitor versus a scammer. If you have 3 or more quotes, one of them is miles better than the rest – then perhaps call up any other trader and ask them directly if they can confirm if the company you are thinking to buy from is legitimate or not.
If the trader has any belief its a scam they will very likely let you know they have serious reservations about the outfit. If they have never heard of them this should also be treated as suspicious.
Is the price too good to be true?
Shipping container traders are acting very similar to commodity traders. they are selling high value items at a small mark up and make their money from turning over good volumes of shipping containers.
Recent scam websites we’ve seen go in with a quote that’s approx 10% better than then the rest of the market, plus free delivery. As legitimate container traders generally put deliveries out at or near cost price a genuine trader can see this price is impossibly good, but someone new to the market may not see this.
Obviously prices from different traders will vary slightly, but usually if you approach 3-5 people for quotes, you will get back 3-5 quotes all in a similar price range. If one company is well over £200 cheaper than everyone else, its worth making extra checks.
There may of course be a fair reason a legitimate trader may be able to offer better pricing than his or her competitors so this should be used as guide rather than absolute proof.
Does it feel right?
Fundamentally, most people who have been scammed had suspicions something was up much earlier on in the process. Its very hard to quantify but if you don’t’ feel totally happy proceeding with your purchase or if something just doesn’t quite feel right then put the brakes onto the job immediately. Do NOT send payment unless you are 100% happy you are sending this money to a legitimate outfit.
No legitimate container trader will get annoyed with you wanting to make sure you are not getting scammed.