General advice on identifying scam websites:
Scammers are evolving their tactics – we’re seeing fewer websites pop up
They are now generally engaging customers via Facebook Marketplace (other marketplaces like Gumtree may well also be in use).
The scammers will sometimes comment on posts in various groups – for example shipping container homes groups and spamming or hijacking other people’s posts.
They then proceed to issue quotes and invoices with a legitimate firm’s name they can successfully steal. Recent examples include Willbox, Yorkshire Containers, Global Shipping Containers and Containex.
These scams don’t’ rely on fake websites, instead they rely on the company’s website to look legitimate coupled with a believable excuse – ‘this one’s half the price as we’re having a clearance on Facebook only’. People wanting to check a firm is legit will find a top-quality legitimate website, and then may or may not contact them to verify they are the same people they are speaking to on Facebook.
There isn’t an easy way to combat this, one measure container traders could use is to add a note saying ‘we are not selling shipping containers via Facebook Marketplace.’ With a link to a post with more background information about the scam and how to avoid it – explaining that anyone in your company will always use an @[your company] email address and not use free email services eg googmail.com.)
Trust your instincts
Does it feel right? if it doesn’t – and certainly if that worry has brought you here, this should be a big alarm bell. if something doesn’t feel right make sure you ask lots of questions and do lots of checks (check through the points below for lots more tips!). Only ever send money if you are 100% sure about it.
In our experience, if it doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t right.
If you are thinking to email to ask us if a trader is legitimate or not – we can say now its more than 95% likley they are scammers. Nearly every email we receive asking if a company is a scam or not, is asking us about a new scam website that we haven’t yet posted about.
We do reply to these emails when we can but it can often take a while for us to confirm a new site is a scam as we want to be 100% sure before we post about it. We understand this may not be ideal but we also can’t risk slandering a legitimate company.
Check how long the website has been live
All of these websites have been registered within 3-4 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. There are even fewer websites that are very young for companies that claim to have bene trading for many years and this shoudl be a big red flag in its own right. There is nothing stopping the scammers from getting more organised in future and registering websites earlier.
However right now this appears to be a very effective indicator of a scam website.
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.
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 or website 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?). Make sure the company returned from the search result is an exact fit for the company you are buying from and not a similar 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.
Assuming the search returns a company, you should then 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.
Keep a record of the checks you do
In some cases, companies that have been able to show a strong due diligence process have been able to claim money back from a bank more readily. We can’t guarantee this is watertight but for any large value purchases it make sense to us to recommend that you keep records of checks you do.
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 for sale’ 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 name 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 Their Reviews
Recently the scammers have been stealing review content from other websites.
However, a lot of these reviews list names and companies, – there is nothing to stop you calling a few of these companies up to check they purchased the container from the container company you are considering buying from. On Facebook you can easily message the person who left the review and / or the business direct. On other review sites you can often see a company or organization name that you can then look up to contact.
Check their Social media and content 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. If they have no social media pages this may be jsut as much of a concern.
Do they post videos with their own team in the videos? We’ve not yet ever seen scammers do this.
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 that the company has shared? Have drivers tagged the company in their own Instagram posts when delivering containers for the company? These are all great ways to check 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. (or a few of them)
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 or someone who buys regularly or deals with the industry a lot 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.