Shipping container scam victims drowning in losses

This announcement is for: 
Consumer
  • WA losses to the shipping container scam escalate to $375,000 so far this year
  • Fake websites selling containers are promoted via online classified ad sites
  • Sharp increase in losses alarms Consumer Protection, another warning issued

Losses to shipping container scams in WA have escalated to a total of $375,000 so far this year, prompting a renewed urgent warning.

WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection has received 79 reports from consumers about numerous fake websites selling containers. A total of 60 victims have reported losses with the highest individual amount being $35,000. The 2022 year to date total already far exceeds the $49,000 in total losses in 2021.

The fake websites that offer the containers at low prices are promoted via advertising on online classified websites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. The shipping containers are in high demand for storage or transport and can be converted into living quarters.

After purchasing online, the victims are sent an invoice requesting a direct bank transfer. Once paid, the container is never delivered and the buyer is usually unable to contact the operators of the website.

In some cases, the bogus business demands more money to cover delivery costs, customs duty and insurance fees.

Executive Director for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said the escalation of losses reported in recent months is alarming.

“Items such as shipping containers that are in high demand yet in short supply are easy targets for scammers who know that, when people are desperate to purchase scarce items, their excitement at finding one may prevent them from thinking twice about the purchase,” Ms Lipscombe said.

“Looking at the rapidly rising losses, it’s clear that consumers buying these items online need to stop and think about whether the website is legitimate.

“Be wary if the containers are well below the market price and the only way to pay is by bank transfer. These are red flags that should prompt closer scrutiny before paying out any money.

“Our suggestion is to pay securely using a credit card or PayPal which will give consumers the opportunity to dispute transactions when the product doesn’t arrive. If the website doesn’t offer these payment methods, we recommend going elsewhere.

“Some legitimate operators have also had their identity stolen so an internet search may be required to reveal the genuine website and then contact the business to independently verify if the offer is genuine.”

More information about scams is available on the WA ScamNet website where online scam reports can be lodged and enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or phone 1300 30 40 54.

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
20 Oct 2022

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