Shipping container fraud has been prevalent globally for the last couple of years and millions are lost to criminal syndicates annually. The South African industry has also become a target and it is estimated that approximately R250 000 to R300 000 per day are lost to these scams in SA alone – lost revenue that could have created employment opportunities and improved the local economy.
Scammers often have fraudulent documentation in their possession, ranging from CIPC verification, bank letters, VAT registrations, B-BBEE certificates and more. What can you do to empower yourself as to not become a victim as well?
Kashief Schroeder, co-founder and owner of Container Intermodal Trading (CIT), provides the following useful tips:
If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is
Beware of container scammers with cheap pricing. You might think you have stumbled upon a bargain, but it might cost you in the end. If container pricing is significantly less with one company compared to others, this should immediately raise some red flags. Find out what the average market price is of what you are looking for and if you are quoted well below that, you are most likely being taken for a ride.
Do not be fooled by a website or Google ads
It has become so easy these days to register a domain or run an advertising campaign online that you should not be fooled to think that you are dealing with a legitimate company. Many fraudsters will just copy content from a reputable company and even register a domain that is closely linked to a reputable company’s name by adding an extra letter or word to it. Just because it looks legitimate, it does not mean it is.
Beware if the only contact number is a cellphone number
A reputable business should at least have a landline number. If your only means of communication is via cellphone, this could be an indication that you might be the next victim of fraud. Most of these fraudsters are from West Africa, so they won’t necessarily have a SA landline number. After you have paid for a container, they will simply destroy the SIM card they have been using – you won’t be able to track them down.
Fraudsters do not always operate alone
In most cases, they are syndicates working together.
Don’t let documentation fool you
It may look legit, but it’s easy to fake information.
Don’t be shy to ask as many questions as you want. If you are purchasing a container, ask if you can meet the person you are dealing with. Ask if you can view the container. If you are being pushed to pay some kind of deposit before they agree to this, run.
Ask for proof of ownership
If they cannot prove ownership, you should be very wary. Also, 99% of the time containers are stored at a depot. The people working at this depot should be able to vet for the company you are dealing with.
You should be depositing money into a business account
Be very aware if you are asked to deposit money into an individual’s bank account and not a business. Any reputable company will have a business account.
Ask if the container is customs cleared
Any container should be domesticated when entering the country (when purchased) and SARS will then issue the necessary documentation to state that it has been customs cleared. Proof of this should be provided to you.