Shipping container fraud has been prevalent globally for the last couple of years and millions are lost to these 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 which could have created employment opportunities and improved the local economy.
Kashief Schroeder, co-founder and owner of Container Intermodal Trading (CIT)
Scammers often have fraudulent documentation in their possession, ranging from CIPC verification, bank letters, VAT registrations, BBBEE certificates and more.
So 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 some 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 the bargain of the year, but it might cost you dearly in the end. If container pricing is significantly less with one company than when 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 by these as to think that you are dealing with a legitimate company. Many fraudsters will do this and just copy content from a reputable company and even register a domain that is closely linked to a reputable company’s name - by just adding an extra letter or word to it.
As an example, our website is www.citcontainer.com. Fraudsters might copy our content under a domain www.citcontainers.com or www.citcontainer.co.za. Just because it looks legitimate, it does not mean it is. On their website, they will even copy the physical address of the company they are pretending to be.
If the only contact number is a cellphone number - beware! A reputable business should at least have a landline number as well. If your only means of communicating verbally with the company you are dealing with 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 will not have a SA landline number necessarily. After you have made payment for a container, they will simply destroy the SIM card they have been using and you will never be able to track them down again. Even if you try and track their IPS address, you will find that most work out of internet cafes.
Fraudsters do not always operate alone. In most cases, they are syndicates working together. Therefore even if you deal with more than one person, do not be fooled.
Do not be fooled by documentation. It is so easy to fake information on documentation that once again, it might look legitimate, but looks are deceiving.
What you should do - ask, ask, and ask more questions. Do not be shy to ask as many questions as you want to. If you are purchasing a container, ask if you can come and meet the person you are dealing with, ask if you can come and view the container that you are buying. If you are being pushed to pay some kind of deposit before they agree to this, run!
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Proof of ownership
Ask for proof of ownership of the container you are purchasing and where it is. If they cannot prove ownership, then you should be very wary. Also, 99% of the time, containers are stored at a depot. So 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.
Kobus Lombard of Container Fraud, a newly established online tool that can now be utilised as a public awareness site for the consumer industry to check whether they might be scammed or not, echoes Schroeder’s sentiments.
“Container fraud in South Africa has become vicious. Container Fraud Prevention, therefore, provides a linked service to all registered service providers and offers a verification service on this public domain (www.containerfraud.co.za)."
He adds, “This will provide tools for the public to check, verify and make informed decisions about the container company they want to deal with. We provide the correct company details, verified logo, verified contact details, and a unique company page that matches and backlinks to the correct website of the container company they’re interested in. We’re more than happy to assist and support anyone who feels they may be scammed or aren’t sure if they’re dealing with the legitimate company. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Expanding across Southern Africa as one of the top container companies, renowned for quality and the best market related pricing, CIT is constantly pushing the boundaries in container and intermodal equipment trading.
Schroeder concludes, “Offering new and pre-owned containers for sale or rental, the CIT team have amassed a number of years in the industry. We’re able to provide you with sound advice, so I welcome anyone to contact me if they have any questions.”
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