More victims are also coming forward, following a CBC News article earlier this week that revealed how the scams target unsuspecting shoppers looking to make a purchase online, but not seeing them. CBC News knows 12 people who say they lost a total of nearly $ 70,000 in the scam after paying for shipping containers they never received. Kijiji’s ads for the so-called sea cans were placed by people who, when contacted, said they were part of two “companies” – Box Containers LLC and Big Max Containers.
It’s unclear if the two operations are connected, but both mistakenly use addresses for legitimate businesses, including one in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, to make themselves credible.
A third suspicious operation, called Star Max Containers, is accused of having scammed a Quebec couple for more than $ 4,000.
Now, one of the largest shipping container companies in Canada is revealing that its name is also used by scammers posing as real sellers.
Not a new problem
“This has been a constant problem for us since the end of 2019,” said Sandra Paoliello of ATS Containers, which is based in Montreal and has branches across Canada.
“We had started receiving phone calls from people who had sent funds believing they were dealing with representatives of our company. ”
She said victims responded to an ad from Kijiji, even though her company does not sell containers on that website. Last year, the scam moved to Facebook and Facebook Marketplace, where the crooks copied his company’s Facebook profile, images, content and videos, claiming they were ATS.
Paoliello said that after people make wire transfer payments, scammers refuse to respond to them. The victims then call his company, looking for their containers.
‘I would say 5 to 10 calls a day’
“The containers are quite seasonal, so in the middle of summer [and] fall month, many calls per day. I would say five to ten calls a day, ”she says.
Some call ATS for answers after becoming suspicious and hesitant to send money. Others call after losing, on average, between $ 1,000 and $ 3,000, Paoliello said. Many victims are small businesses or individuals who have no money to spare.
She said conversations with those who have been scammed are “difficult” and the company needs to stand up for itself and explain that it is also a victim.
The real ATS put a fraud warning on their website and Facebook page warning of the scam.
“It was very difficult to hear the stories of people who lost money,” Paoliello said. “Being the recipient of their anger and frustration has been difficult, very difficult. »
Paul LeBlanc of Van Blanc Ent. Inc., can identify with this. His family business in Brantford, Ontario also sells shipping containers.
“A client from Toronto came in and lost over US $ 34,000 to these guys in October,” he said. “Another last week in Hamilton lost $ 4,000. ”
LeBlanc said his business name and address had not been used by scammers, but about a year and a half ago someone arrived at his business, wanting to take photos of containers for his boss. The man took about 45 photos.
“Then, about two days later, all of those photos were running on Kijiji ads across the province of Ontario with our boxes, our trucks, our containers in our yards, for $ 1,000 less than that for. what we were trying to sell them ”. he said.
LeBlanc is frustrated with the inability to put a lid on the scam and said people need to be more careful when sending money to someone they don’t know. A container shortage only compounds the problem as fraudsters rake in thousands of dollars a day, he said.
“Whenever there is a container shortage the prices go up, so when people find out they can buy a brand new $ 4,500 20ft container for $ 2,000 I don’t think it’s okay. stop, ”he said.
Fraudsters target a Quebec business
Matthew Del Rossi, of DMD Containers in Lachine, Que., Faces a similar situation. He found out from potential customers that someone was impersonating his company on Facebook and Kijiji. One of his clients lost $ 3,800.
“When you look at their Facebook or Kijiji page, there’s our address, our current website, but then the email and phone number is theirs,” Del Rossi said.
He said his business requires early payment from new customers and is concerned that these customers are reluctant to prepay.
“These are customers that they [the scammers] are stealing from us, ”he said. This is going to tarnish our name at the end because not everyone will trust DMD Containers because they will be asking, ‘Are we still being scammed or is this a legitimate business?’ ”
Stéphane Desparois, of Gatineau, Que., Contacted CBC News after seeing the original story to say he too lost money in the scam. He saw a Kijiji ad from a company called Star Max Containers. He used the address of Pattianne Hatfield’s container business in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia to legitimize his business.
Police reports filed
It is not known whether Star Max is associated with Box Containers LLC or Big Max Containers. Desparois said he paid $ 4,020 for a container that was never delivered. He has since filed a complaint with the police.
“I’ll never wire transfer to someone I don’t know again,” Desparois told CBC News, adding that he would only pay for credit card purchases from now on, so he’s protected if the product is not delivered.
Paoliello with ATS Containers said she also filed a report with police.
She first approached the RCMP, but said she was told it was not their problem, even though her business is national and has customers in New Brunswick and Ontario who have been defrauded. The RCMP referred her to the Sûreté du Québec. She said she was told they were investigating, but has no indication of how the probe unfolded or what will result.
American group worried about fraud
In Bridgewater, Hatfield-based Eco Box Containers and Storage Ltd. has been inundated with messages from people since CBC News first reported the scam.
She heard of three other victims who each lost between $ 1,000 and $ 3,000, as well as potential victims and other businesses whose information was used.
She was also contacted by people wishing to purchase containers.
“People realize that there are crooks out there, but they also realize that there are bona fide companies that sell containers and provide good service,” she said.
All of this has caught the attention of the National Portable Storage Association, a United States-based trade organization that represents the portable storage industry. It has 550 members worldwide, including 45 in Canada.
“We are very concerned about this issue and it goes against everything we have done to build trust and integrity with customers and communities around the world,” CEO Mark DePasquale said in an interview. .
He said that while the association did not hear directly from members affected by scammers, it did send out a warning notice about the scam after learning about the CBC News story.