Fraudsters target Calgary storage container company in 'sea can scam'
Thieves use address of legitimate company that rents and sells shipping containers
A scam that targets customers looking to rent or buy shipping containers almost victimized a Calgary man, but a bit of due diligence saved him from losing $2,800, says business owner Lucas Griffin.
Griffin's company, Secure-Rite Mobile Storage, has been caught up in the so-called "sea can scam" that has seen a dozen victims in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia lose nearly $70,000 in recent months.
"It's just a new city with the same scam," said Griffin.
The address for Secure-Rite's Calgary location is being used on a website that offers shipping container sales and rentals under the name "Class Sea Cans." Phone numbers on the site are using area codes for Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but little else is known about the company.
"It's using an existing facility — a legit, bona fide company — as just one more piece in their scam to build trust and make it look like there's something there when there is not," said Griffin.
CBC News has tried to contact the company but hasn't heard back.
The close call in Calgary has been reported to police, who confirm a complaint was filed.
Griffin says it may not seem like a big deal, but for him and his industry it is.
"People might say, well, they used your address, buddy, get over it."
"It's just one part of a very intricate scam that hurts consumers, hurts business and ultimately hurts our country," said Griffin.
He says he spoke with the owner of a shipping container and storage company in Nova Scotia who was implicated in a similar scam where someone actually paid the fraudsters.
Griffin says he was told her online reviews and reputation were negatively affected.
"She's like, 'my reputation went from like five star, superstar to, man, I've got to rebuild my brand again.'"
Griffin says if the Calgary customer forwarded the money to Class Sea, his company could have faced the same type of backlash.
CBC News knows of 12 people who say they've lost a total of almost $70,000 after paying for shipping containers they never received in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The Kijiji ads were linked to two "companies" — Box Containers LLC and Big Max Containers.
It's unclear whether the two operations are connected, but both falsely use addresses for legitimate companies to make themselves look credible.
Griffin says he's also alerted his industry association group, which has members across North America.
The National Portable Storage Association told CBC News earlier this month it is very concerned about the scams.
"It goes against everything we have done to build trust and integrity with customers and communities around the world," said Mark DePasquale, the group's CEO.
Griffin says that's why it's important people hear about this fraudulent activity.
"I believe we can keep pushing this person from city to city until there's no cities left for them to operate out of," he said.
He says his company is taking steps to get its address removed from the Class Sea Cans' website. But as of earlier Friday, the northeast Calgary location was still being displayed.