Valued at $8.7 billion and projected to reach $12.08 billion by 2027, the global shipping container industry has become a central component of the world economy.

It isn’t just global shipping, however, containers are increasingly being used for secure storage, converted into offices, data centre housing, R&D labs and electric battery storage and testing centres. Not to mention, Grand Design style homes.

A growing market and the increasing cost of steel pushing up the price of containers, has seen opportunistic scam artists target the unsuspecting public offering knock down or slightly lower cost containers that never materialise.

With scammers defrauding an average of £1,750 per container and the frequency of scams occurring on a nearly daily basis S Jones Containers, one of the oldest and most well-respected container companies, has joined with Action Fraud to issue a nationwide warning about the on-going scam.

Speaking about the issue Sarah Green, Sales Manager at S Jones Containers, said: “Over the last six months, we’ve been experiencing an increasing number of calls from people who believe they’ve have bought a container from S Jones, only to find out there’s no record of them on our system and they’ve been scammed out of thousands of pounds.

“It goes without saying that scams, including container scams, have been around for years, however these particular scammers are fraudulently using our company branding, staff photos, logos and even dummy email addresses to create invoices that, at first glance, look legitimate. Unfortunately, many people are seeing the reputable S Jones name on the invoice and falling for the scam.

“Not only are customers being scammed, but members of our sales team have been inundated with calls from upset customers with complaints. We then have to break the bad news that they are the victim of fraud. It’s a very frustrating situation for all parties, and we want to spread the word on how people can avoid these container scammers.

“We advise people to be very cautious when making payments, and do as many background checks as they can before sending any money. Scammers are taking advantage of people using platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, and advertising containers for around £1,750. This might seem like a large amount of money to an unsuspecting buyer however it is way under the current market price for a container.

“For anyone unsure whether they are being scammed please visit our website. We’ve created a list of scammer ‘warning signs’ that you can use to check the sale is legitimate.”

Helen, 33 from Scunthorpe, whose 47-year-old family engineering business was targeted by container scammers said: “We needed an open-sided container to be used as a paint shop for engineering parts. My dad, who founded the business in 1975, found one on Facebook Marketplace.

“The invoice and communication we received, all purportedly being from S Jones Containers, seemed professional and legitimate, no different to what we receive from countless engineering firms daily. It was only when reviewing the invoice ready for payment that my mum noticed that it was a personal Monzo bank account that we were being asked to make payment to. We then researched further and found the contact details on the invoice didn’t match the ones on the S Jones Containers website. A call to S Jones Containers quickly revealed that we had narrowly avoided being scammed out of just under £3,500 – not a small sum for any small or medium sized family business.

“My mom and dad have run their business for close to 50 years, if they can come this close to being scammed it’s no wonder that other people are being duped. My advice for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation is – if in doubt phone the company directly and always check and double check payment details, avoiding private bank transfers wherever possible.

“Organisations like Facebook, Gumtree and Monzo should be doing more to prevent criminals from using their platforms in this way.”

To help an unsuspecting public avoid being scammed S Jones Containers has compiled an 8-step guide to ensuring a container order is genuine available here. While Action Fraud is encouraging anyone who has been the subject of container scam to report it to them online quoting reference number NFRC220104987522.

Action Fraud is also highlighting the following three tips from its Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to help people avoid becoming victims of container fraud:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.