Within self-storage, a new venue for scams is the auction, which has gained much more attention in recent months thanks to the TV shows "Storage Wars" (10:30/9:30 p.m. CT, Wednesdays, A&E) and "Auction Hunters" (7/6 p.m. CT, Tuesdays, SPIKE). A discussion is brewing on Self-Storage Talk, the largest online community in the industry, called "New Auction Scam," in which a member outlines how auction buyers and are scamming each other. Dozens of members, many of whom are managers, are posting responses.
Member hurlco describes the scam, which happened at a facility in his area, like this: "A well-respected auction buyer bought a unit at an auction that looked really, really good. He paid $2,600 for it. When he started going through the unit, he discovered that the boxes were taped up but empty. He also found boxes filled with trash. He was (angry) and told the facility and auctioneer that something was wrong with this space. He later found out that two other auction regular buyers who partnered on spaces rented a unit, filled it with their junk and trash, dressed the unit up to look good, stopped paying their rent and allowed the facility to sell their space. These two guys owed only $900 in back rent and fees and received a check from the facility for $1,700 since it sold for more than what was owed on it."
Member SMSSId bemoans, "Wow! What a can of worms. I’m not sure how I would handle the situation." Member shaekirk can relate: "It happened to us in November. I don't know if the 'occupant' was an auction buyer, but he definitely knew the ropes. He dressed up the unit with a lot of empty boxes marked 'antique,' 'comics,' 'baseball cards,' etc. All the boxes were empty. He actually showed up to the auction to see how much his unit sold for. In good faith to the buyer, we refunded the money and considered it fraudulent by the occupant."
The original poster, hurlco, suggested facilities could thwart these scams by taking a more detailed inventory of what's available in each delinquent unit. Of course, detailed inventories can create increased liability and tampering allegations from the delinquent tenant. Many members seem to be on each side of this issue. That said, some states require facilities to inventory units and provide a general description of the goods to buyers.
What can facilities do to prevent these scams and protect their loyal, honest auction buyers? Those who would like to share their ideas can do so by visiting SelfStorageTalk.com, logging in or registering a free account at http://www.selfstoragetalk.com/register.php, and posting in the thread: http://www.selfstoragetalk.com/legal-insurance-issues/4771-new-auction-scam.html.
Live and growing since January 2008, Self-Storage Talk is the official forum of Inside Self-Storage, a dynamic services company that provides publications, events and educational resources for the self-storage industry. In addition to more than 4,100 registered members, SST has approximately 4,270 discussion threads and 37,700 posts in 23 different topical sub-forums.