Due to to the popularity of the storage auction reality shows “Storage Wars” and “Auction Hunters,” new buyers have been flocking to storage unit auctions across the country. Some amazing treasures are found in the storage units on these television shows, leading the general public to assume that this is a common occurrence.
Although you can find some amazing & valuable items in storage units, it just doesn't happen that often. Because these buyers assume that they are going to find some valuables hidden within the unit, the bid amounts have doubled if not tripled since November, 2010. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone figured out a way to capitalize on this change in our industry.
This new scam takes advantage of newcomers, people who like to gamble & people who profile a storage unit. This scam only works in states where the storage facility is required to refund any overages to the delinquent tenant. In order to even think of this scam, you would have to have a knowledge of the storage rental business & storage unit auctions in general, which means that the people involved in the scam could be present at the auction and you would never even know.
Basically, this is how the scam works. The unscrupulous individual rents a storage unit with no intention of ever making another payment. They then stage the unit to peak the interest of the buyers at the storage auction. After 3 months of non payment, legal notices are placed in a local newspaper and the unit goes to public auction. If the unit sells for more than what is owed in back rent & late fees, the overage must be refunded to the perpetrator of the scam . Although the possibilities are endless, here are a few things to look for that these scam artists might do in order to make a storage unit appear to have value.
They may rent a large unit and fill it full of new moving boxes. A unit with nicely organized contents used to be a strong indicator that the owner of the unit had something inside worth protecting. The scam artist could even write things on the side of the boxes to peak your interest. For example: “Grandma's Collectibles”, “Lionel Trains” or even “baseball card collection”. When you open the boxes, they might be empty or filled with worthless items or trash.
In another scenario, the scam artist may place some expensive items in the front of the unit, and then place a mattress or boxes in the way to block visibility of the back of the unit. Keep in mind that the expensive items may have condition or mechanical issues that you cannot see. The scam artists then fills the back part of the unit with worthless items or trash or just leaves it empty. If you assume that the merchandise in the back is as good as the front, not only will you lose money but you might have to make a trip to the dump.
Just remember the number one rule. “Only bid on what you can see.” If you follow this rule, you will have a better chance of making a profit on every storage unit you buy.
I truly hope this article helps some of you avoid making an expensive mistake.