When a storage auction occurs, the self-storage operator only gets to keep the amount it is owed with any excess auction proceeds going to the renter. Generally, the self-storage operator’s lien is only for a few hundred dollars so, the scam artist can profit by staging their units so that it looks valuable to the auction buyer when, in fact, it may be worthless. Since all auctions are final the auction buyer is stuck with the trade and the scam artist absconds with their money.

Scam artists rent self-storage units, sometimes under a false name to hide their identity, perpetuate a fraud and then run off with an unsuspecting auction buyer’s money, never to be seen or heard from again. (To prevent this Carolina Storage Centers require photo ID’s from all renters.)

Purposeful Default

The scammer may make a couple of payments to avoid any suspicion and then, after a few months, will purposely default knowing the unit will be auctioned. (Renters who fail to pay their rent for 90 days are usually auctioned off to pay the unpaid rent.)


Scammers know exactly what auction bidders are looking for and they stage their units to give the illusion of  hidden value. Empty flat screen TV or computer boxes, and boxes marked “jewelry”, or “baseball cards” will be placed artfully around the unit. Since the scammers know that self-storage operators are permitted to move auction items to another location prior to auction, they will weigh down the boxes with rocks so as not to arouse suspicion.

Advantage Scam Artist

Since auction bidders are only allowed to view the contents of a unit from the outside (remember, they are not allowed to touch anything) they can see exactly what the scammers want them to see and nothing else. They can see the boxes with the shape and markings suggesting great value and are lured into bidding higher and higher. All it takes is for two bidders to be taken in and the price skyrockets. Since auctions rules dictate that all sales are final – the unsuspecting buyers is left with empty boxes or boxes full of trash – and a bit loss!

Don’t be fooled

Inexperienced self-storage auction bidders are very often taken in by this somewhat transparent trick. Every auction unit is not owned by a renter going through hard times, sometimes they are owned by scam artists. Remember, if it looks too good to be true – it probably is!