BIMCO receives regular reports from members around the world about cargo fraud. This week alone BIMCO have had two reports of cargoes being fixed (or almost fixed) by fraudsters seeking to trick owners to remit advance payments to accounts controlled by them.
Using this information, BIMCO has put together some key warning signs to help members spot the latest frauds – and what to do if you are suspicious.
In many cases of fraud reported to BIMCO, the cargoes and the professional negotiations appeared perfectly genuine at first. Often the names of established and well-reputable charterers are used for cons – and fraudulent “brokers” even provide fake references for the “charterers”. These are e-mail addresses and phone numbers that direct you back to the fraudsters themselves, who will then provide a fake reference.
Here are some common warning signs:
- the initial cargo is followed by a request to add a further part-cargo which is often on liner terms;
- the broker is not known to the owners or their direct brokers;
- the alleged load ports are often (but not always) in Turkey or North African countries;
- the “agent” is pushing hard to get the owners to remit funds very soon after the fixture. But on closer inspection, the agent’s bank account turns out to be in a different country to the port of loading;
- there is a request to remit funds to a third country with no apparent connection with any of the parties to the fixture or the loading or discharge ports;
- in many cases the request for payment requires the owners to remit to a Turkish account – irrespective of whether or not the cargo will be loaded in Turkey;
- there is a sudden request to change the account into which funds are to be paid;
- communication is done by email – and if you call the phone numbers provided, the person answering the broker or the charterer’s phone sounds like the same person;
- the phone numbers provided may be for a random hotel – with a similarly random address;
- the broker may have several cargoes in the market at the same time – the similarities, eg of the contact numbers of references and agents might raise suspicion if checked in detail.
What to do if you are suspicious:
- call the involved parties and liaise with a trusted agent in the loading port to investigate if the cargo is actually available;
- if you know anyone within the chartering company mentioned, contact them to check if they actually have a cargo of the description offered to you;
- regardless of the previous point, when the suspected fraudsters do name a reputed company as the charterers, check with them before committing yourself
- make a habit of checking the “Company Information” section on BIMCO’s website and consider signing up for a “My BIMCO” account on the website to ensure you receive the latest news;
- Call BIMCO to check the details of your suspected fraudster:
BIMCO can check and compare the phone numbers and email addresses because the fraudsters often use these on rotation from scam to scam
The shipping organization has seen many reports of fraud and can often spot the common characteristics.
BIMCO will continue to issue the latest information and guidance to help members avoid becoming the victim of fraud.