Thursday, October 17, 2013

Working in Recruitment, Shipping, Freight or Logistics? Someone, Somewhere is Looking to Scam You

Genuine Company Names Used in Ever More Sophisticated Schemes from Tax Rebates to 'Long Firms'
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – It seems you are not worth knowing these days if someone, somewhere isn’t using you as an excuse to try and scam somebody. Receiving hundreds of e mails every day means we at the Handy Shipping Guide have become quite sophisticated (we hope!) at detecting most phishing schemes etc. aimed at extorting our bank details but we, along with other freight and logistics interests, have also been directly targeted by people using our identity, so here are a few things to look out for if you offer forwarding, logistics, recruitment or similar industry services, whether company or individual.

These day’s most busy office executives are aware of the traditional ‘telex directory’ scam, now evolved through fax directory to a ubiquitous industry or general business directory. Unlike most modern scams these usually arrive in the post, proffering an official looking invoice or ‘confirmation of company details’ form confirming your firm’s update or insertion in a European or Global publication. Close examination reveals a tear off strip to return where, in the tiniest of fonts, you confirm that you will pay several hundred euros if you return it, usually to a Spanish address.

One of the most insidious, and hardest to spot schemes is a request for a quotation. Although the Handy Shipping Guide remains strictly neutral and, despite the practical experience of our staff, sticks to publishing as opposed to operations, we still get requests for quotes to and from far flung places as a result of our huge web presence. What can at first appear a genuine search for a carrier has to be weeded out before we advise the perpetrator how to find a supplier via our Freight Directory, often no easy task.

Another common scam, currently in operation is the e mail from IATA telling you how much you owe and to pay by return. The scammers hope that by flooding the industry with these, some busy operations, with perhaps a little less liaison between departments than is good for them, will simply follow the instructions to pay a non-existent bill. Full details of this one HERE.

There are of course much more elaborate ‘Long Firm’ type swindles which can net crooks millions as highlighted by us in a short piece last year, but most are of the type perpetrated using the Handy Shipping title. In these cases a very official looking copy of a bill of lading, air waybill or similar document is sent to the potential victim. The document mentions packages awaiting delivery, the contents of which are worth thousands of dollars, pounds etc. Often a packing list of goods includes things such as Rolex watches, iPhone’s and similar high priced merchandise. All the innocent party has to do is deposit a much lower sum to cover duty, clearance etc. to ensure delivery.

Freight and shipping company names used for this type of crime tend to be those with the highest industry profile as with the recent FedEx and UPS scams but as long as the potential is there for easy money there will be ‘scammers’. We have highlighted DVLA scams, scrap metal shipping scams and there are of course the letters from ‘the Tax Man’ describing your personal or company ‘rebate’ in an attempt to obtain your bank details.

These tax impersonations is where we really cross a line as often they are aiming to extort money from individuals and in this class of despicable crime you don’t get much lower than the type perpetrated on those seeking employment, often as ships crews and relying on international visa’s. Spinnaker, the global shipping recruitment group, report that they have had candidates targeted along with other such companies as N S Lemos, A M Nomikos, Zodiac Maritime Agencies and other ship management and recruitment groups.

These scams usually involve the chance of ship board employment overseas and request a fee, usually to obtain a UK or other visa before the applicant can take up the job. This relies often on the desperation of those seeking work and the sophistication of some of these schemes mean they can be perpetrated on not particularly gullible individuals, just those anxious to gain employment.

If you feel you have any doubts about such an offer contact the company yourself via their own website, don’t rely on any communications sent to you. If it’s a tax, bank or other phishing e mail, take the time to lodge a complaint with the appropriate company or body. A quick Google search can reveal the correct place to register your complaint, Google itself has a report page for copycat websites, although phishing levels have dropped of late, the number of false websites doubled to over 12,000 in the first six months of this year. And those are the ones that were uncovered!

For an update on current frauds or to report attempted fraud in the UK, Action Fraud is a private concern run on behalf of the National Fraud Authority. Unfortunately in many cases, such as those perpetrated in the Handy Shipping name, the scam was of an international nature and despite reporting them to police forces in the UK and overseas it seems catching the miscreants was beyond the wit of the authorities.

Photo: Not all the ‘Nigerian Government Officials’ that might contact you don’t have any money. James Ibori, once convicted for stealing from DIY store Wickes, was convicted last year after he stole around $250 million whilst Governor of a Nigerian province.