Fake Brokers - BIMCO Bulletin

Fake Brokers

CONTRACTS & CLAUSES | FAKE BROKERS November 2017 Fake brokers move in to time charter territory! By Merete L. Greisen, Head of Support and Advice at BIMCO Merete Lund Greisen is Head of Support & Advice and has been with BIMCO since April 2013 and is responsible for advising and guiding BIMCO members on contractual issues and disputes. Merete has been working in the industry since 1989 and has a thorough background from commercial shipping. She has mainly been working in the chartering departments of shipowners/operators as well as a charterer in a large Merete L. Greisen industrial company. B IMCO has previously warned members about situations where fake brokers will attempt to trick owners into fixtures where there is no cargo available. An example of a typical scam is when the owner is requested to make prepayments, eg by covering liner in costs before the ship turns up at the loading port. Since the fraudsters generally appear to be operating from Turkey, the bank account, where advance funds should be transferred to, is in that country even in cases where the loading port is in another country. The communication appears to be genuine the fraudsters are well versed in shipping and can fool even very experienced chartering personnel. The broker might present well-known companies as charterers, but when checked these companies will not know anything about the alleged cargo. Similarly, they may give references from owners previously having fixed with this charterer and all references (usually only by email) will confirm that the charterers are acceptable. These references may appear to be real companies but they are not. The email addresses are very convincing and usually very close to an address you would expect for this company. However, when checked, the domain might be set up in Turkey and will not correspond to the legitimate email addresses of the company appearing as charterer. The problem is that the well-known company named as charterer has no knowledge of the cargo ie there is no cargo as there is no real broker or charterer. Once the owners have remitted a requested amount, the fraudsters cash the money and disappear. We know that ships have even ballasted a long way only to get to a port where no one knows of the cargo, let alone the scheduled port call. The fraudsters are now expanding their business in to other areas of shipping Owner members can also contact BIMCO to investigate whether any of the email addresses or other information provided are similar to details we already have about these known fraudsters It seems that the fraudsters behind these scams have taken their tricks into new territory and appear to be also in the market for ships for time charters (trips). While this would usually require at least one hire payment being made perhaps including bunkers on delivery the fear is that they would use that ship to fix a real cargo, get bills of lading issued, cash the freight and disappear, only to leave the owners responsible to complete the voyage and deliver the cargo in accordance with the bills issued. The communication appears to be genuine the fraudsters are well versed in shipping and can fool even very experienced chartering personnel There are certain similarities with the liner in/voyage fixture scams. The references can usually only be obtained by email, the broker may be totally unknown to you or others in the market, and email addresses may be similar in the wording from one reference to another, eg info@... , fix@... etc. Obviously, it is extremely difficult to determine from an email address whether it is one of these fraudsters approaching you (to take your ship on time charter), but, as with other situations, check, check and check again, if there is any doubt about the identity of the charterers and whether the fixture may be an attempt to trick you. Approach other parties you trust to investigate whether the information provided is genuine. Owner members can also contact BIMCO to investigate whether any of the email addresses or other information provided are similar to details we already have about these known fraudsters. If payments are to be made and received, check that the information about bank accounts makes sense BIMCO has seen several examples where payment for liner-in costs are to be made to an account in Turkey, a country different from where the loading is to take place and where the alleged agent has its line of business. Both chartering staff and the accounting department making remittances should be vigilant at all times. Lastly, keep in mind other nationalities might also try these tricks and everyone should be alert to any unusual requests and bank accounts in different countries not relevant for the voyage in question. Better to check all the details and references one extra time if there is any doubt about your counterpart or the voyage in question. For more information: Members can contact the Support and Advice team for further information at: advice@bimco.org. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube