Report Warns Shipping of Phishing Scams

Information phishing has been identified as one of the main ploys used by fraudsters targeting the maritime industry.

In a recent report highlighting fraud in shipping and maritime, Skuld, the mutual marine insurance company, repeated its advice that one of the key elements to fraud is information.

It said fraudsters will seek to ‘phish’ information from various sources, and it is known that in some ports criminals actively target shipping agents as sources of information.

Skuld drew attention to a case scenario in June last year where fake emails allegedly originating from the Suez Canal Authority asked vessels for detailed and confidential information.

The party soliciting the information would then subsequently ask for the settlement of alleged invoices. In actual fact, they had no relationship whatsoever with the Canal Authority.

Skuld warned such scams could put vessels at great risk, ranging from attempted monetary fraud to the risk of attack, theft and hijacking of vessels and crew.

The report points out that maritime fraud has become more common in recent years, and seen a surge not only in the number of cases, but also the variety of fraud.

This is because criminals are increasingly turning to new methods such as computer hacking, and ports are adopting new technologies that in the worst case can enable new types of fraud.

“As shipowners are under pressure to win new business, many have disregarded due diligence when dealing with new business partners.  As both the greater reliance on IT and electronic trading platforms and documents increases, so does the need to stay ahead of the game played by the fraudsters,” the report said.

Among the types of fraud the report examines in some detail are bunkering frauds, cargo and document frauds, chartering frauds and port related frauds. There are also sections on blackmail frauds, cyber fraud, fake job averts and information phishing.

Another chapter looks at the legal consequences of fraud in both civil and criminal courts. The report warns for instance that an attempt to make a fraudulent insurance claim can allow the insurer to deny the claim while at the same time expose the claimant to the risk of being prosecuted in the criminal courts for their attempt to defraud the insurer.

Equally a fraudulent transaction, say by use of fake bills of lading and/or letters of credit, can attract both civil action by the victim to recover their loss as well as criminal proceedings brought by national bodies in the different states.

ICC Commercial Crime Services has also over the years reported and investigated many maritime fraud cases, ranging from bills of lading and documentation forgery to spurious oil fraud claims and charter party fraud.

ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) offers a range of services to assist shipowners in determining the authenticity of trade documents, one of which includes detailed analysis by specialist document checkers.

The Skuld report subscribes to IMB’s long held belief that vigilance is the key to preventing falling victim to fraud.

“Being alive to the risks, taking due care to prepare and then ensuring diligent follow up, will mitigate against the worst and helps to ensure that business reputations and profits are protected,” the report says.