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ITIC issues e-mail fraud warning to ship agents

  • Friday, 02 November 2007 | News

The International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has issued a warning to ship agents following an increasing number of criminal attempts to obtain delivery of cargo using forged e-mails.

ITIC's annual publication, The Intermediary, states, "Fraud in shipping is endemic, cargoes are valuable, and it has never been easier to forge documents, electronic communications, bills of lading, etc."

"Carriers and their agents must continuously be aware of this fact and take whatever steps are necessary to avoid becoming unnecessarily involved in costly claims for damages which have resulted from a failure to be careful and vigilant."

ITIC notes that carelessness in dealing with telex releases has contributed to losses in many cases. "Telex release? refers to the release of cargo at one port when the bill of lading has already been surrendered at another.

In modern ship agency these telex releases are almost always made by e-mail.

As such, this leave telex releases open to exploitation by e-mail fraudsters. In its Guidelines for the Release of Cargo, ITIC recommends that agents check the authenticity of any messages from other agents to be sure of where these instructions are coming from.

ITIC says that it has been made aware of several recent claims involving telex release by faked e-mails, manipulated to appear as though they are from the load port agent. These e-mails have then been accepted as authorisation for cargoes to be released and as confirmation that freight has been received when it has not.

ITIC said, "One forged e-mail confirmed that the original bills of lading had been collected at the load port for four containers of mobile phones, and another forged e-mail confirmed that the original bills of lading for a cargo of fruit and the attendant freight had been collected."

"In both cases the fake e-mails were accepted by the discharge port agent at face value, and cargo was released. In the first case valuable cargo was misdelivered, and in the second case a large amount of freight remained unpaid."

The Club advises agents asked to perform a telex release to first obtain written authority from their principal, and not to accept telex releases at face value.

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