Bills of Lading Internet Fraud Warning

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

November 28, 2012

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warns against fraudulent cargo tracking websites.

Such sites have been created and improved over the years to add legitimacy for fraudsters to entrap their would-be victims. This is particularly true for containerised shipments, where convincing tracking websites highlight the degree of sophistication employed.

A recent example, investigated by the Bureau, illustrates how such online confirmations – whilst appearing convincing – cannot be always taken on face value and relied upon. These also further underline the need for independent verification of credit complying documents, particularly the bill of lading.

The first example covers what appears to be a valuable containerised shipment of copper cathodes from South America to the Far East. The Bs/L presented appeared on their face to be in order. The carrier’s website further attested that the cargoes had been loaded as per the two Bs/L referred.

IMB’s investigations on the other hand contradicted what the website stated. The physical carrier had quickly confirmed to the Bureau that the vessel was trading elsewhere. Whilst the vessel had bunkered at the discharge port, no cargo operations had been performed in respect of this transaction. A number of mistakes on the fake carrier website were also present with regards to the vessel and further highlights the potential problem with reliance on such resources for cargo confirmation.

The IMB advises a degree of caution be exercised by banks and others when seeking online confirmation for certain carrier websites. Unless the carrier is well known, and the origins of the website verified, total reliance on website confirmations should be avoided.

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