October 9 - Insurance specialist ITIC has warned of continued attempts by fraudsters to target payments between shipping companies.

Speaking at the 45th FONASBA Annual Meeting in Gothenburg, ITIC claims director, Andrew Jamieson, explained that recent cases had been variations on earlier scams.

In April 2014, ITIC warned its members about a fraud scheme resulting in pre-funded port costs being diverted to a fake bank account. In each case the owners received an email advising them that the port agent's bank account was inoperable because of an annual audit. If the owners complied with the instructions, which came from an email address very similar to the agent's, the funds were stolen.

Jamieson explained, "In recent cases, the fraudsters have changed their story. A ship manager received a message asking if money could be sent directly to the agent's foreign exchange broker who 'could secure banknotes which were in short supply in that part of the world'.  Unfortunately, the ship manager queried the instruction by simply hitting the 'Reply' button, asking, 'As we don't know the broker, would it be possible to remit to your bank account as usual?' If the ship manager had checked its records first and seen that the email address did not correspond to the details it held for its principal, the attempted fraud would have been uncovered." 

Not all attempted frauds succeed. In another case, a Norwegian shipbroker foiled an attempt to steal a monthly hire payment by questioning a request to forward revised payment details. He telephoned his contact in the owner's accounts department, who confirmed that the request was spurious.

Jamieson concluded his warning to the FONASBA meeting by saying, "We appreciate the large number of payments processed by our members, but changes to account details should always be treated with suspicion. Very few such changes are legitimate. ITIC's advice is always to take separate steps to verify instructions to alter the destination payment."