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Have you been offered a job out of the blue on Facebook? Or seen a great job advertised on WhatsApp? It's almost certainly a scam. They're out to steal your money or your identity. ITF inspectorate co-ordinator Steve Trowsdale receives thousands of messages a year from seafarers who've been scammed
Scammers are getting smarter – and so must you. Once it was just emails, adverts, and fake websites, now they will also exploit you through social media platforms. Facebook is by far the most common and trying to report it to the company is very difficult.
The way the fraudsters reach out is changing, but the essence of the scam stays the same. They promise a new job that turns out to be non-existent. They rob you of your money and sometimes your identity. They hook you in and bleed you dry. You're left feeling frightened and ashamed of falling for their lies.
They use the names of legitimate companies and set up fake websites, false phone numbers and email addresses using free providers. The real companies have no knowledge of the fake ones. Or the scammers set up entirely fake companies.
Website domains are not doing their job at policing the sites registered with them. The ITF recently produced evidence which closed two websites operated by scam companies ABL Shipping Ltd and Maritime Centre UK.
Sometimes the job is real, but it turns out to be hell. You go unpaid, your documents are taken away from you, you're abandoned. And you've paid for the pleasure.
When you tell us about a scam, we do what we can to expose it or shut it down. But the scammers will usually just set up under a different guise. The most important way to stop them is by being alert to the signs in the first place.
How one seafarer was conned
A victim of recruitment fraud agreed to tell their story anonymously to help other seafarers avoid falling into the same trap.
Seasoned seafarer Captain X was unemployed after 29 years in the same company. He was looking for a job and fell for an offer which came out of the blue.
Captain X was told the NI number could not be processed until he paid £2,400 for the 'British National Insurance Scheme' – this doesn't exist.
Captain X was contacted via LinkedIn by someone claiming to work for a legitimate maritime organisation, outlining a great-sounding job – a two-year contract as master of a containership with Vroon Offshore Services Ltd offering a monthly salary of £12,550, two months on/off, two months leave on full pay and a housing allowance.
The company was legitimate but had absolutely nothing to do with the recruitment. The job description, application forms and subsequent contract all had the real company's logo and correct postal addresses.
Captain X signed a contract in May 2020. Then the requests for money began.
Captain X was emailed by someone claiming to be from the UK Immigration Service asking him to pay £1,190 for a UK National Insurance number, even though he would be working at sea – you would never have to pay for this. He forwarded the email and contract to his lawyer, who judged it to be legitimate. So, Captain X transferred the money.
Then Captain X was told the NI number could not be processed until he paid £2,400 for the 'British National Insurance Scheme' – this doesn't exist. The contact insisted that the payment should be made to Captain X himself using a UK address and the sender must be the captain's next of kin or close friend. Captain X was told that once the NI number was released, he could immediately withdraw the funds. Alarmed, Captain X contacted his lawyer, who told him not to send the money and, after investigating, confirmed it was a fraud.