IMB Warns Against Fake Cargo Tracking Websites


The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is warning 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.

Two recent examples investigated by the Bureau illustrate 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 second example relates to the purported shipment of a spurious urea cargo from Malaysia to Vietnam.

On this occasion, the carrier’s website bore a remarkable resemblance to the legitimate website of one of the world’s largest liner companies. In fact, the website pages had been replicated and presented in such a manner that at first glance may lead users to unwittingly believe that they are dealing with the legitimate carrier’s website.

Corporate logos resembling those of the liner company were also present throughout the web pages. The liner company subsequently had the offending website taken down. By this time however the damage had already been done and the unsuspecting victim had already paid out a considerable amount to those behind the fraudulent website.

A degree of caution must 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. Like legitimate businesses, fraudsters have been quick to appreciate the value of a well presented website in furthering their “business”.

The Bureau is able to utilise a network of contacts and has built up expertise over the past 30 years to swiftly verify the authenticity of trade documents independently.

The above two cases are not the only examples where third party online confirmation markedly differs from the truth and the Bureau’s findings and responses to its banking members. We do not expect these to be the last.



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