Scam alert

Border Watch is the Department of Home Affairs program that receives information about suspicious activities.

Recently, Border Watch has received several reports from industry members about scammers using sophisticated methods to defraud customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouses and depots, shipping and transport companies.

How scams work

Scammers typically use false identities to make you feel safe. They may use a fictional name, or assume the identities of real, trusted people and businesses. Some will approach you in person, while others will go to great lengths to only be contactable by phone or email.

Once they have your trust, scammers may devise an elaborate story to convince you to make a payment, transfer money or extend a line of credit. For example, they may say they can’t pay you upfront because they are travelling overseas, or that they are importing valuable goods and will pay you later. Over time, requests may become more direct or persistent.

Money paid to scammers can rarely be recovered.

Protecting yourself

Most importantly, know your client. Border Watch recommends members always complete and record a 100-point ID check when engaging new clients. We strongly encourage members to make open-source checks a standard part of due diligence procedures.

If you think you’re being scammed

– Don’t pay the scammer. If you already have, contact your bank or financial institution straight away.

– Report a scam to the ACCC’s Scamwatch via www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam

– Consider notifying your industry association.

– Report suspicious customs and trade activity to Border Watch.

Example 1: False ID leaves broker out of pocket

A man contacted a licensed customs broker to clear a valuable consignment from the Netherlands. The man presented a Queensland driver’s license and Australian passport. He said that he was currently travelling overseas and unable to access his bank account, so the broker agreed to pay the Dutch transport company under a credit arrangement. It was only after sending money to a Dutch bank account that the broker realised the transport company did not exist, and the identification documents were false. The man could no longer be contacted and the broker was unable to recuperate the funds.

Example 2: Gold bullion

A woman asked a freight forwarder to assist her with a shipment of gold bullion from Ghana. She provided an email from “Australian Customs” stating that the goods were “GST free under the Bequeathed Goods Bylaw”. The forwarder suspected the woman was being scammed, but nonetheless made arrangements to create an account and arrange storage upfront. When the bullion never arrived, the woman refused to pay and the freight forwarder was left with the bill.

Flag it anonymously at www.abf.gov.au/borderwatch

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