Scam Warning: Fake representatives of real shipping companies are preying on unemployed seafarers
Recently, one of my former students almost became a victim of a scam targeting seafarers with offers of employment at ridiculously high wages and with generous benefits. Even in good times, 4.580 GBP per month for a 3rd officer position with 3.500 GBP travel allowance would be incredibly tempting - so, with severe wage pressure now everywhere, even very alert seafarers may be tempted to follow up on such an offer.
The scam starts off more or less benignly - a contract is sent over! But, unlike typical employment offers, this one does not involve any sort of screening. Miraculously, the candidate has already been accepted for the position, all he needs to do is sign and send the contract back. The deadline for this? Suspiciously short: one week, maybe even less.
When I first encountered this scam, I wondered what the angle was - how were they going to monetize the targeted seafarer's signature? Identity fraud, perhaps?
By the second time encountering the scam, it became clear. The targeted seafarer had responded with additional enquiries. The scammer had written back that the targeted seafarer would need to transfer money to the "company" for translation of his STCW certificates. This amount was, of course, far more than any translation - even a certified one - ought to cost. The "company" would ask for thousands of euros up front, i.e. to be transferred via bank wire transfer in advance to a specified foreign account.
A serious employment offer will always be accompanied by a rigorous personal vetting process and a review of STCW certificates. They will never contain an immediate offer without any prior discussions, interviews, communication or other form of contact. Also, it goes without saying that English language STCW certificates will always be understood by personnel departments in the shipping sector and that non-English STCW certificates will typically be translated by a prospective job applicant, not by the company soliciting a specific seafarer.
Please indeed be careful with unsolicited job offers from strangers. Do not reply, do not engage these scammers and do not send back any personal identifying information. And, obviously, do not wire these scammers any money in advance for any reason whatsoever, as no legitimate shipping company will ever ask a job applicant for a cash advance payment.
In the end, my former student answered his own questions by cross-referencing the name used by the scammer with the real shipping company. He called the real shipping company and asked their personnel department to confirm the offer and the identity of the person making it. Of course, they responded that they had no such offer on record and no such name as an employee. It was clear, then, that this offer was not from the real company.