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Border Force issues industry trade scam alert

Recent examples targeting transport and logistics spark concern


The Australian Border Force’s (ABF’s) Border Watch (BW) division has issued a scam alert to industry after a spate of recent incidents targeting “customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouses and depots, shipping and transport companies”.

The Department of Home Affairs program that processes information about suspicious activities flags receiving several reports from industry members about scammers using sophisticated methods to defraud their targets.

“Scammers typically use false identities to make you feel safe,” the BW alert notes.

“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, BW adds.

It advises businesses to know their 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.”

Industry is already on cybersecurity alert after the recent Toll attacks

BW provides two examples of scams that have recently impacted parties.

The first involves a false ID involving a Dutch transport company, leaving an Australian 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.”

The second involves a falsified gold bullion delivery

“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.”

Operators who believe they are being scammed are advised not to pay the suspected scammer, or to immediately contact their financial institution if money has already been exchanged.

BW also recommends notifying industry associations of such threats.

Scams can be reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch via while suspicious customs and trade activity to Border Watch. 


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