Inside the Issues

Looking for work? Now beware the internet scams

2005

The internet is now the medium of choice for those seeking to exploit the desire for seafaring jobs by offering non-existent employment in exchange for cash up-front.

The ITF has recently issued warnings about fraudulent operations based in Nigeria, Panama and Canada, with the risk that more sites will spring up every day.

Offering jobs for money is illegal – and is almost certainly likely to be fraudulent if advertised on the internet, even if the site looks professional. Many bear similarities in name to legitimate sites – offering real jobs in a legal framework.

All sectors of employment are subject to such job scams – offshore, cruise vessels and general cargo ships. The amount charged in return for bogus jobs can vary from US$50 to US$500.

Like the sites themselves, the victims are based in many countries. They share one thing – the desire to get a decent job.

The ITF has alerted the authorities in several countries about the lucrative activities of the job scammers, but has found that it is easy for the fraudsters to escape prosecution. Sites allegedly offering offshore jobs around the world and based in Canada – about which complaints were made as long ago as 1999 – are still in operation.

The ITF is warning anyone looking for work: Do not pay in advance. It is illegal to ask for money and is the best indicator available that you are about to lose it.

During 2004 the ITF was notified of a number of cases of fraudulent agencies offering seafarers jobs in return for money.

A deck officer from Croatia claimed that Agent Africa Nigeria offered him a position as a second officer on a salary of US$5,300 a month on board container vessel Maria. The job offer was subject to the seafarer paying 10 per cent of the first month’s wages up-front to the agent. The vessel, claimed the company, was owned by Hado Maritime Nigeria and operated on the Middle East to Nigeria route.
 
According to investigations by the ITF, the only container vessel listed under the name of Maria was owned by a bona fide German company and did not operate on the route in question.

Hado Maritime did not feature in the ownership or management details, nor was it a known company. No container vessels previously listed under the name of Maria were trading on the route specified by the company.

The ITF also found that the Bureau Veritas Quality International (BVQI) listing on the company’s website, www.agentafrica.xaper.com, did not match with BVQI records. Similarly, the quality assurance listing quoted on the website was outdated and no longer used.

Stephen Cotton, head of the ITF Special Seafarers’ Department, commented: “The International Labour Organisation stipulates that nobody is obliged to pay a fee to any crewing agent. We strongly advise seafarers to exert extreme caution in any dealings with the company.”

The ITF has also called on the Panamanian government to investigate Panama City-based companies Sea Cruise Enterprises and Caledonian Offshore, which are reported to have lured money from jobseekers around the world in return for non-existent jobs.

In a letter to Panamanian Minister of Government and Justice Arnulfo Escalona Avila, ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said: “We know that this disgraceful racket has been run for several years and has defrauded victims in many countries, including the Philippines, Guatemala, Uruguay, Jamaica, Guyana, Uganda and others. No one knows just how many people have been robbed this way, but it must number at the very least tens of thousands.

“I trust that the Panamanian police will now move to investigate and put an end to this parasitical operation.”

The ITF enclosed detailed information about the matter gathered by maritime magazine Fairplay. This included links between the websites the ITF has identified as bogus – caledonianoffshore.com, jobsoncruises.com and seacruiseent.com – and 11 others. The ITF advises that these should be treated with caution and repeats its warning that any job offer that depends on payment of an up-front “registration” or “medical” fee is likely to be false.

The 11 websites named in the investigation are:
  • idirect.com
  • internationalpublishers.com
  • cooljobsite.com
  • internationalmaritimelink.com
  • internationaljoblink.com
  • airlinejoblink.com
  • modelingjobs.com
  • cruisejoblink.com
  • oiljoblink.com
  • hoteljoblink.com
  • modeljoblink.com