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The rise of the fake terminal

Generic image of oil tankers moored at a oil storage terminal and refinery
Generic image of oil tankers moored at a oil storage terminal and refinery

Whilst not a new phenomenon, fraudsters attempting to trick people out of significant sums of money are using more sophisticated techniques, prompting officials at the Port of Rotterdam to act. Jasmin McDermott reports

An order is posted online by a supplier of JP54, who says they have up to two million barrels of the product for sale.
An eager client spots the deal, always attractively priced, and proceeds to contact the seller, who encourages them to pay for the kerosene, used as aviation fuel, in advance of receiving the product.
The client then arrives at the port to collect their order and only then do they find out that either the terminal does not store the product in question, or that the storage facility itself doesn’t exist.
‘This is not a new phenomenon,’ says Ronald Backers, business intelligence adviser for the Port of Rotterdam Authority.
‘It has been going on for at least five or six years. These transactions are often accompanied by all sorts of documents, which involve a variety of forged stamps and certificates.
‘We also usually receive enquiries to our general email address asking for storage of JP54 and that they need it immediately.
‘However, in the last year and a half to two years these fake terminal websites have popped up suddenly.’

Storage spoofing covers all varieties of the sale of non-existent storage capacities and stocks of resources and materials at the terminal’s in Rotterdam’s port area.
The target for this kind of fraud are national and multinational companies that either operate or are looking for storage facilities in the port area, as well as all potential buyers of the goods stored at these terminals.
These targets are usually not in the business of trading or storage and are new to the industry.
‘It is not targeting those who definitely know about the industry and know the right channels to go through, because those of us in the industry would much more easily be able to spot a fake,’ says Backers.
‘it is targeting people who are new to the industry, or not even in the industry but have a lot of money.’
In a bid to make their business offering more authentic and official, fraudsters have turned to creating fake storage terminal websites.
‘It makes it look more real than it is,’ says Backers. ‘They are saying, ‘look we really have these terminals and here is our website to prove it’.
‘This makes it more difficult to spot what a fake terminal is. Many people who believe this website are not necessarily active in trading itself.
‘It is quite sophisticated – they try to use existing names, and in doing so they abuse these names. I have heard stories of people who have paid out more than €1 million and then lost that money.’

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Generic image of oil tankers moored at a oil storage terminal and refinery