Life imitates the training

Last week the Metro training team ran in-house sessions on the threats posed by cyber-crime and business fraud….how prescient they were.

The air freight sector has never faced so many challenges, with global demand rising – spiking from some origins – and likely to spike further in the coming months.

Demand is not usually a bad thing, but in these unusual times there is very little passenger flights, which means the market is chasing the scarce resource of ‘freighters’ and converted passenger aircraft ‘preighters’.

Difficult enough job for our team, but now they face the threat of the ‘Phantom freighter’ reported by The Loadstar, just days after their training.

The scarcity of air freight capacity has led to an increasing number of offers for freighters that either do not exist, or are parked in the desert not ready to fly.

Charter brokers claim scams became prevalent during the PPE rush, as governments and inexperienced bookers urgently sought capacity.

With charter rates sky-high, buyers shopping around get offered a ‘bargain’, accept the offer, and in some cases pay a deposit, and then wait for contracts to come that never arrive because the aircraft never existed.

PPE and the current peak in demand has attracted a lot of sharks and scammers, who prey on naive customers who often have little to no experience of chartering aircraft and are not availing themselves of the experience our team offer.

Of the four adverts offering capacity that The Loadstar responded to, asking for the registration numbers of aircraft on offer, one replied, saying simply “sorry” and adding a link to a website offering “a second income”. Another said that the registration number was confidential “as our company [is] protecting the owners assets under NDA”.

There are surprisingly large numbers of offers for aircraft charters on LinkedIn: one “broker” is offering a 747-200F for $6,700 per block hour and a 747-400F at $7,900, while another is offering a 747-400F from China to the US for $690,000.

And it is increasingly common for scammers to set up fake domains that sound like well-known airlines, adding an extra letter into the domain name. 

Experts warn potential charter customers to carefully check email addresses and beware of dealing with people who don’t have any web presence or lack a company email address and trading history. 

It is inconceivable that even the most gullible would transfer very large sums of money to anyone, without any thought on how they might get it back. But there you go, they obviously haven’t attended a Metro training day on identifying, avoiding and reporting fraudulent activity.