Beware of Fake Merchant Officer Licenses.
Most of the merchant ship crew members who used to reach African ports are contacted by fake merchant officer license providers for a fee ranging from US$ 500 to US$ 2000. They used to act that they have good contact in the Liberian Shipping ministry and Panama Consulate to issue the Liberian Merchant officer certificates and Panamanian Merchant officer certificates with proper ranking and official seals with out the required years of experience and sitting for the merchant officer examination at the relevant consular office.
These fake certificates issuing people used to come with full suits and brief cases acting like that they are coming from the consular office and like to meet the captain or chief officer to check the vessels papers. Usually they try to impress the crew members that they are genuine representatives of the consular office.
Once they come down from the upper deck they usually come and sit in the crew mess room and pretend to paper works. Mean while one of them will start conversation with the crew members and low rank officers and will ask them why you are working in this rank when you can be a super ranking officer.
If the crew member or the low rank officers start to believe their story then those forgery people will show some merchant officer certificates and will say to those unsuspecting members these certificates were made for a ship crew due the consular officer was on vacation that he couldn't give the papers to those seaman of the ship that already have sailed off.
After seeing these crew members too will ask them to give merchant officer certificates to them too. After great bargain and some telephone call to someone as consular officer on the other side they will agree for a fee.
They will take the seaman to town to take photographs then will ask them to fill some fake forms and will ask for the payment fully or at least 75% of it.
After 2 - 3 days they will come and give away the certificates to the person and will collect the money from him and will leave the place immediately. Now the crew member is happy with the merchant officer certificate that he had paid between US$ 500 to US$ 2000, with his photo and official seals and waiting for the promotion or a new officer job in the next ship he is going to join. But he don't know that this is a fake one and if found out that he can be prosecuted in his country for forgery.
But the big surprise of the event is, after the fake certificate provider had left a police team will board the ship with that agent and want to meet the master requesting to arrest the seaman for making fake papers with the agent. This is too another play by the fake agent who want to make money along with the police. The corrupted police officers will pay much attention for to get a bribe other than arresting the crew member.
Now the master will settle the case with the police by paying another US$ 1,000 from the crew members own salary with his concern.
So if you are a crew member, be alert when you are visiting African ports as there are many scams like this being carried out by people along with the Government officials.