A reputable local tourism company seems to have been tricked into gathering personal information for an identity theft scam.

On Thursday last week, the Daily Post ran a recruitment notice for Princess Cruises, seeking candidates for dozens of positions.

The advertisement asked for candidates to apply “with references and a valid passport”.

On Friday, the newspaper was informed that the advertisement had been placed without authorisation from the cruise line. It appears to be part of a scam.

The fake recruitment offer was picked up by others as well. The Wok i Kik employment listing, for example, published a copy of it based on this newspaper’s advertisement.

Job seekers are reminded that South Sea Services is the only company in Vanuatu that is qualified to hire cruise ship workers.

Owner Carissa Jacobe told the Daily Post that she had not authorised the ad, and in any case, Princess Cruises doesn’t recruit from Vanuatu.

P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises are both owned by the same company, and the same restrictions apply where employment is concerned. Only South Sea Services are permitted to recruit for them in Vanuatu.

Island Expert Tours is the company that placed the advertisement.

Its owner is Esly Kalo. He was taken aback when contacted by the Daily Post, and genuinely contrite at the thought that he might have contributed to any misdeed.

He said at first that he had been recruited by Princess, and shared a pair of documents purporting to be a letter of engagement and a letter of employment.

Whoever it was that took this honest businessman in, they spent a fair amount of time and effort doing it.

The letters are on a near facsimile of the real Princess letterhead.

But a closer examination quickly raises questions.

The signature section and the seal are dubious at best.

Ms Jacobe told the Daily Post that the amount of documentation for an actual employment contract is immense, running to dozens of pages, and requires a lengthy and painstaking certification process.

Mr Kalo expressed surprise and regret the moment he began to realise he had become an unwitting participant in this deception.

He stated several times that this was never his intention, and apologised to anyone who may have been taken in.

Ms Jacobe told the Daily Post that she had witnessed an uptick in fake cruise job ads recently.

Most of them were using social media and the internet to entice people into sharing their personal information.

Sensitive information such as copies of photo ID and passport information can be taken and used for a number of criminal purposes.

Public awareness campaigns and people’s increasing sophistication in their online behaviour led to a reduction in identity theft since the year 2000.

But global losses are still counted in the billions every year.

Business owners should seek expert advice and assistance when working with companies they’ve never met.

Business Link Pacific is one resource designed specifically to aid Ni Vanuatu small business owners in ramping up their operations and building their commercial networks.

The NZ-funded project can be found on Facebook and on the web by searching for the term Business Link Pacific.

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