Cargo Thieves Using New Tactics
A range of new cargo theft tactics are being deployed to help thieves make "better choices" about the cargo they target. These new “tactics” appear to fall into three categories: identity theft, fictitious pickups, and misdirected loads/fraudulent carriers. Rather than commit straight theft, where loads are physically stolen from parking lots or terminals – and risking getting spotted and/or potentially be involved in a high speed chase – cargo thieves are trying to be more strategic so they can better pinpoint and steal specific types of cargo.
“We’re seeing more of these strategic kinds of thefts due to a combination of factors: more technology being used with greater access to information within the transportation industry and the involvement of more intermediaries throughout the supply chain,” states Sam Rizzitelli of Travelers Inland Marine insurance company. “This allows cargo thieves to be in better control of when and where a theft is made, in many cases getting the desired cargoes handed ove’ to them rather than having to hunt it down and steal them.”
Data tracked by FreightWatch International indicates that while the actual volume of loads stolen in the U.S. during the second quarter this year declined, the overall value of those loads increased. For the second quarter, FreightWatch reported a total of 194 cargo thefts in the U.S., with the average loss value per incident reaching $164,594. Compared to the same period in 2012, those numbers represent a 27% increase in value despite a 12% decrease in volume.
In terms of the new tactics being deployed by cargo thieves, “identity theft” involves the use of a legitimate trucking carrier’s name to arrange to haul a specific load for a customer, and then vanishing with that load.
Fictitious pickups are also on the rise, where cargo thieves will briefly masquerade as a legitimate carrier in order to pinch a desired load. “They’ll call ahead to a shipper and say, ‘Hey we’re going to be a couple of hours early, so can we pickup XYZ load?’ They’ll sign and then depart with the load that the legitimate tractor-trailer then arriving at the appointed time will be looking for,” notes Scott Cornell, national program manager for Travelers' investigative services.
There is also a misdirected load/fraudulent carrier scam – one of the newer and more disturbing cargo theft tactics. In this case, the thieves may actually set up the “bones” of a real trucking operation – going so far as to contract for insurance – and then contract to haul loads. They’ll then fake a mechanical breakdown to create an alibi, allowing their load to be “stolen” while the shop is in a shop for repairs.
To successfully combat such scams, creating the right relationships between carriers, shippers, and third party logistics providers is more critical than ever. It is important to:
- Develop protocols around pickup procedures between carriers and shippers
- Put verifications in place to confirm the identity of specific drivers
- Shippers need to have procedures to verify the carriers that will be hauling highly targeted high value goods are who they say they are
- Regularly network and share knowledge with industry peers, and especially with anti-cargo theft task forces and other law enforcement groups
For more information on these cargo theft tactics, please see Cargo Thieves Becoming Stratgists, Say Experts by Sean Kilcarr, Fleet Owner (August 9, 2013).
Tia Chisholm, HUB International TRANSPORTATION
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