To steal shipments of valuable cargo, thieves are turning to a simple tactic: They pose as truckers, load the freight onto their own tractor-trailers and drive away. They often contact brokers with bogus information, get all the pickup information and go in and out of the shipper’s warehouse largely unnoticed. No one even knows the shipment has been stolen for days, when the receiver complains of a missing truckload.
It’s an increasingly common form of commercial identity theft that has allowed bogus truckers to make off with millions of dollars in merchandise, most often food and beverages due to the high price of the commodity and the inability to track it once it leaves the warehouse. Although Reed has luckily never experienced this kind of theft, stolen loads from shippers are a constant fear in the heads of all brokers. This is why we check all our carriers insurance to make sure they no only have a valid MC# but also have active insurance.
Typically, thieves would steal loaded trucks out of parking lots when drivers were sleeping somewhere else or showering at a truck stop. But the widening use of GPS devices, high-tech locks and other advanced security measures have pushed criminals to adopt a new plan.
Helping to drive the scams is the Internet, which offers thieves easy access to vast amounts of information through load boards. Most brokers post their loads online in order to get more drivers looking at them. Drivers who are looking to go somewhere, home perhaps, can search the web for loads delivering to their home towns, call the broker and be on their way. Sadly, online databases allow these thieves to assume the identities of legitimate freight haulers and search for specific commodities they want to steal.
Last year, carriers reported nearly 1,200 cargo thefts of all kinds nationwide, about the same as the previous year, according to CargoNet, a division of Verisk Crime Analytics, which estimated losses that year at nearly $216 million. Since many thefts go unreported, the real figure is almost certainly far higher. In the end consumers pay the price. For example, if a load of pharmaceuticals is stolen, it could cause a nationwide recall because of the threat of tampering.
The California Farm Bureau Federation warns about clues that could indicate a suspicious hauler: temporary name placards or identification numbers on the truck, abrupt changes in the time of the pickup and lack of a GPS tracking system on the truck. Another suggestion is to get a thumbprint from the truck driver.
Hopefully we can figure out a way to keep theft under control as it’s growing at a rapid rate and warrants a lot of attention.