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Stolen Freight: How to Avoid Frauds and Scams

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Stolen freight in the trucking industry has been on the rise and is posing significant challenges for supply chains. According to a recent report by Verisk Analytics’ CargoNet, “supply chain risk events” surged by a staggering 57% year-over-year, resulting in over $44 million worth of stolen freight.

In addition to traditional cargo theft tactics, thieves have adopted more sophisticated and strategic methods to fraudulently obtain cargo. They use technology to pose as legitimate carriers or brokers to secure a load, but they intend to unwittingly involve an unsuspecting driver to facilitate freight fraud while remaining untraceable to law enforcement agencies.

As a broker or a carrier, ensuring the safe and secure transportation of cargo is crucial to your business’s success. To help safeguard your business, we have compiled freight theft tactics to watch for, tips to prevent becoming a victim, and ways to recover from freight fraud should the unthinkable happen.

Freight Theft Tactics

Brokers and carriers have reported various methods used to steal freight, and understanding the tactics of cargo thieves can help you prevent it from happening.

Here are a few examples:

  • Straight theft is when cargo is stolen straight from the carrier at a truck stop or somewhere along the route. Trailers with no security deterrents are often the most targeted. The truck and trailer might be unattended for a short amount of time but for professional thieves, it doesn’t take long to unload cargo and disappear.
    This type of theft directly impacts carriers, but the consequences are far-reaching and impact the carrier, broker, and shipper.
  • Strategic theft most commonly occurs as double-brokering. A scammer transfers a load from one freight broker to another, without proper authorization. Double-brokering is illegal and hurts a legitimate business’s finances and reputation.
    Thieves also know Fridays mean tight shipping deadlines and lax vetting processes. Continue to vet all carriers and brokers thoroughly to avoid gaps in security.
  • Cyber attacks happen when any information about employees (drivers, warehouse workers, brokers, etc.) is accessed or intercepted by bad actors, often resulting in identity theft. Some owner-operators or brokers have also reported their business information being hacked and used in double-brokering scams or other strategic thefts.

Tips to Prevent Stolen Freight

Taking extra steps to confirm details and ask questions before a haul can often help keep you safe from cargo theft.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Verify credentials. For brokers or carriers, make sure the contact information you have matches what is on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) websites. Double-check that contact information is valid and email addresses and phone numbers are accurate.
  • Establish security guidelines and clear communication. Carriers and brokers should add security guidelines to all contracts to protect themselves from vulnerability—and liability. These should include ensuring high-value freight is kept in a secure, well-lit location, limiting the time it’s left unattended, and using strong, secure trailer door locks.
  • Check carrier ratings and industry reputations. Brokers should utilize onboarding and monitoring solutions, like RMIS, to carefully select quality carriers. Tap into referral networks and other tools to identify potential risks when selecting the right carrier or broker to work with.
    Verify the contact information is legitimate by calling the phone number listed and checking addresses. Virtual phone numbers—like a Google phone number with no physical address attached to it have a high correlation with freight fraud.
  • Use digital security. Make sure you can track the load in real-time. Add GPS tracking to the cargo and the trailer or hauling device to monitor movement from pick-up to delivery.
  • Eliminate stops within 300 miles of origin sites. Reports show that this is a common area for theft. Keep your drivers on the road as much as possible and help prevent theft.

How to Recover from Freight Scams

If you’ve fallen victim to freight theft, here are the first three steps you should take.

  1. Notify law enforcement immediately. You should also contact the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the region where the freight was stolen. Give as much detail as possible.
  2. Communicate with all parties involved. Open lines of communication are essential. If you used a load board, notify them as well so they can work to track down details like the IP address so they can deactivate the scammer(s).
  3. File a formal complaint with the FMCSA. Double-brokering complaints usually fall under Deceptive Business Practice or Operating Authority and Financial Responsibility. Filing with the FCMSA also helps protect your authority.

Increase Your Visibility—And Trust

Trust between carriers and brokers increases efficiency and confidence in the transportation industry. Increased broker transparency creates a secure, reliable supply chain where everyone benefits.

Strong broker and carrier relationships keep the transportation industry moving. Truckstop RMIS Carrier Onboarding and Monitoring help you identify and mitigate identity theft and suspicious activity before it impacts your bottom line. Get daily status updates, change notifications, and carrier directory sourcing tools to save you time and protect your business.

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