By: Fleet Management Weekly Editorial Staff
Fleet Management Weekly recently spoke with Scott Cornell, Vice Chair of the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA Americas) board of directors, to understand the different techniques cargo thieves are using and what transportation professionals can do to help mitigate the risk of theft. Scott also serves as Transportation Lead, and Crime and Theft Specialist, at Travelers®, and he highlighted some of the latest trends affecting the industry.
FMW: We all know cargo theft is a problem for the transportation industry. How are thieves committing these crimes?
Scott Cornell: When we talk about cargo theft in transportation, there are two main buckets: straight theft and strategic theft.
Straight theft – when thieves steal cargo where it sits – is more common than strategic theft. For instance, thieves can take cargo directly from ports, warehouses or distribution centers, or even from a trailer sitting at a truck stop or staged in a lot before it’s ready for transit.
Strategic theft is a little more complex. This is when thieves use different identity-theft techniques to steal cargo, and there are several ways they can do this. For example, cargo thieves can steal the identity of a trucking company to commit theft. Another way is conducting a fictitious pickup, when thieves pretend to represent a legitimate trucking company and make off with the goods. There is also a double-brokering scam, which is when a thief falsely books a load from a legitimate freight broker and then poses as that broker to pass the shipment to a motor carrier.
While straight theft is still more common than strategic theft, we’re starting to see spikes in cases of identity theft, fictitious pickups and double-brokering scams. In fact, the total number of reported strategic thefts that occurred in 2018 and 2019 were 126 and 124, respectively. Last year, number increased to 140, representing slightly more than a 10% increase over the previous two years.
FMW: The pandemic has wide-reaching implications for the entire supply chain. Do you think the increase in strategic theft last year was an anomaly, or is it something we will continue to see?
Scott Cornell: While the volume of theft can vary from month to month, the industry traditionally sees spikes in theft during the fourth quarter, when there is an increase in goods being transported for the holiday season. However, according to CargoNet data, there were significant spikes in fraudulent activity last year in March, July and December. Given this and other data, along with our experience, we do see strategic theft as a growing problem for the transportation industry.
FMW: As you mentioned, strategic theft is more complex. What can transportation professionals do to help mitigate this risk?
Scott Cornell: The No. 1 rule is to know who you’re doing business with by thoroughly vetting and verifying the identity of business partners. We recommend checking information you receive against the website of the company you’re working with and calling the phone number they have listed. Confirm that the person you are doing business with works for the organization and has the authority to work with you. If you have a carrier packet with more information about the company, ask your business contact to verify other information, such as their email address, to make sure that someone is not impersonating a real person or business.
Overall, it will require a few extra steps to do your due diligence, but it can potentially save you from loss, and a lot of hassle, in the long run.