Fictitious Pickups on the Rise as Thieves Become More Computer Savvy

In a technology-based world where people look for speed and convenience in doing everyday tasks, the shipping industry isn’t any different, as more and more shippers rely on brokers to schedule the transportation of their freight, brokers posting these loads online for bidding, and trucking companies replying with their rates on load boards.  But is this process leading to a greater number of fictitious pickups?  Cargo theft experts say yes.

First of all, let’s explain what a fictitious pickup is.  As the name suggests, fictitious pickups occur when a thief impersonates a carrier, often arriving ahead of the scheduled appointment time and providing falsified documents to pick up a shipment and disappear before the legit carrier arrives.

Fictitious pickups started to come to light as a growing trend back in 2005, according to CargoNet, especially in the state of California.  By 2008, fraudulent pickups accounted for 8% of all reported thefts with that number growing to around 10% today, making it the “fastest-growing method of cargo theft,” according to Travelers Insurance’s Scott Cornell. 1

So why the increase?  Technology has allowed thieves to be more selective on the type of products they target rather than a random trailer theft.  As CargoNet reports, web-based brokering plays a large part in this, with “‘the ability to set up fictitious companies and websites, and the availability of high-quality fraudulent driver’s licenses.  The just in time supply chain management practices have exacerbated the problem by putting a premium on speed at the expense of performing time-consuming due diligence in vetting’ carriers by brokers, and company employees by carriers, in some instances.” 1

Notable thefts resulting from fictitious pickups include the $1 million apparel theft in NJ back in 2014 and last year’s series of nut thefts in California in which over two dozen loads were stolen in three months alone.  In the latter, officials believe that the thieves obtained shipment information by hacking into the Department of Transportation’s shipping database as well as shipper and carrier’s Facebook pages to identify drivers and then forge documents. 2  What is known as “burner” cell phone numbers are given and then discarded, as well as untraceable, once the shipment is picked up. 2Besides fictitiously acting as the driver, thieves also posed as the shipper, calling up the driver who already picked up the load, stating that there was a problem with the shipment and the driver needs to return it at a different location.

The important question is how do you prevent it from occurring?  First of all, brokers need to vet out carriers and confirm their contact information and identities, practicing due diligence prior to tendering out the load.  Carriers should regularly check their carrier profile online to be sure that their information is accurate as some thieves gain access and change contact information to go to them.

As CargoNet’s Sal Marino notes, “Anyone who has experienced a theft may know what typically happens when it’s reported locally. The officer will come out.  They’ll ask some questions.  The driver will say that it’s a white trailer. And the officer: ‘Pick up your police report in 48 hours.’ That’s unfortunately often where it ends.” 3

Road Scholar Transport’s awareness trucks provide an extra layer of security as our brightly colored trailers make our fleet easily recognizable and harder to steal.

Additionally, here are some ways Road Scholar can help keep your freight from enduring a cargo theft incident:

*We have internal security gates which block off a section of the trailer, providing an extra layer of security while helping to save money from having to otherwise pay for exclusive use of a trailer.  See a video of how it works here. 

*Road Scholar Transport offers weekend delivery service for our customers, getting their products delivered quickly and reducing cargo theft.

*24-hour expedited service throughout our core service areas.

*Real-time satellite tracking

*Electronic door monitoring


*Facility Security

*Professional and experienced drivers who are subject to background checks and safety tests well beyond the industry standard.


Don’t put your freight at risk.  Book your load with Road Scholar Transport today at