Holiday Cargo Theft Continues to Strike Retailers as Value of Stolen Goods Rise

Cargo theft is nothing new to supply chain professionals as thieves continue to utilize new and adaptive ways to steal freight.  According to National Retail Federation’s 14th annual organized retail crime (ORC) study, 92% of retailers that were surveyed acknowledged having an ORC within the last year (29% stating that they occurred during the supply chain process) and 71% found the problem to be increasing.(1)  According to retailers, the digital environment is making it easier and easier for thieves sell stolen goods and that harsher penalties need to be enforced for cargo theft, with 73% of surveyors believing that there should be a federal ORC law in place.(1)

CargoNet and SensiGuard recently released their 3rd quarter cargo theft results, agreeing that while the number of stolen shipments decreased, the value of these shipments increased.  SensiGaurd reported an 11% decrease in shipments for 3Q 2018 (157 thefts) over 3Q 2017 while CargoNet uncovered 188 thefts.(2)  When it came to value, SensiGaurd found the average loss per incident to be $160,858 (31% higher than 3Q 2017), with four thefts being valued at over $1 million, while CargoNet revealed an average loss value of $143,949.(2)

Both firms differed on the “product of choice” among thieves with SensiGaurd ranking electronics as the most stolen commodity followed by home/garden and then food/drinks.  CargoNet, however, found food/drinks to be number one with household products in second and electronics in third.(2)  The two firms agreed that California was the state with the most stolen shipments, followed by Texas.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Gerardo Pachuca states that “a lot of cargo theft suspects have been in the transportation industry at some point, working in a warehouse or as a truck driver” and that some even bring ignition switches that they can changed on the truck in 30 seconds and then drive away.(3)

Here are a few other techniques thieves are using to steal freight:

Fake Documents

The internet has been an immense tool for thieves to access the information needed to steal freight.  From load boards displaying shipment information to company Facebook pages exhibiting driver names, right down to carrier websites containing insurance information and permits, thieves are able to replicate the documents needed to pick up loads.

3D-Printed Security Devices

Thieves are finding new ways to cover up the tampering of freight as well as its location and time of theft by investing in 3D scanners.  These scanners, which can cost a mere few hundred dollars, are allowing thieves to duplicate near-perfect security device replicas such as cargo seals and locks/padlocks to appear as if they were not tampered with, taking as little as 10 minutes to create.(4)

Shippers are attempting to fight back against this means of theft by "placing and monitoring GPS devices in cargo, installing motion-activated cameras within vehicles and alternating the colors of ISO 17712 seals, issuing them in random order."(4)

Burner Phones

What is known as "burner" cell phone numbers (pre-paid phones) are given on documents and then discarded, as well as untraceable, once the shipment is picked up.(5)

Insider Jobs

Insider jobs are also very common in the trucking industry and come in many forms.  For example, trucking company employees have been known to utilize what they know about a shipment, not to steal the freight themselves, but rather distribute their information to thieves in return for compensation.  Drivers have also been known to participate in insider jobs, many staging their own hijackings, arranging to leave their trucks unattended at a specific time inwhich their accomplice then moves in, stealing the loaded truck in exchange for money. 

Illegitimate Brokers

Coinciding with insider jobs are those thefts that the drivers participate in without knowing they are doing so.  Thieves will create a fake account as a broker and then hire a legitimate trucker to pick up the freight.  Once loaded, the thief will call the trucker and direct him to another warehouse, have him unload the freight, and pay him for his service, thus stealing the cargo.(6)

Ghost Trucks

Many tractor trailers that are on the road are very plain looking and easy to duplicate and that's exactly what thieves are doing.  Labeled "ghost trucks," these tractor trailers look legit but turn out to be untraceable.  This is where Road Scholar Transport's awareness program comes into play.  Who would steal (or duplicate) a bright red tractor trailer containing 65 roses in conjunction with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation?  Or our 9/11 Rolling Memorial that contains the names of nearly 3,000 individuals who lost their lives as a result of the 9/11 events?

Carrier Risk Solutions’ CEO Sam Tucker offers the below 12 simple and effective ways to prevent cargo theft:

1) Avoid having the truck stop within 250 to 300 miles of beginning the trip.  Many times, cargo thieves will target a particular truck.  They will follow the truck and wait for the driver to stop for an extended period (food, shower, bathroom, etc.).  The brief separation between the driver and the truck offers criminals the perfect opportunity to sweep in and take the load. 

2) To help achieve number 1, ensure that you or your driver is well rested, has enough hours of service remaining, and has taken care of their basic human needs prior to beginning their trip.

3) Drivers must be aware of their surroundings at all times and this is especially true when discussing cargo theft prevention.  They must pay close attention to see if anyone may be following them.  When choosing where to park during extended trips, opt for areas where other trucks are that are well lit and that provide some natural opportunities for prevention like backing up close to an embankment or building, etc.  Doing this will provide some natural barriers to entry for the trailer while the activity will promote any suspicious activity being noted and/or reported more quickly. 

4) Most cargo theft can be prevented for less than $100 per truck.  This is accomplished by using a heavy duty padlock on the rear door(s) of the trailer and an "Air Cuff" lock in the tractor.  The padlock discourages would be thieves from popping and shopping in the back of the truck while the air-cuff lock prevents the physical movement of the tractor by preventing the tractor and trailer brakes from being released.  The leading air cuff lock can be purchased for around $75.  Use the remaining $25 to purchase a hardened steel padlock with a protected shackle.  Many times cargo theft comes down to an ease of doing business for the criminals.  If you're truck appears to be well protected, they may pass up the chance to make you a statistic. 

5)  Avoid dropping trailers or waiting for delivery in one of the "Hot Zone" areas mentioned above.  This is especially true around holidays and weekends as activity around the area will likely be at a minimum.  

6) Consider hiring extra security guards, especially around weekends and holiday periods.  Make sure that those guards are well screened and that your contract with the security company doesn't limit their liability in case of a cargo theft on their watch.

7) Be very clear about your expectations for the security guards.  Prohibit them from allowing their friends/family to visit them at work and ensure that they make regular but random checks throughout your lot despite the weather or temperature.  Consider using some monitoring programs to verify that checks are being made.

8) Make sure that all areas of your lot are well lit and can be seen by passing law enforcement officers.  Challenge any suspicious person(s) visiting your business or possibly conducting surveillance on your terminal or warehouse location. 

9) Make local law enforcement friends of your business!  Invite them in for coffee and donuts (or whatever) once a month.  Talk with them about your operation and the kinds of activities that might look suspicious. 

10) Don't skimp on locks and cameras for your terminal and lot.  Invest in high quality locks for all exterior windows and doors and spend some extra money on a serious camera system if you are going to purchase one. 

11) Ensure that all locks are actually working and engaged when the terminal location is unoccupied and that your security system is operational and armed.  Some very smart thieves will "test" your security system for you by triggering your alarm system a few times prior to making their move in order to understand your response and that of local law enforcement.  This is especially true if you have warehousing and/or storage at your terminal location and even more so if you ship/receive high value goods. 

12) Engineer your business to have fewer loads around holiday periods.  If the goods aren't expected to arrive until Monday, potential thieves have a very nice head start on getting further away with the goods.  Time is an enemy here.        

Here are a few ways Road Scholar Transport is offering high security shipping options for your transportation needs:

*Expedited services available.

*Qualified, background checked drivers who are constantly trained on the latest cargo theft threats.

*All shipment location and temperature tracked and monitored real time via telematics.

*Geofencing capability-route and customer specific.

*24 x 7 dispatch and oversight.

*US customs approved Navalock-bolt cutter, sledgehammer and chisel proof.

*Dedicated use and teams.

*Electronic door monitoring providing e-mail alerting, online monitoring/reporting, on-demand GPS location, and complete coverage throughout North & Central America.

*Brightly colored and easily distinguishable awareness trucks.

These are all reasons why we never suffered a full cargo loss in company history.

Contact us to learn more!