Fake trucking companies are but the latest twist to the tactics being used by criminals to steal cargo, according to Scott Cornell, director of the Specialty Investigations Group (SIG) at Travelers Insurance – twists that now include using residential homes to store ill-gotten freight.
As a result, he recommends that shippers, brokers, and even fellow motor carriers alike are being encouraged to practice more due diligence when contracting for truck capacity these days.
“If you are dealing with a brand new company, with no track record and no reference ‘pool’ of information to draw from, they need to be checked out in a little more detail,” Cornell explained to Fleet Owner. “The same goes for a carrier whose authority has lain dormant for several years and is now suddenly active.”
All could be well in either case, he stressed, but they are markers for a need to ask more questions.
“Many times we’ll see a new carrier based, say, in Nashville, TN, but all their phone numbers have Miami area codes,” Cornell noted; and, as Miami is a “hot spot” for cargo theft, that’s a “red flag” which shouldn’t be ignored.
Another new tactic: breaking up stolen loads and storing the pilfered goods in small storage units or even residential homes, rather than all in one warehouse.
“They are starting to shy away from using warehouses,” Cornell said. “Breaking up a load makes full recoveries harder to achieve and hiding it in residential areas makes stakeouts and other law enforcement activity more difficult.”
Cornell added that effective communication and networking within the freight transportation industry is critical to spreading the word about such new and/or altered cargo theft schemes, using as an example the recent Cargo Theft Summit held in Ontario, CA; a first for the Golden state and an event co-sponsored by the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Travelers.
“Intelligence sharing is the key to thwarting cargo thieves – communicating information quickly between the private sector, insurers, and law enforcement,” he explained.
It’s also about making direct contact with the “right people,” emphasized Cornell. For example, cargo theft detectives attending such meetings regularly hand out their cell phone numbers so motor carriers and others can get in touch with them immediately if a suspected theft occurs.
“With cargo theft, time is of the essence,” he stressed. “Attending meetings puts you in touch with the people on the front lines. We’ve found that immediate BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] alerts are very helpful and getting in touch with the right people quickly is key to getting such alerts out faster.”
The firm recorded a total of 178 cargo thefts in the U.S. in the second quarter this year – 60 in April, 66 in May, and 52 in June – with the average loss value per incident pegged at $189,307. However, that represents both an 11% decrease in volume and a 27% decrease in value compared to the first quarter, with a 7% decrease in volume and a slight 1% increase in value compared to the same period in 2014.
FWI also noted that cargo thefts valued at over one million dollars dropped to zero in the second quarter, compared to seven in the first quarter this year.