Avoiding fraudulent pickups
|On Second Thought
TAPA Americas’ former chairman and U.S. director of cargo security loss control for AIG Global Marine
It’s easy to argue that the Internet and other forms of electronic communication have made things faster, easier, and more efficient, but to those of us worried about supply chain security the ability to duplicate, manipulate, send and receive documents electronically has opened a whole new set of risks for the supply chain.
In August of this year, a shipper in Spain posted two loads of high-value cargo on an Internet freight brokerage board seeking a trucker to move the freight to Germany. Within hours, a company whose name was known to the shipper responded, offered a reasonable price, and committed to produce two drivers the next morning. The shipper sent over two pick-up numbers to confirm, the drivers arrived with the numbers in hand, the trailers were loaded with product, and the trucks left the yard never to be seen again. When the shipper called the telephone number they had been given by the “carrier,” they received a disconnection notice. When they called the known company, they were told that it had sent no drivers and was unaware of the loads.
Unlike many cargo crime scenarios, this one is not simple and there are no easy fixes. Criminals are creating carriers by obtaining licensing, government tax numbers, and insurance and using those newly created carriers to steal cargo, after which they disappear. They are stealing identifying information from existing carriers, using documentation from real carriers which have ceased to do business, arriving with trucks with false placards on the cab doors and fake uniforms on the drivers, and stealing shipping information and pick-up orders — all to take high-value cargo from unsuspecting shippers.
So, what to do? How do we prevent this type of theft, especially when the methods being used change almost daily?
I’m not much into lists, especially in an article like this, but it seems the easiest way to get this message across. (Remember, though — no one solution will work by itself, and even combinations of solutions need to be flexible and agile to keep up with the changing universe of crime.) To prevent a fraudulent pickup, consider these tactics:
- Use only well-known carriers and confirm information with people you know, when possible.
- Use only carriers in business for at least two years.
- Use only carriers with e-mail addresses hosted on their own domains.
- Request references from previous or current clients, if not using a known carrier.
- Never post high-value loads on Internet sites, but if you must do this, do not specify value or commodity or precise place of loading.
- Never allow brokerage of HVTT (high-value theft-targeted) loads unless to pre-determined known carriers, and avoid brokerage entirely for pharmaceuticals and other very high-risk cargo.
- If not using a known carrier, check the Internet for confirmation that the company exists — print out all information and check against documents presented.
- Confirm the company has a land-line telephone — if not, do not ship HVTT loads.
- Check e-mail addresses to be certain they are exactly what they should be, not just one digit off (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
- Obtain driver identification details up front from the carrier and confirm, with copies, photographs and documentation, at pickup — biometrics if possible — and obtain at least two sets of identification, including government and company photo ID.
- Obtain a close-up visual of the driver in a photo or video and make he or she realize they are being photographed. Require that they remove hats, sun glasses and anything that may be obscuring their faces.
- Use release numbers that are provided to a known corporate office, then given over to the drivers by that office, and presented at pickup.
- In the United States, run a Dunn & Bradstreet report on the carrier (or equivalent in other countries).
- Obtain truck information up front and confirm, with photographs, at pickup, including tags for both tractor and trailer (and chassis), and unit ID numbers.
- Require the driver to sign his/her name on the bill of lading and also print the name and check against the commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- Check documents for correctness, including spelling, phrasing, placement of information, write-overs, changes in handwriting, correctness of dates and locations.
- Confirm tax identification and U.S. Department of Transportation numbers, or VAT numbers for Europe, or the equivalent in the local jurisdiction. Run a check through government systems to confirm that the company exists.
- Check top of ACORD documents for the fax number and confirm that number is consistent with telephone numbers provided by the carrier. If there is any question, confirm coverage with the insurance carrier. Be certain that coverage is sufficient for the load.
- If theft occurs, be certain to retain all documents as untouched as possible for DNA and fingerprints, and be prepared to provide truck and driver information to law enforcement immediately.
- Observe driver behavior, especially if there is significant push-back against security protocols such as signatures, photographs, etc.
- Develop police rapport up front — both local and along the route, especially for high-value loads.
- As a general rule, keep information such as forms, communications, identifying numbers, invoices, and schedules as confidential as possible and limit distribution of this information to only those who absolutely need to know.
It’s important to recognize that this list is neither complete nor exclusive. Methods used by criminals are constantly changing, and any plan must be flexible enough to adapt.
Spear is TAPA Americas’ former chairman and U.S. director of cargo security loss control for AIG Global Marine. He may be reached by email.
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