The big item in the news today is that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman ruled to overturn Tom Brady’s four game suspension from the NFL. New England Patriots fans are celebrating. If they saw Jimmy Garoppolo, instead of the guy who’s won four Super Bowls, playing quarterback for their team during the first quarter of the season, Patriots fans might think games were being stolen from them through identity theft.
In reality, it would have just been a team and player getting punished for cheating. There’s no real identity theft here and nothing being stolen (like air from footballs or coaching signals through videotapes), except maybe Roger Goodell’s power.
Real identity theft does happen every day, and is being used to steal actual, tangible things from people. Shippers should be more interested in this than Tom Brady and his suspension because identity theft is being used more and more to steal cargo.
Avalon Risk Assessment just released an article on cargo theft by identity theft.
“Cargo theft by identity theft is steadily growing in the logistics industry. CargoNet, a cargo theft prevention and recovery network, reported that nearly 90 million dollars in cargo was stolen in 2014.”
$90 million in cargo was stolen last year alone?!
Shippers’ odds of falling victim to cargo theft is increasing. FleetOwner published the following in an article on this very topic:
Based on its annual analysis of cargo theft activity, FreightWatch International (FWI) believes the risk of cargo theft will increase slightly in 2015 versus 2014, [mainly] because cargo thieves continue to adopt what the firm describes [as] “professional and sophisticated” tactics.
Cargo thieves are not just stealing based on opportunity, but are targeting shippers and their cargo. 30 years ago, when Universal Cargo was established as a freight forwarder, cargo theft usually happened based on opportunity. Now, thieves have strategies and intricate identity theft techniques to steal targeted cargo from shippers; you should have strategies to keep your cargo safe.
Here are 7 tips to help you avoid loss through cargo theft by identity theft:
Tip #1: Work With Established, Trusted Companies
You’re probably working with or going to work with a freight forwarder to help you handle your international shipping.
There are many, many freight forwarders out there. Often, shippers make the mistake of hiring whichever one provides the lowest freight rate pricing quote. However, if the freight forwarder is not well established in the international shipping industry, they may open you up to many importing and exporting problems, as well as being more susceptible to cargo theft through identity theft.
While the freight forwarding company itself probably isn’t going to steal your identity, they may fall victim to deceptive practices from identity thieves or false companies they partner with to move your goods.
Tip #2: Put Identity Theft Policies in Place
It’s amazing how many companies do not have any policies in place regarding identity theft.
When I worked at the Rand Corporation, everyone had to go through identity theft prevention training because the company did research for the government and were required to have policies in place to protect any possible secrets from being stolen.
Of course, you don’t need to be protecting government secrets to have policies to protect your assets. If you don’t have policies in place to safeguard against identity theft, create them. This list of tips could be an excellent starting point for your policy creation.
Tip #3: Train All Employees in ID Theft Policies
This assumes you’ve followed the previous tip and have identity theft policies in place.
Policies do no good if they are unknown or not followed by all employees.
It does not matter the level of the employees in your organization, they should be made aware of and follow your identity theft policies.
Holding a class or meetings on the topic is a good idea. A regularly updated test that covers the policies and the dangers of not following them is strongly recommended to be administered to everyone within your organization.
Tip #4: Verify Employment and Contact Information
We’re not talking about your employees here, but whomever you are working with from the shipping companies or freight forwarders you use to import or export your goods.
In the Avalon Risk Assessment article mentioned above, a fraudulent dispatcher posed as an employee of a known shipping company, presented paperwork and documentation that all appeared legitimate, and stole a shipper’s cargo.
These tactics are becoming more common.
When working on importing or exporting goods with a representative of a company, even a very well-known and reliable company, it’s important that you make sure that representative really works for said company.
Contact the company, not through the information given to you by the agent but through the company’s website. Make sure the person is an employee there AND that the contact information they’ve given you is correct. The criminal may be assuming the identity of an actual employee, so make sure you verify more than just the employee’s name.
Tip #5: Check the Truck
“Fraud or fictitious pick-up is a form of cargo theft that involves criminals posing as legitimate truck drivers to steal cargo directly from shippers,” says the Avalon article.
One way to make sure you don’t fall victim to a fictitious pick-up is by checking the door of the truck that is picking up your goods.
Motor carriers are required by law to print their company name and FMCSA operating authority (MC number) or USDOT number on the side of their trucks. You should make it a policy to make sure this information matches up with the information of the trucking company your freight forwarder has hired to picked up your cargo.
Tip #6: Protect Your Shipping Information
Tom Brady destroyed his phone rather than allow the information on it to get into the wrong hands. You don’t need to go to that extreme, but being careful with the information you share over the phone is important. Actually, not just the phone but e-mail, fax, social media, and any other form of communication too.
You may get carrier inquiries requesting this information. Do not just give it out and make sure your employees know how to handle information mining phone calls, emails, etc.
Tip #7: Always Get Cargo Insurance
Even the most careful shippers and shipping companies can fall victim to cargo theft. It is just one more reason why it is so important to always insure your cargo.
Following the above tips can seriously decrease your chances of falling victim to cargo theft by identity theft, but cargo insurance is likely to be the only thing to protect you from loss if it still does happen.
There are also many other situations that cargo insurance can protect including, but not limited to cargo loss or damage because of shipwreck, piracy, dock accidents, sea storms, containers overboard, and cargo misplacement.