Carrier and Broker Identity Theft: Be Alert!

Andrew Schlegel Cargo Liability, Transportation

As people become aware of the steps they need to take in order to protect their individual identity from both real-world and cyber criminals, businesses increasingly need to protect their identities as well.  The trucking industry is no exception, as shippers, carriers and brokers should have policies in place to protect their own identities, as well as to ensure they are actually doing business with legitimate companies.

Brokers need to be aware of drivers posing as employees or owner/operators of legitimate carriers.  These scammers will often be the low bidders on load boards to ensure that they get the job.  Then, the scammer will fabricate bills of lading and other documents claiming to be from the legitimate carrier, pick up the load, and disappear into the night.  The scammer may also try to extract a few com-checks along the way, feigning problems with the delivery.  The variation is endless.

Carriers also should be aware of taking loads from brokers without confirmation through secondary sources.  Identity thieves can pose as brokers in order to re-broker loads they have just fraudulently agreed to take from a legitimate shipper or broker.  When it comes time to collect on the freight charges, the carrier will find that the identity thief has made off with funds from the original broker, who are unwilling to pay more for a load again, that is, a second time.

Shippers need to know who they are dealing with. Shippers cannot assume that the truck and driver that show up at their loading dock are legitimate. All too frequently shippers let a carrier load and leave with their valuable product without any sort of verification process.

These are by no means the only methods identity thieves use to target shippers, carriers and brokers.  As with individual identity theft, the key to prevention is a mixture of common sense, vigilance, and maybe just a little bit of cynicism.

Here are some steps you can take to prevent being a victim of or unwittingly participate in identity theft in the transportation industry:

  • Confirm publicly available information.  While you may have received a phone number off of a load board, there is no guarantee the person behind that number is authentic.  Call a frequent contact in that company or verify the information given on the company’s website or FMCSA information.
  • Know your cargo.  If the cargo is highly desirable and easy to resell on the secondary or black market, considering using a broker or carrier who you have already established a good working relationship with.  Pharmaceuticals, food, electronics, and clothing are often prime targets.
  • Watch out for weekends.  Cargo theft and identity theft are more prevalent over the weekend.  Those two days between Friday and Monday can allow plenty of time for an identity thief to disappear with a com-check or a stolen load.
  • Shippers must confirm the identity of the trucking company and driver who picks up the load.  How is the equipment identified? Is it identified by the name and USDOT number of the carrier you were told was going to pick up the shipment? Find out the name of the driver and confirm that person shows up — make a photocopy of the driver’s CDL.
  • Know your plan.  Put in place a plan of attack for if your identity is stolen.  Have a plan to contact all parties involved, the authorities, and any other party you need to protect your interests.

Again, the key is to keep an eye out to protect your business.  If you have been the victim of identity theft in the transportation industry and have gained any sage wisdom from the experience, or have any identity theft prevention tips your company employs, we’d love to hear from you and share your stories in an upcoming newsletter.