Technology’s Role in the Evolution of Cargo Theft

February 19, 2024

Technology has undoubtedly revolutionized freight transport operations in recent years, offering efficiency and value like never before. However, with these advancements come new challenges, particularly in the realm of cargo theft. As criminal tactics evolve, logistics professionals must constantly adapt to stay ahead of the curve. Across every level of the freight industry, professionals are feeling the negative impacts of a new wave of tech-driven crimes that only be matched with an equal level of ingenuity and resolve.

There is a stark contrast between the industry’s current state and its analog past. With the widespread adoption of Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and other technology platforms, the landscape of cargo theft has transformed. Now more than ever, simple steps such as verifying shippers’ information to prevent fraudulent activities must be prioritized. Meanwhile, the rise of tactics like scammers impersonating legitimate shippers underscores the need for robust security measures.

“Criminals find new creative ways to infiltrate the industry through various techniques, one of which is impersonating a shipper,” says Paul-Bernard Jarsolawski, founder of Freight Caviar. His company is also building a national database of shippers to help curb these impersonation-based crimes. “We don’t let anyone with a Gmail or Yahoo account use our system, since we’ve seen a lot of shady players use those domains,” he explains.

Tied closely to cargo theft is the relatively new phenomenon of organized retail crime rings. These groups are modifying their tactics to subvert modern security technologies. As traditional in-store theft becomes more challenging due to sophisticated surveillance systems, criminals are turning to cargo theft as a lucrative alternative. The interconnected nature of online marketplaces has made it easier for thieves to fence stolen goods, amplifying the appeal of large-scale cargo theft operations.

Both the transport field and criminal enterprises have benefited from new advances in technology. Find out what you need to keep your cargo safe in our tech-driven world in the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast.

“Supply follows demand, and now there are a lot more platforms available to fence [stolen] products on online spaces,” says Elizabeth Robinson, Senior VP of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association. “The world is more connected as a global marketplace, so stealing large, palletized goods becomes more of an avenue for these crime rings.”

From a legal perspective, the complexities of pursuing perpetrators of cargo theft are challenging, particularly when dealing with international cases. Thanks to the interconnected nature of the global supply chain, criminals can target cargo around the globe and across countless jurisdictions. Due to the legally complex nature of these crimes, the importance of collaboration with law enforcement and proactive measures to mitigate risks to cargo stakeholders cannot be overstated.

“It’s very difficult to pin liability on the actual wrongdoer, particularly when it’s a foreign actor,” explains transport attorney Thomas Kern, Partner at the law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff. “It most cases, the liability actually falls on the person who was in the best situation to have prevented the fraud.”

When all else fails, strong insurance coverage is the last line of defense in response to cargo theft. Brokers should review their policies and ensure they have adequate coverage for emerging threats as criminal tactics continue to evolve. With endorsements available to address deceptive pickups and cybercrimes, brokers can safeguard their operations against financial losses.

“It’s really important to review insurance programs, especially if a policy has been in place for quite some time,” says Kathy Schricker, Avalon Risk Management VP of the Northeast Region. “We want to make sure that the cargo program for theft has evolved just like cargo has, and that the insurer is responding to the need for more enhanced cargo protection.”

Staying ahead of increasingly sophisticated cargo theft tactics requires a proactive approach and partnerships built on trust. By leveraging the right technology and working with reputable carriers, brokers can mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraudulent activities.

Triple T Transport remains committed to staying at the forefront of industry developments and implementing best practices to combat cargo theft. Stay tuned for future coverage as we explore strategies to enhance security and safeguard the integrity of freight logistics operations.

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