The New Era of Computer Geek Cargo Thieves

by Jana Ritter - Published: 7/29/2015

Unfortunately like most crimes, cargo theft will always be a reality as long as criminals keep adapting to the times. The good news is that mob heists and guerilla style hold-ups no longer pose such a probable danger to truck drivers, but the more sophisticated and stealth criminals of today's digital age have become a more serious threat to the industry overall.

                                                            cargo theft

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It used to be that trucks moving freight were the main moving targets for highway robbers and although truck drivers still have to worry about container break-ins at rest stops, or someone taking off with their entire truck during a bathroom break or the worst fate of being hijacked at gunpoint, a new generation of computer savvy cargo thieves are pulling their heists on-line. Nick Erdmann of Transport Security explains that one of the most common tactics today is called "fictitious pickups" where identity thieves basically impersonate another company and use “loadboards”, (websites like and where shipping brokers list loads in need of delivery.) Although details about the freight loads aren’t usually provided on these sites, thieves can easily determine the more valuable loads by simply assessing criteria such as those requiring high insurance minimums, requiring a team of drivers, or those leaving from certain locations such as known technology/electronics hot spots.

                                                          truck driver identity theft

Using various means to obtain falsified credentials, the computer wielding cargo thieves pose as trucker drivers and negotiate contracts to drive their own trucks and pick-up the loads waiting for them at warehouses and shipping docks. Once these arrangements are made on-line, the thieves simply show up with a smile on their face and drive off with thousands of dollars worth of goods. In fact, in 2014 the average value of fictitious pickup loads was over $140,000 and even worse is that companies don’t even realize they’ve been robbed until many days later, making it that much harder to track their stolen merchandise down. “People just hand it over. It’s amazing,” says Detective Eric Dice, head of a Florida based cargo theft task force.

                                                         computer age cargo theft

While many carrier companies are too embarrassed to report the thefts and admit they’ve been burned, the logistics industry has been attempting to beat these tech savvy thieves at their own game and using more enhanced security technology. For instance, many truckloads are using more stealth GPS tracking devices smaller in size and more easily hidden in packages. Another drawback for the criminals that only target high-value goods such as electronics, is that these particular items are becoming much easier to trace and much harder to sell in the black market. Not surprisingly, food is now becoming the biggest target simply because it is virtually untraceable and therefore, the easiest type of stolen good to unload. “I’ve never seen a serial number on a package of chicken. Once you eat it, the evidence is gone,” says Keith Lewis, CargoNet’s vice president of operations.