Freight theft, especially food and beverages, surges across the United States

  • Cargo theft continues to grow, with cargo criminals targeting more cities across the United States and using more cyber fraud and identity theft.
  • Food and beverage products will be the top targets for cargo theft in 2023, with an average loss of $214,000.
  • Los Angeles is the top target nationally, but cargo theft experts say the threat has spread across the country’s supply chain with an “unusual” scope.

Food and beverages entering ports and warehouses are at the top of the list of products targeted by cargo thieves, who are increasing criminal activity throughout the country’s supply chain. This is a sign of the economic times, adding further pressure to the high prices faced by consumers in an environment of rising inflation.

“During the 2008 financial crisis, theft shifted to food and beverages, where it remained until the end of 2019,” said Scott Cornell, transportation director and crime and theft expert at insurance company Travelers. say. “In 2020, we’ve all been at home, so we’ve seen Target shift to household goods. In 2021, with all work and school at home, there will be shortages as a result.” , there were many thefts of electronic devices.”

The latest CPI data for February, released earlier this month, showed food inflation moderated, but still up nearly 10% year-on-year. Meat, poultry, fish and egg prices fell in February for the first time since December 2021, but egg prices are a prime example of historically volatile food inflation, falling 55.4% from a year ago. It remains elevated.

Household goods and electronics are still high on the list of cargo thieves, but “now we’re starting to see food and beverage items coming to the fore,” Cornell said.

According to CargoNet’s latest theft report through February, beverage and food cargo thefts increased by almost 50% year-over-year. In January, this theft category also increased by 50%. The average theft is $214,000 per package.

The FBI estimates that freight theft costs shipping companies and retailers at least $15 billion to $30 billion annually. It’s fueling supply chain disruptions that have fueled inflation.

Since 2011, the Travelers Special Investigations Group, which has a high-tech undercover squad with hidden cameras and GPS tracking devices to catch thieves, has worked with law enforcement to recover over $85 million in stolen goods. .

More cities see surge in stolen cargo

According to Cornell, cargo theft has spread to more and more critical points within the domestic supply chain, with high population densities combined with ports, warehouses and railroads to make cargo vulnerable.

Cities with spikes in cargo theft include Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Savannah, Newark, New Jersey, Memphis and Chicago.

Most notable is the increase in activity far from top targets such as Los Angeles.

“In the interior of the United States, like Memphis and Chicago, there’s a pretty extraordinary sprawl,” Cornell said, “because these are basically inland ports, with heavy railroads and high population densities.” “We are also seeing an increase in strategic theft spread across Texas, Alabama and Missouri.”

Cybercriminals in the supply chain

Physical theft remains the primary form of cargo crime, but thieves are targeting victims through cyber fraud and identity theft, creating fictitious pickups, also known as “strategic theft.”

Thieves can pretend to be legitimate trucking companies, manipulate pallets (an online freight management system), or call freight brokers and shippers directly to trick them into moving packages.

“In many cases, they’ll be fine with it,” Cornell said.CargoNet reports that these types of thefts will increase 600% annually going into 2023, with the trend increasing from January to 2. It lasts until the month.

As the logistics industry migrates more data to electronic systems, there are more opportunities for thieves to steal shipments if cargo owners and logistics providers are not careful.

“The more remote it’s done, the more likely they’ll be able to stretch their arms, keep their distance, and pretend to be someone else,” Cornell said. “It’s really not difficult for them to take the name of the shipping company.”

Cargo thieves can monitor when packages move, and they often keep an eye on the movement of truck carriers in and out of distribution centers.

“And they basically just pretend to be that company on paper or on the internet. ‘ said Cornell.

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