TT Talk - Steal early for Christmas
With only nine weeks left before Christmas stores in high streets and shopping malls are now well into the process of stocking up for the expected sales rush. Warehouses are beginning to fill up and greater amounts of consumer goods are on the move. While consumers are urged to start their shopping early to avoid the last-minute rush, so criminal gangs are also getting ready for their seasonal attacks on goods in transit.
Breaking into warehouses, while still popular, is giving way to cleverer, more devious methods of removing cargo from its legitimate owners. We have reported previously on various versions of the "round the corner" scam, where loads are diverted to another discharge point by someone official looking, standing around at the correct delivery address. Eurowatch, the Europe-wide truck surveillance system, reports a recent warning issued by TruckPol, the department of Scotland Yard dedicated to fighting road freight crime, on yet another version of this tactic.
Rather than divert cargo before it is delivered, the gangs have begun to employ legitimate hauliers to collect the cargo for them. The scam is simple: armed with specific information about stock (obtained as before through placing numerous calls to carriers and warehouse staff), the thieves will either observe a delivery or, knowing when it is due, place a call to the warehouse supervisor, purportedly from the customer, within a few hours of its arrival. On the pretext that the goods were defective or delivered in error, they will then arrange for them to be picked up again. A local transport company is then contracted to do a cash-on-delivery collection, for delivery to a specific address. The thieves stay in contact with the trucker by mobile phone during the collection and trip to the new delivery point. When he arrives, the driver will be directed to some other location on a simple pretext ("warehouse full", "urgent delivery" etc) where he will be met by another van driver. The load is transferred in the street,
the courier is paid cash and the thieves disappear. The "pay as you go" unregistered mobile phone will be discarded and a new one bought for the next job. The police comment that this kind of operation is extremely difficult to combat, given that targets are selected from across the country, local haulage companies are employed and that the load is met and transferred in the street at any time of day.
TruckPol suggests that any requests to come and collect stock that is "defective" or "delivered in error" received within a few hours of a delivery be treated as suspicious and verified with your regular and trusted contact in the customer's office by land line to his known phone number before it is authorised, particularly if a local haulier is to be employed to do the movement on a COD basis. As TruckPol advises, any call of this type or of a similar nature should be treated with scepticism until confirmed with the appropriate people. It should be remembered that these gangs change their tactics as soon as they become aware of industry's knowledge of them. You and all your staff should be on your guard against these and any similar attempts to divert or steal cargo.
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Cargo theft continues to blight the international supply chain, giving rise to disruption, unpredictability and widespread financial exposures. Whilst there are obvious commercial impacts, the loss of cargo and ensuing insurance claims for example, studies continue to develop a greater understanding of the overall impact of cargo theft, both economic and societal. It is widely believed that organised criminal gangs are often the orchestrators of cargo theft and that the proceeds inevitably support other illicit trades.