May 15, 2024 | Cargo Insurance, Industry Insights

Guarding Against Fictitious Pickups and Cargo Theft: Tips and Training

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Fictitious pickups are increasing in North America. In the US, the percentage of cargo thefts due to fictitious pickup rose from 1% in 2022 to 17% in 2023. Strategic theft patterns are also rising, where thieves use identity theft and fraud with fictitious pickup and brokering schemes to obtain loads from freight locations.

Combatting this menace requires a combination of vigilance, technology, and a well-trained staff. Let’s explore some effective strategies for guarding against fictitious pickups and minimizing the risk of falling victim to scams.

Per Tony Pelli, Practice Director, BSI Consulting, Specializing in Supply Chain and Security Risk Management, “We’re seeing an explosion in cargo thefts involving fraud, including fictitious pickups. Common-sense precautions such as requiring pre-alerts for shipments and verifying a driver’s ID can help prevent fictitious pickups, but a bit more diligence is required to prevent the sophisticated types of fraud we’re now seeing.

The Power of Direct Communication

The age-old adage “pick up the phone” holds true when uncertain about a carrier’s legitimacy. Making direct calls to the carrier, or the purported carrier, can be a game-changer in identifying fraudulent activities. Scammers often use fake or duped phone numbers, but a simple phone call can reveal the truth. Some of these bad actors don’t even bother to set up an actual phone line for their fake number to ring to, so this simple act of vigilance can easily identify the hoax. Logistics companies can outmaneuver bad-actors and avoid fraud by verifying the carrier’s authenticity through direct communication.

Utilizing Tools for Verification

Besides direct communication, leveraging available tools can significantly enhance security measures. Platforms like the FMCSA website and the SAFER System (Safety and Fitness Electronic Records) provide a valuable resource for confirming the legitimacy of carriers. Cross-referencing the phone numbers provided with those listed in SAFER can identify discrepancies that warrant further investigation. Conducting thorough research and verifying online information, including phone numbers, emails, and websites, protects against fictitious pickups. When using a search engine to confirm numbers, emails, and websites, remember that the top search returns may be fake profiles created by the scammers. Do not trust the information unless you can confirm it on multiple sites.

Document Examination and Due Diligence

Document examination is critical to guarding against fictitious pickups. Even seemingly legitimate documents, such as insurance certificates, can be fraudulent. Any suspicions should prompt further investigation, including contacting the companies to confirm details. An additional security measure any on-site employee dealing with a pickup can take is to photograph the truck, driver, and driver’s license. Even if it’s not possible to identify a fictious pick-up in the moment, these pictures can be very helpful in an investigation.

Training and Awareness

To prevent fictitious pickups, it’s crucial to train staff to identify suspicious signs. Training personnel to verify the identity of drivers, confirm vehicle markings, and cross-check DOT numbers adds an extra layer of defense against scams. Moreover, fostering a culture of awareness and vigilance within the organization can help detect and prevent fraudulent activities before they escalate.


Guarding against fictitious pickups requires a multifaceted approach that combines technology, direct communication, diligent document examination, and comprehensive training. By implementing these strategies, logistics companies can mitigate the risk of falling victim to scams, safeguard the integrity of their operations, and minimize cargo theft losses.

As Mr. Pelli puts it, “Those involved in the supply chain should take time to verify the carriers they’re using and look out for red flags, such as a reticence to speak on the phone or lack of a digital footprint, last-minute changes to billing or contact info, use of non-company email addresses, and information that doesn’t match the FMCSA database. Use of third-party carrier verification reporting can help as well, as can staying informed about general theft trends and tactics using intelligence from BSI.”Preview (opens in a new tab)

Sources: BSI Supply Chain Solutions, DAT Freight & Analytics, FMCSA

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