Cargo Thefts Remained Unusually High in First Quarter

Verisk Analytics’ CargoNet Report Shows 46% Increase From 2023
Getty Image depicting sophisticated cargo theft
Document forgery has emerged as a new type of crime in cargo thefts, according to Keith Lewis of CargoNet. (Bank215/Getty Images)

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The trucking industry struggled through an unusually high number of cargo thefts during the first quarter of 2024.

Verisk Analytics’ CargoNet reported that criminal activities impacting the logistics and transportation industry increased 46% year-over-year to 925 incidents and 10% from the fourth quarter of 2023. The report estimates that $154.6 million worth of goods was stolen during that period.

“What we’re seeing is a new type of crime,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet. “Obviously, the numbers are going in the wrong direction. That’s the biggest thing that’s on my mind right now, they’re headed in the wrong direction.”

Lewis said a new type of crime — document forgery — has emerged.

He explained this tactic involves criminals assuming the role of a professional driver to fraudulently secure a load. They then drive the load to its intended destination and partially unload it, and alter the bill of lading to show the complete load was delivered. Lewis noted it’s a much easier type of crime to commit and get away with.

“I don’t want this to just be sucked up into the industry and say it’s a cost of doing business,” Lewis said. “The other thing is, I don’t know how much longer the insurance companies can deal with this. Sooner or later, that industry is going to have to start a little pushback as well.”

Keith Lewis


CargoNet also found that reported incidents increased in most states during Q1. The most significant spikes were observed in California (72% year-over-year increase), Illinois (126%) and Texas (22%). Small appliances, liquor, energy drinks and copper were the most targeted, with much of the threat coming from complex fraud schemes.

“I don’t see any indication that’s going to slow down,” said Scott Cornell, transportation lead, and crime and theft specialist at insurance firm Travelers. “We have a different type of thefts now. We have different sophistication levels of the organized cargo theft rings, and cargo thefts have fundamentally changed over the last four or five years.”

Cornell pointed out that first quarters of the year have been a slow period for cargo thefts after a busy holiday shipping season. But that doesn’t happen anymore and activity just continues into the new year, he said.



“There used to be a very typical Q1 lull in activity for cargo theft,” said Danny Ramon, intelligence and response manager at Overhaul. “It’s when us folks in the supply chain security world used to be able to take a step back, reassess, plan the year ahead, because all the organized cargo thieves had been very busy in the Q4 shipping season.”

Ramon recalled that before the pandemic the lowest-volume months for cargo thefts were usually January and February. He hasn’t seen that slowdown since then, though, with the past two years seeing activity increase after the holidays.

Danny Ramon


“A large part of that is because a lot of folks are trying to get the shelves restocked after the holidays,” Ramon said. “But a lot of it is because cargo theft is not limited to the select group of organized cargo thieves that it used to be.”

Ramon has seen these criminal rings become more decentralized since the pandemic with more people getting involved. Cornell echoed the point by noting they went from smaller cargo theft rings based domestically to sophisticated international operations.

“Because they’re internationally based, they have put together a much more sophisticated structure,” Cornell said. “They have their own call centers, and those call centers are probably as big as any of the freight brokers that they’re targeting or going after.”


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Cornell added international operations can access more demand for stolen cargo since their reach is larger and makes tracking stolen loads more difficult.

“I think it’s getting better in terms of not being as prevalent as last year,” Fusion Transport CEO Frank Matarazzo said. “Last year was off the charts and totally ridiculous. It wasn’t unusual for us to see, on a weekly basis, two to three attempts from a bad actor to almost infiltrate our network.”

He said most of what he has experienced has been much more strategic and organized like someone impersonating a legitimate carrier, adding that cargo thefts started becoming a much larger issue during the pandemic.

“Yes, it happened once in a while, but not even close to the degree that I saw the last two years,” Matarazzo said. “You have potentially more bad actors out there. The consequences for getting caught, even the chances of being caught, are pretty slim.”

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