Online fraud and store theft currently have many retailers concerned, but theft in the supply chain also warrants attention, warned Jeremy Prout, CPP, director of security at International SOS. From “black holes” in international supply routes to criminal elements willing to go to great extremes to get what they want, retailers “need to be incredibly cognizant of supply chain threats going forward,” he said. As regions reopen and criminals seek to make up lost revenue, an increase in supply chain crime is likely, warn other logistics analysts.
The threats to in-transit goods are as diverse as the supply chain itself. Below is a look at a range of risks and some recent changes noted by industry analysts.
The trend in “theft to order” may continue. During 2020, there appears to have been a reduction in the activities of opportunist, ad hoc cargo thieves, but that was more than offset by an increase in cases of “stealing to order” by organized crime groups, according to data and anecdotal evidence collected by the Transported Asset Protection Association. Its database recorded a higher than usual number of incidents in which multiple vehicles in parking locations had their tarpaulin curtains slashed by thieves looking for products, but no goods were taken in the attacks. “This indicates offenders had very specific types of products in mind—and, almost certainly, black market customers already lined up to buy the goods,” said Thorsten Neumann, president and CEO of TAPA EMEA. Evaluating security risks associated with specific products is more important than ever in the current environment, experts advise.
Mitigation of theft in hot zones and of hot products will greatly impact loss prevention success or failure. “One of the main emerging themes for the loss prevention industry in 2021 will focus on the logistics of moving products, as…they pass through “hot zones,”—areas in which there is an elevated concern for cargo theft or employee collusion. Especially with high unemployment and a fear of the unknown, people may take advantage of new opportunities for theft,” said Fred Burton, executive director at Ontic’s Center for Protective Intelligence. Burton also warns establishments that store specific products or goods are going to be at an elevated risk. For example, stores that distribute pharmaceuticals should be prepared for theft, driver collusion, or insider threats as the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed across the country, he told LP Magazine. “The vaccine will be one of the most highly valued assets of the new year so brands disseminating it will need to be prepared for bad actors,” he said. “Ultimately, retail organizations should do a baseline threat assessment to better understand their range of risks and adopt processes that proactively mitigate potential threats before they become a problem.
Delivery drivers need vetting to protect the brand. In 2020 there was a major shift to e-commerce as people were forced to stay home, according to Burton. “While this created a decrease in theft in brick-and-mortar stores, it opened up the door to other potential vulnerabilities for retailers to deal with when it comes to meeting consumer demands, such as checks on personnel engaged in “last-mile deliveries.” He said retailers need to ensure their delivery drivers or contracted companies are fully vetted to mitigate any potential risks to employees, customers, and the brand’s reputation. “Retailers must ensure they are conducting thorough background checks on all drivers and establish a level of continuous monitoring to ensure business continuity.”
Increases in partial load theft noted. According to analysts at CargoNet, there has been an ongoing shift from full truckload theft to pilferages of loaded trailers while the trailer is at rest. Burglary and theft incidents—most commonly, trailer break-ins and pilferages—have risen steadily each year and accounted for 22 percent of all reported thefts in third quarter 2020. The problem is likely even worse than data suggests, as most of these thefts are not even reported since there is no record of when it even occurred. Because of the difficulty in tracking a single pallet or a few boxes of goods, drivers may not notice product missing from a full truckload until the shipment is unloaded and counted.
Improving the security of goods in transit require better information for carriers. International SOS’s Jeremy Prout has noticed expanding application of GPS tracking, but he believes that more granular detail on routes and interruptions is needed, as is the ability to provide that information with guidance to the people moving cargo who need it. He’s a fan of Waze and thinks that type of user empowerment is where cargo security needs to go in 2021.
Porch pirate theft grows—but slower than home deliveries. Given the sharp increase in home delivery of goods, a 10 percent increase in the number of Americans that said they experienced package theft in 2020 is a somewhat encouraging data point. The survey of 1,000 Americans by SafeWise, an independent review site, suggests that 68 percent of package thefts occur at single-family houses. Given the number of packages being delivered these days, data suggest nearly two million home deliveries are stolen every day in the US, according to the company’s data estimates. The chart below shows where porch pirates are most active.
2020 Ranking by Metro Area
- San Francisco, CA
- New Orleans, LA
- Austin, TX
- Salt Lake City, UT
- San Antonio, TX
- Columbus, OH
- Portland, OR
- Baltimore, MD
- Sacramento, CA
- Los Angeles, CA