Like freight, crime comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Learn about the different varieties of freight crime and how to identify them.

Posted & filed under Carrier Connection.

Cargo theft is up 41% in 2023 and continues to rise.

Like freight, crime comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Though cargo theft is an alarming threat to carrier safety, freight crime is not confined to theft.

Learn about the different varieties of freight crime and how to identify them below.


Cargo Theft

When talking about cargo theft, there are two primary kinds: theft and pilferage.

Theft pertains to large portions of loads or entire loads being stolen.

Fortunately, cargo thieves often raise red flags that can be identified to stop a robbery. Here are just a few:

  • A driver’s appearance doesn’t match their license
  • The license is temporary or made of an unusual material
  • The tractor is missing the carrier’s name or US DOT number

Pilferage is similar to theft but usually pertains to smaller load portions. For example, pilferage would be the stealing of one phone in shipping a load of phones.

Because pilferage is inherently smaller in scale, it can be more difficult to identify. Regardless, there are still a few tell-tale signs of pilferage to look for.

  • Individuals that seem to be aimlessly loitering at truck stops
  • Employees that seem not to be engaged in any particular objective
  • Unauthorized entry by any persons into your truck

Whether the theft is big or small, carriers should beware when hauling especially valuable freight, like shoes or electronics.



Hijacking is an extreme form of theft. When an entire truck is stolen and operated illegally, hijacking has taken place. Like cargo thieves, hijackers can also show warning signs before attempting to steal. A few include:

  • If a vehicle is following your truck for an unusual period
  • A hitchhiker in an isolated area
  • A police car with unusual markings or suspicious indicators of being phony

If a hijacker ever confronts you, remain calm and comply with their requests. Do not try to resist. Instead, wait for your opportunity to call for help.


Identity Theft

Identity theft is a subtle and discreet crime that can cost a driver everything. If a crook manages to steal a driver’s identity, they may be able to make purchases in their name or commit fraudulent activity under a trucker’s alias.

Spotting signs of identity isn’t impossible, though. Here are a few signs to watch for:

  • If a shipper or receiver is scanning your license for an extended period, this may be a red flag
  • Loose or badly-fit scanning devices at fuel pumps may be skimming devices, or devices installed by crooks to capture your credit card information
  • Public Wi-Fi networks requesting your personal information are a definite no. In addition, be wary of checking sensitive information while using public networks

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, take every precaution to prevent damage. Try freezing your credit or debit cards until your suspicion has been resolved.


Human Trafficking

Perhaps the most heinous of all freight-related crimes, human trafficking is the possession and exchange of human cargo. Tragically, human trafficking has plagued the trucking industry for several years.

Identifying signs of human trafficking could be the difference between life and death for its victims. Here are a few red flags to look for that may indicate human trafficking:

  • An individual is unaware of their whereabouts and not in control of their ID
  • An individual is not permitted to speak for themselves
  • A van or RV that seems suspiciously out of place at a truck stop

For more information about human trafficking within the trucking industry, visit


Freight crime takes many different forms, but identifying illegal activity has one commonality: Look for anything out of the ordinary. Your best asset for preventing crime is your common sense and intuition.

By speaking up, you never know what, or who, you might save.


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