The current fraud/scam appears to be a continuation of previous scams. The criminals use several numbers from "burn phones" to commit a scam commonly known as the "Fresno Scam, and/or the Florida Scam." There have been several such scams reported over the years in the industry. Individuals are booking loads from brokers pretending to be an authorized/legitimate carrier. They then act as a legitimate freight broker and pass the load on to an unsuspecting legitimate carrier for a similar or higher rate. The scammers use altered documents from both legitimate carriers and brokers to convince their victims that they are legitimate companies. Once the load picks up, the scammers demand and receive the BOL from the actual carrier picking the load up. They then fax the BOL to the original broker and request an advance (comchek) on the load. Once the scammer receives the comchek they are no longer able to be reached.
The normal cycle of the scam appears to generally follow this course of events. The criminals obtain broker and carrier documentation several ways. Normally the scammer, posing as a legitimate carrier, calls on a posted load from a reputable broker who has a good credit rating. They accept the shipment; fill out a Broker - Carrier setup packet acting as a legitimate carrier, then drops off the load. They now have the reputable broker's paperwork. Some brokerages make it even easier by having their material on the web. The scammer simply downloads the required information and alters portions to meet their needs. They obtain carrier documentation very much the same way. They obtain carrier information by calling a reputable carrier posing as a legitimate broker using altered broker paperwork. The scammer and carrier then exchange paperwork.
The criminals now have both carrier and broker paperwork from reputable companies. This is when the scammer starts to look for a broker to try to attain a cash advance. The scammer calls on posted freight acting as a reputable carrier. Usually, they call late in the day and later in the week. They look for possible high paying loads. They find and accept a load from a broker who we will call "Broker A". They are prepared to send altered carrier paperwork to substantiate credibility. Then, the scammer calls on a carrier acting as a legitimate broker and offers the freight to an unsuspecting carrier. The carrier accepts and picks up the freight. The scammer then demands a Bill of Lading (BOL) for proof of pick up. The scammer then goes back to the original unsuspecting broker ("Broker A") acting again as the legitimate carrier and sends the BOL to verify pick up and requests an advance payment (comchek). "Broker A", without further checking, then sends the cash advance to the scammer. Once the scammer receives the advance pay, he then cannot be reached by the legitimate carrier and/or legitimate broker. Normally at this point another unsuspecting reputable broker ("Broker B") starts to receive contact calls from carriers trying to locate a non-existent "Broker B" agent. After some discussion and investigation, the reputable broker becomes aware that an individual using fake names has been posing as one of their agents. At this time the reputable broker ("Broker B") starts to realize they have become an identify theft victim. Though the reputable broker did not get any money taken from them, they have lost some of their hard earned reputation.
Anyone can be a target for these scams. The scammers like to target carriers who are owner operators. Normally, these owner operators have very little support to do verification checks. Targeted carriers usually are ones looking for long distance or high dollar loads. Scammers do not post the freight. They instead call on carriers who have trucks posted on various load boards. Traditionally, the scammer promises higher than the normal rates for that specific lane. If the rate "seems to be too good to be true" that should raise a "red flag". To attain the cash advances the scammer always requires the carriers to provide the Bill of Lading (BL) after they pick up the shipment. Carriers should always review their BL prior to loading to ensure they are going to the same destination. Scammers have been known to give the carrier a load for one location, usually where the driver wanted to go, but the BL delivery locations were in other cities or states. Normally, the scam occurs more frequently later in the week at the end of the day. Scammers understand that brokers and carriers when faced with not being able to cover a load or having to sit or deadhead over the weekend become careless. Though the brokers and carriers who get conned receive supposedly valid paperwork many fail to check security systems to verify individuals and telephone numbers. Having a different number doesn't mean a broker and/or carriers are con artists, but it should be a "red flag". Many brokerages have numerous offices. The same goes for carriers who might have several dispatch offices or individual drivers calling on freight. Unfortunately, many carriers never follow up to verify if the con artist actually works for the brokerage. It can be assumed the same can be said about the original broker "Broker A". "Broker A" obviously did a poor job of verifying their partner. If "Broker A" had used systems available to verify unknown individuals they might have noticed possible "red flags."
The carriers who contact the reputable broker looking for the nonexistent agent usually never have heard of the scam. Many have no idea what to do. What should carriers do if they find themselves in this position? Carriers should first call the pick up location to find out who the shipper actually offered the freight to. The carrier then has to inform the original broker ("Broker A") that they have their load. They will then have to see if continued movement of the load is possible. The carrier will have to negotiate a new rate normally lower than what was offer by the scammer. Though both the carrier and broker are at fault for doing incomplete verification, the carrier should be paid a fair rate to finish the shipment. Again, the scam can only start if the original broker ("Broker A") does a poor job of conducting their due diligence reference verifying his new partner.
Most companies have some kind of procedure or systems which assist in fighting this type fraudulent activity. Prior to moving a shipment, carriers and brokers should verify to ensure they are partnering with legitimate companies. The following generalized tips will assist in protecting against possible criminal activity.
- Check F.M.S.C.A/FHWA Safer System to verify carrier's information (www.safersys.org)
- Check the carrier on Load/Truck posting sites like Internet Truckstop, Transcore or with the Transportation Intermediaries Association or similar systems.
- Check for negative reports
- Hesitate to use any carrier rated "C" or lower
- Check the carrier's corporate information, as well as phone/fax #'s, addresses, etc.
- Verify the carrier paperwork if you do not have an existing relationship
- Check for discrepancies or "red flags"
- Check phone/fax #'s if different from their corporate office, contact the carrier's corporate office to ensure that individual/office is part of their company* Review the carrier's insurance
- Contact the carrier's insurance company if something looks incorrect or altered
- Ensure all documentation/carrier information is up to date prior to moving the load
- Check F.M.S.C.A/FHWA Safer System to verify Broker's information (www.safersys.org)
- Check the broker on Internet Truckstop's Creditstop Shipper or Creditstop Broker or similar systems to verify company information, phone/fax #'s, addresses, etc.
- Verify the Broker's paperwork if you do not have an existing relationship with that partner
- Check phone/fax #'s if different from their corporate office, contact the carrier's corporate office to ensure that individual/office is part of their company
- Check for discrepancies or "red flags"; Fax headers that don't match or faxes coming from hotel, truck stops, Kinkos, etc locations
- Check for negative reports
- Hesitate to use any Broker who pays in more than 40 days and has a credit score of 80 or below
- Review the Broker's insurance and bond information
- Contact the Broker's insurance company if something looks incorrect or altered
Prior to providing Advance Pay/Comcheks:Money advances should not occur until background checks (above) have been accomplished.
- Call the carrier's home location/headquarters using the number found on F.M.S.C.A/FHWA Safer System or ITS CPR or other sources to verify they have a dispatcher and driver on your load
- Do not call the number the "dispatcher" or "driver" gave you (A Google search will also show most carrier or broker company telephone numbers).
- If a carrier requests an advance (comchek) on the load, call the shipper (pick up destination) to ensure the load picked up
- Verify that the driver and carrier you had on the load is the same as the one that picked up the freight
- Have the driver fax you a copy of the BOL
- Having a BOL will not stop a scam artist, but it makes it harder on them
If you have questions on how to become an excellent freight broker/agent please contact us. We challenge you to come and be a part of our Team of "Excellent Freight Brokers and Independent Freight Agents."