Common Cargo Theft Tactics and How to Help Prevent Them

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Cargo theft, along with the financial losses and operational disruptions it incurs, has remained a paramount concern for businesses worldwide. 
According to a news release by CargoNet, “In total, thieves stole over $44 million in shipments in the second quarter of 2023 and the average shipment value per event increased nearly $100,000 to $260,703 per theft as cargo thieves focused on high-value shipments. In the second quarter of 2023, theft of a loaded conveyance such as a full trailer increased 17% year-over-year.”

Cargo Theft

To address this challenge effectively, it’s essential for companies to understand the various tactics used by thieves and implement robust preventive measures. In this blog, we’ll dive into the intricacies of cargo theft, along with comprehensive strategies to mitigate risks and ensure secure transportation of your goods.

Understanding Cargo Theft

Cargo theft is the unauthorized taking of goods during transit or storage. It encompasses various illicit activities aimed at unlawfully acquiring valuable goods. Thieves target shipments at various points along the supply chain, including warehouses, distribution centers, trucks, and cargo vessels. The types of cargo targeted range from high-value electronics and pharmaceuticals to consumer goods and food products.

Cargo thefts can be broadly classified into the following categories:

  • Straight Cargo Theft: Characterized by the physical stealing of goods from unattended locations, thieves usually target truck stops, parking lots, and drop lots in straight cargo theft. The aim of this kind of theft is to make a quick sell.
  • Strategic Cargo Theft: In this category, thieves employ various methods, like fraud and misinformation, to deceive shippers, brokers, and carriers and gain access to valuable cargo. Trends in this type of theft include identity theft, fictitious pick-ups, and fraudulent carriers, often used in combination to create confusion by taking advantage of time constraints and lax vetting procedures.

Cargo theft presents significant challenges to businesses across industries, resulting in billions of dollars in annual losses globally. The complexities of worldwide supply chains, along with the ingenuity of thieves, make combating this issue challenging. 

To protect your valuable assets and ensure the integrity of the supply chain, it’s essential to understand criminal tactics and take proactive measures.

Common Tactics Employed by Thieves

Cargo thieves often adapt their strategies and employ a multitude of tactics to exploit vulnerabilities in the transportation and logistics infrastructure. Some of the most prevalent tactics include:

Hijacking of Trucks

Thieves often target trucks carrying valuable cargo using tactics like ramming vehicles or employing weapons to force drivers to pull over. Once stopped, they quickly unload the goods and make a swift getaway, leaving drivers and authorities with minimal time to respond.

Warehouse Break-Ins

Criminals infiltrate warehouses using various methods — disguising themselves as legitimate visitors or exploiting vulnerabilities in security systems. Once inside, they pilfer goods from storage facilities, often evading detection until after the theft has occurred.

Identity Theft and Fraud

Thieves impersonate legitimate shippers or carriers to gain access to cargo and falsify documentation to redirect shipments to unauthorized destinations. This tactic relies on exploiting weaknesses in verification processes and exploiting loopholes in documentation systems.

Phishing emails are often sent to install Trojan Horse malware — granting access to sensitive data. This access lets thieves obtain pick-up and delivery information, enabling for fictitious pick-ups.

Insider Collaboration

In some cases, individuals within transportation companies or warehouses might collude with criminals, providing insider information or actively facilitating the theft. These insider threats pose significant challenges to security protocols and require comprehensive measures to identify and mitigate.


These days cargo thieves are using “sniffer” devices to detect hidden GPS technology, then they employ GPS jammers to block the signals and prevent law enforcement from locating stolen goods. Some thieves even stash stolen loads in parking lots immediately after theft, to see if law enforcement will search for them.

Preventive Measures Against Cargo Theft

Preventive Measures Against Cargo Theft

Effectively combating cargo theft requires a multi-layered approach. Some key preventive measures against cargo theft include:

Enhanced Security Infrastructure

Implement robust security measures — surveillance cameras, access control systems, and perimeter fencing. This will deter thieves and provide valuable evidence in the event of a theft. Invest in state-of-the-art technology and regular security audits to identify and address potential loopholes and weaknesses in existing infrastructure.

Real-Time Tracking and Monitoring

Use GPS tracking devices and advanced monitoring systems like the TruckX smart asset tracker to track shipments in real-time and detect any deviations from planned routes. This proactive approach enables immediate intervention in the event of suspicious activity, thus, minimizing the risk of theft and loss.

Secure Parking Facilities

Encourage drivers to park in designated secure areas equipped with surveillance cameras, adequate lighting, and security personnel. Deploy anti-theft devices like steering wheel locks and immobilizers on trucks for an extra layer of protection against unauthorized access.

Comprehensive Employee Training

Educate employees about cargo theft, its risks and the importance of security protocols. Provide training on identifying suspicious behavior, reporting incidents promptly, and maintaining vigilance during transportation.

Collaboration with Law Enforcement

Establish partnerships with local law enforcement agencies. Participate in cargo theft task forces to share intelligence and coordinate efforts to combat theft effectively. This enhances the capacity to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, thereby deterring future incidents.

Stringent Vendor and Contractor Screening

Conduct thorough background checks on vendors, contractors, and employees involved in the transportation and handling of goods. Implement rigorous screening processes to reduce the risk of insider collusion and strengthen security protocols.

Some Pro Tips

  • Use tamper-proof seals on cargo containers to detect any unauthorized access.
  • Encrypt sensitive data related to cargo shipments to protect against cyber-attacks.
  • Use dummy shipments and decoy cargo when in suspicion.
  • Utilize hidden compartments within trailers to protect high-value cargo.
  • Collaborate with industry peers to share intelligence and best practices in cargo theft prevention.
  • Rely on secure communication channels for transmitting sensitive information related to cargo shipments.


Cargo theft poses a substantial risk to supply chain integrity and global business prosperity. To counter this threat, companies must grasp thieves’ tactics and stay on top of robust preventive strategies. To prevent theft and keep goods safe during transit, strengthen security, use real-time monitoring, train employees, and work with law enforcement. This helps stop thieves and ensure that cargo reaches its destination securely.

Prioritizing cargo security and taking proactive measures against theft are crucial for maintaining operational consistency. Through vigilance and collaboration, you can mitigate risks and uphold the reliability of your supply chains. 
To explore comprehensive solutions for fleet management needs beyond cargo security, check out TruckX. With our innovative tools and resources, we’ll help you optimize fleet operations and enhance its efficiency.

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