Thieves may claim to be a renowned company with an impeccable reputation or they may even buy such a company to take over its clients. They act fast and choose transports of products which will not be difficult to sell after a certain time. These include non-registered electronic devices which do not automatically log in the network, sweets, coffee, and sometimes alcohol. Moreover, they can easily find a lot of information about transport companies on the Internet. How can you protect yourself from them?
Alicja Wicikowska, insurance expert cooperating with the Polish International Freight Forwarders Association, told us about a situation that had happened a few years ago. A thief pretended to be a well-known forwarding company and ordered a transport of goods from a good client. He chose an equally reputable carrier to do the job. The latter went to the specified address which turned out to be fake. He waited. Meanwhile, the thief planned to transport the cargo in his own vehicle, pretending to be the carrier.
Wicikowska does not remember why the thief eventually did not appear to take the cargo. The real carrier realized that something was wrong because the goods were not ready and there was nothing to load. He quickly contacted the client who called the police. The thief was gone, but the goods were saved.
If the thief had been successful, everybody would have had a problem. The producer would have been deprived of his valuable load, and the carrier would have needed to clean his reputation. In this industry, such stories may take the company down,” concluded the expert.
How can you protect yourself from fraudsters?
Fraudsters sometimes buy companies with an impeccable reputation, for several months they run a legal business to disappear after one successful robbery. However, experts warn that sometimes buying a reputable company is not necessary, it is enough to pretend to be one.
Carriers should protect their data
Carriers place on their websites a lot of data: certificates, contract templates and, sometimes, even scans of their insurance policies. The more transparent the company is, the bigger chances to attract the client are. Experts advise not to make the task easier for fraudsters. “Do not put all the data in one place. Erase signatures and stamps from the documents. If you want to show your insurance policy, do not show the entire document,” recommended Wicikowska. She also underlines that, unfortunately, still some carriers put on their websites the accurate scans of their insurance policies, which allow anybody to read the details of the coverage and even the amount of contributions.
In the era of computers, graphics software and a lot of data available on the Internet, this is not very difficult,” said Ms. Wicikowska. “A unique nature of work in the transport industry does not help. Here, time is money. Very often, shippers, forwarders and carriers do not carefully check their sub-contractors.”
Sometimes, a minimum attention is enough to avoid transport theft.
1. Call and check phone numbers
A phone call is a very good first tool to check the sub-contractor,” said the expert. “And although it is not necessary to make a phone call, it is advisable to check the number.”We should check fixed numbers, as it is more difficult to verify mobile numbers. A good carrier, even the one having only two vehicles, will have both numbers because it also confirms his credibility,” explained Wicikowska.
Besides, fraudsters would often use the numbers, so similar to the real ones that they can be different from them only by one digit or a prefix. “So, let’s start here. Very often, the company claims to have its headquarters in Poland, while the number proves that it is based in Lithuania or Romania. It should already cause suspicions,” says the expert.
It is worth trying to find phone numbers of the other employees of the company on the Internet and call them. It may turn out that nobody in the company knows the author of the order,” added Mariola Kubat, the Director of the Damages Department in Coface.
2. Dig deeper into the website
Pay attention to the logo of the company. It is worth comparing the logo on the website with the one on the order form; sometimes differences may be visible. A website is also an important element to examine. Sometimes, the website referred to by the fraudster does not exist or is under construction. However, when the website is active, it is necessary to analyze its structure and content. By creating a fake website, fraudsters want only to make a good first impression, while the information beside the homepage is scarce,” said Kubat.
Likewise, phone numbers and e-mail addresses should also be verified.
If it is @microsoft.com, @apple.com or a free e-mail address, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, it is good to copy the e-mail domain to your browser and check the website. You can also check the headline of the message to determine where the server is located. The company based in the UK would probably not use an e-mail server located in Africa or Asia,” he added.
Checking address format is also recommended. Usually, it is standardized, so in case of any discrepancies, you should be very careful.
3. Pay attention to details on documents
Do not agree for illegible stamps, incomplete company names or initials instead of full signatures on the documents sent to you,” said Ms Wicikowska from PIFFA.
Fraudsters also make many mistakes in CRM, entering data that should not be there. They also do not keep up with the changing names of public offices sometimes resulting from the changes of governments.
4. Create the whole system of verification
“The basic principle applies no matter if you are a shipper, a forwarder or a carrier. If you use services of sub-contractors, you need to develop in your company the whole system of their verification,” recommended Adam Pająk, the President of Transbrokers.eu, a company advising on transport insurance options.
First of all, you should treat this problem as any other important project in your company. The company should appoint a person responsible for verification who in cooperation with the Board will set the rules that have to be met by a sub-contractor to be admitted. For example, when it comes to insurance policies, it would be good to answer the question which provisions are required and whether the company accepts a reduction of the sum insured by the amount of the claim.
All the documents provided by the carrier should also be subject to verification: all the transport licences held, entry to the Business Register (EDG), National Court Register (KRS), Tax Identification Number (NIP) and Company Statistical Number (REGON).
It is not enough to do this once. This process should be repeated in order to immediately notice any changes and check where they come from. The changes may suggest that the company has been taken over by fraudsters or that the image of the company is used by them,” said Pająk.
He also claims that such verification should be done annually, preferably before the validation date of the insurance policy.
Not only shippers should remember about verification. It should be important also for forwarders because if they order a transport service from an unverified company, they may be accused of improper selection of a sub-contractor. Then, they will incur the losses out of their own pocket or they will have to use their own insurance. Similarly, the carrier is liable for sub-contractors,” said Pająk.
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