Working with a broker or carrier for the first time can lead to a successful and profitable relationship that will last for years. But in this digital age where carriers and brokers rarely meet in person, it's good to follow some common-sense rules to ensure your new business partner is who they say they are.
"One of the most common ways thieves pull off scams today is to pose as a legitimate carrier or broker," said DAT Compliance Manager Tami Hart. "Identity theft can lead to everything from fuel advance scams to stolen loads." Sometimes, she says, a scammer will steal the identity of both the carrier and the broker. The load is picked up and delivered but the scammer receives the payment, leaving the broker and carrier with nothing. Hart offers several tips on how you can protect yourself.
How brokers can protect themselves
Confirm carrier's phone number - If a carrier calls on a load you've posted, note the number shown on your caller I.D. Does it match the phone number listed on the FMCSA website or in SAFER System? Scammers can easily obtain a phone number that looks very similar to the number on file with these official agencies. If the numbers don't match, call the number listed with FMCSA or SAFER to confirm the caller is an employee of the company.
Check the email address - When sending your broker packet to a carrier, check to see if the email provided by the carrier matches what's listed on the FMCSA website or the SMS Results section of SAFER. If those sites list the business email as john@USAtrucking.com and the caller provides johnUSAtrucking@gmail.com, be suspicious and call the company directly.
Consult the DAT Directory - The DAT Directory lists all carriers/brokers/shippers who are DAT customers. Cross-check the contact information in the directory and go to the company reviews section to see what other brokers are saying about this carrier.
Check insurance certificates - Review the insurance certificate provided by the carrier. Call the insurance underwriter listed in the FMCSA site to ensure that the carrier has the proper insurance. Alternatively, you can subscribe to DAT CarrierWatch. It lists ALL active and inactive carriers and contains insurance certificates obtained by DAT's compliance team directly from the insurance agent — not provided by the carrier. CarrierWatch will even notify you if there is a change in the carrier's insurance, safety or DOT authority.
How carriers can protect themselves
Keep your contact information up to date - If a broker or shipper suspects fraud, they will most likely contact you using the official information listed with FMCSA and SAFER. If that information is out of date, they will have no way of confirming whether a caller is legitimate or not.
Answer your phone and email - A broker can't confirm whether someone is a legitimate employee of your company if no one answers the phone or the voicemail is full. Same thing with email.
Know if a rate is too good to be true - A common way a fraudulent broker can attract a carrier is to offer a rate that's well above average. Most DAT load board subscriptions include information from DAT RateView that shows the average lane rate paid, right next to the load post.
Keep your insurance certificates on file with DAT - This will allow brokers to compare the certificate provided by a possible scammer with the certificate DAT obtained directly from your insurance agent.
Consult the DAT Directory - The DAT Directory lists all brokers who are DAT customers. Cross-check the contact information provided by the caller with than in the directory. While you're there, check the company reviews section to see what other carriers are saying about the broker.
If you've been a victim of identity theft
If you think you've been a victim of identity theft, Hart suggests you take these steps:
Notify your bank
Notify your credit card companies
For cargo theft and fuel advance scams:
File a police report. Some local police agencies will discourage this since there isn’t much they can do. However, if they at least take a report and assign a case number, it provides you with a record of the crime that you may need later.
File a report with your local office of state investigation. This could be either the State Police or a State Bureau of Investigation.
File a complaint with SAFER: Contact Shannon Chelf, Senior Investigator USDOT/FMCSA, (202) 306-5848, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact your regional Office of Inspector General - OIG Directory