Who's picking up your valuable medicine shipment?

Earlier this month, a freight load of Reckitt Benckiser's over-the-counter drug Mucinex was sitting at a warehouse in New Jersey, waiting for a driver and van to arrive and take it to a facility in Springfield, Missouri.

The driver - who called himself Mario - arrived on time as expected, signed for and loaded the shipment into a trailer, and went on his way. All seemed well, but Mario was not who he purported to be, and the load never arrived at its intended destination.

The incident is an example of an emerging form of cargo theft that - while common in other industries - has been fairly uncommon in pharmaceuticals, according the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC), an industry group that focuses on supply chain security in the drug industry.

This was not a one-off, however, and three days later a similar theft occurred, with an almost identical sequence of events. In both cases the shipments were being handled by a brokerage firm, which was bamboozled by a fake dispatcher - in this case posing as one "Saul Londono", and the names used by the drivers didn't match those provided by the dispatcher.

Later that day the broker received a call from the real Saul Londono who is the owner of the carrier thought to have been originally booked, informing him that someone was using his company's identity to book loads, according to PCSC's Chuck Forsaith.

There are two forms of this type of scam - known as 'identity theft' or 'fictitious pickup', he notes.

A fictitious pick up technically occurs when the load is actually booked with the right/legitimate carrier and but someone shows up and poses as the legitimate company only at the time of pick up. In that scenario no one has contact with the bad guys until they come and pick up the load and no one hires the bad guy.

In an identity theft you make the arrangements with the bad guy, deal with the bad guy and in effect hire the bad guy who is posing as a good guy in order to get you to book the load with him. It can make a difference regarding who might be held responsible.

Forsaith noted that there are a number of things to consider when identifying the vulnerabilities revealed by the two cases.

The targeting of a weekend shipment, a failure to ask for official driver verification and not registering that the drivers' names didn’t match what was verbally provided were contributory factors. It was also notable that the thieves used very plain looking trucking equipment, and both drivers were wearing hats/hoodies to try to disguise their looks, he said.

"The cases illustrate the importance of a driver verification protocol in place at distribution sites, regardless of whether or not companies use a broker to arrange for a product's transportation," says Forsaith.

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