Cargo thieves on U.S. highways increasingly "are turning to a deceptively simple tactic" as reported by The Associated Press: "they pose as truckers, load the freight onto their own semitrailers and drive away with it."
This tactic is dubbed the fraudulent pickup which is described by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in its 2010 National Cargo Theft Report: "a driver or trucking company (often accessing cargo load information through online brokering sites) impersonates a legitimate carrier and secures a contract to transport cargo. The cargo is then stolen, often with no trace of the fraudulent driver or trucking company."
Industry experts "estimate all cargo thefts ring up as much as $30 billion in losses each year" as reported by the FBI.
Most cargo thefts are investigated by local police who lack the skills or resources to target the sophisticated operations, and district attorneys are reluctant to prosecute the crimes because of the light sentences upon convictions as reported by Daniel Grushkin for Businessweek. Accordingly, organized crime has locked upon this low-risk, high-profit racket like a pitbull on a steak: "nearly half of all cargo thefts are committed by organized specialists," and "a number of these . . . are carried out by a syndicate based in South Florida, many of them Cuban."