Avoiding Shipping Scams as a Freight Agent

08/17/2023 by Greg Massey

Avoiding Shipping Scams as a Freight Agent

Shipping scams have increased exponentially in the past few years. Is your Freight Agent business taking all the steps needed to prevent them?

As a Freight Agent, your days are busy servicing your customer and carrier relationships and managing shipments. The last thing you need on your plate is a scam artist wreaking havoc and getting your business (or one of your relationships) into trouble.

Common Types of Shipping Scams


Double-brokering is a sticky mess that Freight Agents should aim to avoid. The double-brokering of shipments has been in the industry for many years. As a refresher, double-brokering is when a carrier accepts a shipment under the pretense that it will be moving on their assets, and then gives that shipment to another carrier to move the freight. Often what happens is the carrier that double-brokered the shipment gets paid, either by the broker or the shipper, but has no intention of paying the carrier that physically provided the transportation service.

Carrier Identity Theft

More recently, we have seen carrier identity theft become more commonplace. This is when a scam artist assumes the identity of a reputable motor carrier with the intent of stealing the freight or getting advances of cash but with no desire to deliver the freight to its intended destination.

Best Practices for Preventing Shipping Scams

Preventing shipping scams from interrupting your Freight Agent business starts with your initial conversations with a carrier. One must be cautious and use a little bit of super sleuthing when negotiating rates and booking available shipments. 

Here are some best-demonstrated practices to help you sniff out a potential shipping scam:

Check the DOT AND MC Number 

Carriers with the intent to do things fraudulently will attempt to purchase an MC number that is less than seven digits long. Currently, most new carriers registering are seeing MC numbers that start with 14 or 15 and are seven digits in length.

Here’s an example of viewing an MC number of Safer Company Snapshot. As you can see, Trinity’s MC number is only 6 digits long, whereas newer registered companies have seven-digit long MC numbers since the FMCSA last made an update in 2018.

By checking the age of the DOT number and MC number, you could see a possible red flag if the DOT number is relatively new, but the MC number is one that was originally issued several years ago.

Is the Person Booking the Load Using the Mute Button Frequently?

This is a possible red flag to be aware of. Often, this happens with shipping scam artists because they have other people in the “office” attempting to “sell” the shipment to another carrier and they don’t want you to overhear.

Immediately Accepts the Rate

Negotiating a rate with a carrier is pretty much expected. If a carrier just blindly accepts the rate as is, that could be a possible red flag. Shipping scam artists don’t care what the rate is because they are intending to re-sell it to another carrier.

Always Check the Registered Phone Number

Does the phone number match what is listed through Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)?  You can quickly check a carrier’s profile via SAFER Company Snapshot. If it doesn’t match, that’s a possible red flag. Call the FMCSA registered phone number and verify the number you were talking to works for them before you finalize any details with the shipment.

Carrier’s Communication is Odd

Does the carrier try to rush you off the phone when booking the load?  Is their communication only done via email? Do they provide you with the phone number of the actual driver or try to avoid giving that information? These all can be red flags.

Shipment Updates are Not Consistent

Do the updates they give not match what you’re hearing from the shipper? If they claim the truck is on-site, but the shipper states otherwise, another possible red flag that this could be the work of a scam artist.

Can You Get Ahold of the Driver?

Speaking of the driver, does the driver actually answer their phone? Does the driver agree to tracking via many of the tracking apps that are commonplace in the industry now? 

Don’t Let Your Freight Agent Business Fall for Any Shipping Scams

Taking the extra few minutes to fully vet the carrier you look to entrust your customer’s shipment with will help you avoid a potential situation that could cost you and your company thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. If your gut says something seems a little bit shady, or too good to be true, it usually is right, and best to move on to the next carrier you’re considering.

You Can Trust Trinity’s Carrier Relationships

Here at Trinity, we work hard to proactively avoid shipping scams affecting our business, which includes your Freight Agent business, too. We make sure to consistently verify who we are working with and build strong, solid relationships, as well as offer state-of-the-art tracking technology, so you know where your customer’s freight is every step of the way.

With our People-Centric Team and technology at the ready to support your business, you can spend less time on back-end tasks like initial carrier vetting, and more time focused on growing your customer and carrier relationships, and ultimately, your revenue.

To learn more about the world-class support you can receive from Trinity Logistics, call 800-846-3400 ext. 1908 or click the button below.