For this edition of Overdrive Radio, DAT Freight and Analytics’ Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hopper speaks to the undeniable spike in double brokering, in identity theft and hop-in, hop-out “take the money and run” and other schemes executed by a variety of dishonest players inside the brokered-freight networks. The spike, which really took off last year, has led to a doubling of staff in DAT’s compliance department as well as a host of other in-process security enhancements there, some of which were previously detailed here in Overdrive in July.
DAT’s not alone, of course — competitors and other service providers have been doing similar things when it comes ID’ing the various types of “bad behavior” and working with the good guys out there to put a stop to it where possible, in no small part thanks to the efforts of a myriad of small business truckers to raise the temperature around the issue of double brokering and other fraud.
Among those is Matthew Patrick, with GMH Transportation. Regular readers may recall his two-part “The double-brokering slow burn” published here a couple weeks back: The two-parter outlined a year and more’s worth of efforts undertaken to identify some of the bad actors and take action to get them removed from the platforms where they ply their “trade” — that’d be freight platforms of all sorts.
DAT’s Jeff Hopper, in this week’s podcast, called it all organized “cyber crime,” really. Take a listen:
Also in the podcast:
A particular double brokering case that Patrick sent along early last week as we were getting ready to talk to Hopper. The case involved three different examples in which different brokers’ loads were attempted to be double-brokered by a single entity, the “Cheetah Import and Export” company, originally registered as a broker in New York, now with an Ohio address. Unlike a lot of double-brokered loads Patrick has seen, in which carriers are ultimately paid (though at rates below what the original broker offered), with these loads the second broker offered considerably more to move the load than the original brokers, suggestive for Patrick of a company in what he calls the “take the money and run” phase of a double broker’s evolution, with no intent to pay carriers at all.
[Related: A ‘hit it and move on’ broker scam — and more loopholes].
You know the curve of such stories if you’ve read Overdrive over years now — run up as much in revenue as you can, stiff all the carriers, and disappear into the ether when the bond is canceled and authority revoked: As I noted in prior reporting, part of our Broker Reforms series published early in 2020, bad actors executing such a scheme exploit the time lags in current notification requirements of surety providers and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association to run up as much business as they can before brokerage authority is revoked over valid claims from unpaid owner-operators and fleets. The “immediate suspension” part of this year’s brokerage/surety-related rules-change proposals might go far to eliminate such time lags.
Over the course of the days leading up to September 1, when this week’s podcast first aired for subscribers via listening platforms, the Cheetah broker’s bond company appeared to have notified the FMCSA of an impending cancellation — a bond that was effective starting just in early August this year is now set to cancel September 29, flagged in FMCSA’s Licensing and Insurance public portal as such.
Contacted the morning of Friday, September 1, the bond provider noted five claims against the bond. Attempts to contact the broker by phone for comment yielded only a day’s-long busy signal. Email then sent to the entity’s primary contact (an @gmail.com address) laid out all of these details and asked if the company planned to respond to claims on the bond. That gleaned just a short response in an unsigned return email from a rep with the display name “Gevork Sulian”: “What are you talking about? What happened? We are 1 year in this industry and never had a problem with our carriers.”
Given claims and the pending cancellation notice, I suggested in a reply that the broker contact its bond provider if the company intended to remain in business, Sulian responded this way:
“We don’t have any issue or problems with our Bond, and maybe the web was not updated and that’s why there is showing some notes.”
As far as Matt Patrick could tell on Friday, despite Patrick’s double-brokering complaints to DAT about this particular company, it was still able to post loads on the board. DAT reps, including Hopper in the podcast, assured that that they investigate all complaints but declined to speak directly about individual customers’ accounts.
Be forewarned if you run across a company posting excessively high rate offers. If it looks too good to be true, you’d do best to keep your skepticism high. Scams abound, as Jeff Hopper further emphasized in today’s podcast.
[Related: DOT IG flags ongoing investigations around double brokering, other fraud]