A Tight Ship
Shipping thieves are getting slicker, say security and law enforcement
experts, but you can outfox them
FBI statistics say transit theft exceeds $10 billion annually, more than
three times what it was a decade ago. The thieves are better organized and
equipped, more sophisticated, more violent and more numerous than ever before.
In our own industry, the statistics are no better. About one-third of all
the losses Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., Neenah, WI, pays involve lost
or damaged shipments.
Investigation of this so-called transit crime and enforcement of antiquated
transit theft laws is sporadic. Criminal penalties are weak many convicted
transit thieves never serve jail time. While there are federal legislative
efforts under way to beef up enforcement of and criminal penalties for transit
crimes, your best defense is careful preparation before shipping anything.
When shipping, don't draw attention to your package. Millions of packages
are shipped annually, and the vast majority are not stolen or tampered with.
So figure out why thieves pick the packages they do. Jewelry is a prime
target because it's small, valuable and easy to resell. Anything about your
package that suggests it contains jewelry greatly increases the chances
it will be stolen or tampered with.
You are safer using a box no smaller than a shoe box, advises Jewelers Mutual
in its "Good Box" guide. The insurer suggests you first put your
item in a strong cardboard jewelry box and then tape that to the inside
of a larger box. It's important the inside box not rattle around. Tissue
or packing material will make the larger box seem less empty and give it
more weight. Never ship jewelry in an envelope or folder.
Seal the outer shipping box with gummed, reinforced paper mailing tape
or pressure-sensitive shipping tape. (One company that sells such security
seals and void tapes is Consolidated Graphics Materials Inc., Somerset,
NJ, 732-448-1400.) However, the Jewelers' Security Alliance reported earlier
this year that large jewelry shippers say more sophisticated packaging materials
simply flag your packages for those who want to steal them. They are a real
defense, however, against sneak thieves who want to filch the contents of
package and leave it looking untampered with.
Large-scale jewelry shippers also advise that you should never reuse
boxes or use the boxes provided by carriers because both of these practices
could increase the risk of theft by making the boxes more noticeable.
Documented Shipping Procedures Claims can be hard to prove unless you're
prepared. If a loss occurs, you have to substantiate it. If your package
arrives empty, damaged or different than what you packed, you'll have to
prove what you said was in the package was there. If it's stolen, you'll
have to prove the value of the contents. This month's Managing Legal Issues
column describes the legal ramifications of not properly documenting shipments
(see p. 112).
The whole packaging game relies on your ability to disguise that what you're
shipping is jewelry. Certain areas of major cities are known to be jewelry
districts, and some addresses are known to house several jewelry companies.
A high percentage of the shipping into or out of these areas is jewelry
and thieves know it. Jewelers Mutual advises avoiding shipping to or from
ZIP codes 10036 in New York City and 90013, 90014 or 90015 in Los Angeles.
Use caution when using ZIP codes 60602, 60603 and 60659 (Chicago area) or
94102, 94103 and 94108 (San Francisco area). To avoid these ZIP codes, you
can use an agreed-upon address such as a principal's home. For return addresses,
if you are in one of these red-flag ZIP codes or if you have an address
known to be in a jewelry district, use your home address or the address
of your lawyer or accountant (with permission), advises the JSA.
You also may want to take the package to the carrier's shipping office
rather than have it picked up, and pick up anything that's being sent to
you rather than have it delivered to your store.
Another important aspect of addressing: never use any word that suggests
jewelry is in the package. For a long time, organizations such as JSA recommended
using initials to hide jewelry-related names. But thieves have learned this
trick and it has become another red flag. Using people's names instead of
company names or initials is one alternative.
High-volume shippers in the jewelry industry seem to agree that, for most
purposes, the U.S. Postal Service's first-class registered mail is the way
to go. USPS provides you with packing tape and will stamp the package several
times with the registered mail ink stamp so the printed words overlap the
tape and the package. Insurance coverage is available up to $25,000; you
must declare the full value of the item being shipped.
The drawback to such postal service shipping is that it takes a few days.
JSA and Jewelers Mutual stress that jewelers need to consider each
time they ship whether overnight delivery service is critical. When
it is, USPS Express Mail and Priority Mail are recommended. Insurance limits
on Express Mail were recently raised from $500 to $5,000, reports JSA.
Use a variety of carriers and always change carriers after you experience
a loss, even if only for a few weeks or months. Extremely valuable pieces
should be shipped by armored services. Brinks is one such service, but there
are others. When shipping extremely valuable pieces, split them into several
packages. The odds are better that even if you suffer a loss of one package,
not all of them will be stolen.
Never ship on weekends if possible. If something must be delivered on a
weekend, make sure there will be someone to receive it. If a package has
to be returned to a shipping depot and held for redelivery or pick-up, chances
of it being stolen increase.
Adequate Insurance Coverage
In many cases, you will need additional shipping insurance above the amount
you obtain from a carrier. Many private insurance policies offer such coverage.
Jewelers Mutual provides coverage for shipping in three ways, says Darin
Kath, vice president of underwriting:
- A jewelers block policy can provide permanent coverage for items you
ship. The rate is based on several underwriting factors, including policy
limit, deductible and loss history. This is probably the easiest coverage
if you do a lot of shipping.
- If you don't have permanent shipping coverage on your policy, you can
cover single shipments by contacting your agent. Kath says the rates for
this coverage are competitive with other insurers and with the rates offered
by shipping carriers. Individual rates are based on your loss history and
- If you have permanent shipping coverage on your jewelers block policy,
but not enough to cover a particular shipment, you can obtain individual
shipment coverage on top of your policy limits. The cost is based on where
the shipment is going and your loss history.
Kath said more than half of the policies Jewelers Mutual sells have permanent
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.