Aug. 25 2009 08:42 AM

The Internet has revolutionized how people in business get things done. Tasks that used to take hours are now only a click away. Gone are the days of establishing relationships through face-to-face meetings and telephone conversations. They have been replaced with a registration page on a company website. As a result, this anonymity has created the opportunity for impersonation and deceit. Armed with basic information about a person or business, users can become whomever they choose.

For example, take registering to use a carrier website such as FedEx or UPS. The information required to perform this simple task is available in any business directory listing. Company name, address and phone number are all that is required to register as a user on one of these carrier websites. Users can track, ship and even open an account for billing purposes. Until recently, carriers were allowing users to open accounts and add existing accounts to user profiles with limited verification. However, that process was significantly enhanced recently after an increase in unauthorized account usage was reported by a number of existing customers. 

Now the process for opening accounts and adding accounts to user profiles requires various degrees of verification (the details of which differ by carrier). Although these steps taken by the carriers have reduced the risk of unauthorized account usage, it has not been eliminated. Businesses, as well as individuals, need to be aware of the fact that identity theft can occur anywhere, even in the shipping world. We call this latest trend “Shipper Identity Theft”.

In order to prevent the potential compromise of your carrier account numbers, I recommend the following: 

1. Safeguard existing carrier account numbers – To prevent the unauthorized use of your carrier account numbers, limit their exposure to only those employees involved in the shipping process. Minimize the sharing of carrier account numbers with contract employees and/or third parties. 

2. Monitor carrier bills for unauthorized use – Reviewing your carrier bills in detail should be standard operating procedure for any business. Do not assume that this information is correct. Pay special attention to those sections of the bill detailing manual shipping methods (e.g. Air Bills, Shipping Documents, etc.). 

3. Be mindful of welcome letters, emails, or phone calls from carriers - Carriers will generally make contact with new accounts opened as a customer service feature. Make sure the process for opening new carrier accounts within your business is controlled. 

Use of an automated shipping solution with user administration capabilities can greatly reduce the risk of unauthorized account usage. With low startup cost and easy setup, your business could benefit significantly from an automated shipping solution, and avoid the nightmare that is shipper identity theft. 

Marty Stamps is Director of Marketing at ABOL Software. Visit for additional information.