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home | Feature Articles | Staying Ahead of Thieves When Shippi . . .

Staying Ahead of Thieves When Shipping

In the last several bulletins regarding theft of shipped goods, the Jewelers' Security Alliance reported that thieves are catching up with commonly-used crime prevention steps. One result is that the industry is still plagued by shipping losses, and consequently everyone -- if they haven't already -- needs to be adopt safe shipping practices. In the past, a number of smart tactics were used by the industry and they cut down somewhat on the losses. They are still useful. These were:

* Include a packing slip in every box

* Don't ship over a weekend

* No small or light packages

* Split especially valuable packages in two or more parcels

* Check all parcels for tampering upon receipt

* High-value packages should only be shipped by Brinks or other armored courier

* Use registered mail, still a safe choice

* Always require a signature to be obtained upon delivery

* Double-check all addresses before shipment; misdirected packages have a much higher chance of being stolen because they touch many more hands and sit around much longer awaiting re-delivery.

However, criminals have gotten wise to some of these procedures, and the number of thefts has risen. The JSA reported one incident in which an 18-year-old cargo handler at Miami International Airport was charged with stealing a $60,000 shipment of diamonds from a UPS plane he was unloading on his first day on the job! While there is no one easy answer to shipping losses, retailers, manufacturers and watch companies who ship in large volume have been successful in reducing losses with one or more of these ideas, according to the JSA:

Thieves are wise to the use of initials instead of the name of a jewelry firm, and initials have now become a method used by thieves in targeting valuable packages. A new method is necessary to mislead the criminals. One useful suggestion is to use a false name not containing the word "jewelry" or anything hinting of watches, jewelry or precious metals. Furthermore, the name should be changed regularly.

For return addresses, some large users of overnight services are using -- with permission, of course -- the name of their attorney or accountant who is at a different location, often not in a jewelry district ZIP code in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or other major jewelry city.

Time your shipments so that your packages do not sit in a hub over the weekend. Do not ship overnight on a Friday unless you are certain the recipient will be open on Saturday to accept a delivery. Do not ship jewelry overnight on a Friday for a Monday delivery. The longer jewelry goods remain undelivered, the greater is the risk they will be stolen.

Use U. S. Postal Service Express or Priority Mail. Some large jewelry retailers and manufacturers claim success this way from a security standpoint . Furthermore, the limits on insurance for Express Mail were raised from $500 to $5000. A major shipper of jewelry that ships thousands of packages per day states that the firm has had excellent results using the United States Postal Service, including priority mail. The U.S. Postal Service is the safest carrier for shipping goods, and offers up to $5,000 insurance for Express Mail. Use Express Mail and the U.S.P.S., including First Class Registered Mail, whenever possible.

Never send a package that is too small or light in weight that screams "jewelry" to the thieves. A shoebox-size with added material for weight will attract less attention. Using a box-within-a-box provides extra protection from dishonest employees of the shipping firms who may only have a brief moment to slit your package open quickly. Providing this double obstacle can discourage theft.

Don't use the boxes supplied by the shipping companies advises one very large company that sends out and receives literally thousands of packages. Always use an ordinary brown or white box, and change the color every week or two, the company suggests.

Never re-use a shipper's box is the advice from one shipper who swears that re-used boxes make theft more likely because anything that makes a box stand out or draws attention to it in the shipping facilities causes employees to examine it more carefully. The remnants of an old label on a re-used box , for example, increases the risk and the chance of theft, according to this theory.

Any type of special security tape can also raise the visibility of the box, indicating valuables inside and make it a more likely target for theft, according to some major retail organizations that ship a great deal.

Immediately change shipping companies, at least temporarily, if you have a shipping loss, It may mean that your packages have been targeted within the shipping company where you had the loss.

Special shipping services that include full insurance in the cost of the shipping of the parcel have been very helpful for some major firms. The shippers that specialize in jewelry include such companies as One Service (1-800-401-SHIP).

Special security boxes may be the way to go. Some large users, especially those that have had shipping losses, have gotten these special boxes from the loss-prevention departments of the shipping companies. For example, certain of these boxes contain a plastic inner box which makes it more difficult for the box to be slit open and goods removed.

Make sure the address label or airbill is firmly glued or attached to the package. Simply inserting the address label in a clear plastic sleeve or pouch allows address labels to be easily replaced with new labels by thieves. This permits packages to be diverted or allows your box to be tampered with and your airbill placed on a new box.

Scanning boxes with a metal detector to make certain that a company is not signing for an empty box is a new practice adopted by some firms. Other companies are considering the use of X-ray equipment to examine shipments upon delivery.

Handwritten rather than typed labels and airbills may appear to be from a smaller shipper and be less likely for thieves to target.

Make sure you are protected if there is a loss, either through your own insurance or through the shipping company. FedEx now offers a service called "DVX," for "declared value exception." Using this special new service, FedEx liability can now exceed $500, which has been the ordinary limit of liability on FedEx packages. The limit can now go as high as $50,000 for overnight service. The cost is $.30 per hundred in value. DVX also provides secure pick-up or drop off in select cities with major jewelry districts. For more information on this new service, call FedEx at 1-800-Go-FedEx.

The bulk of this report was compiled fom security bulletins issued by the Jeweler's Security Alliance which remains the best source of this type of information in our industry. The latest information on all security issues (as well as shpping) in the jewelry industry can be found at the JSA, either by telephone at 800-537-0067, via fax at 212-687-0328, by e-mail at or from a visit to the JSA website --

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