In this short article, I examine some of the more creative ways pilots have used courier contracts to steal and plunder their way to the top.
I once caught my little brother and corpmate ToG perusing courier contracts and asked what he was doing. "Looking for lucky dips", he replied, explaining that he accepts all the courier contracts he can find with low collateral and then breaks them open to see what he has "won". I literally couldn't contain my laughter as we spent the rest of the day competing to see who could find the most profitable lucky dip. Usually the collateral is higher than the value of the items but occasionally you'll get lucky and the issuer will undervalue their items by mistake. While this can be a fun competitive sport, it isn't something you can expect to make a lot of ISK doing. Additionally, be prepared for some hate mail from the contract issuers.
I occasionally find that pilots will take a courier contract I have set up and then not deliver the goods. Whether they're trying to "lucky dip" me or they're just forgetful, I've occasionally made a profit from their mistakes. It may be possible to capitalise on this by setting up contracts for the minimum duration of one day with a heavy collateral and hope someone fails to deliver. This can be augmented by using volumes over 40,000 so that they can only be carried by a freighter. Further, choosing far away delivery locations or those that require transit through low security space may help. Upon realising that they have to move a freighter through low security space, some pilots will simply give up and take the hit to their ISK.
If you're feeling particularly dastardly, you could take steps to make absolutely sure that your overpriced contract never reaches its destination. It's possible to set up a courier contract with vastly inflated collateral and then park some ships on the haul route. When the pilot carrying the courier package passes by, you could co-ordinate a swift suicide attack on him to destroy the package. If he can't deliver the package, the courier job will time out after its set duration and you'll receive the full collateral amount as compensation. The ideal package sizes are those that are large enough for only an industrial ship as suicide ganking an industrial can be accomplished with as little as one or two cheaply fit cruisers.
An alternative method is to set up contracts which must go through low security space and then setting up a gate camp to catch the pilot. If you're feeling particularly evil, you can also use this ploy to make some isk out of corporate infiltration. As pilots in a player-run corporation can attack each other without CONCORD intervention, you could convince a corpmate to accept a courier contract and then attack them when they pass with the package in their hold.
The courier contract system can be used for much more nefarious purposes than were originally intended, from petty theft to profiting from corporate infiltration. If a new player joins your corp and asks you to haul something for him, perhaps you shouldn't accept. There might be a trap waiting for you around the next bend waiting to turn your freighter into a freighter wreck.