The mix of robust post-pandemic contractor activity and an equipment shortage due to supply chain issues has produced an uptick in equipment thefts. Add in a heightened level of criminal sophistication and you get a serious dilemma for equipment rental operators looking to stay ahead of today’s fraudsters.
This was the motivation for the ARA of Missouri’s delivery of “Countermeasures to Theft,” an online seminar designed to give an edge to rental business owners, on Wednesday, June 23.
“The increased and calculated ways of theft is alarming,” says Steve Houser, general manager, U.S. Rents-It, Jefferson City, Mo., and ARA of Missouri vice president. “Criminals treat it as a job and are always sharpening their craft. We have to keep staff and procedures up to date with thieves’ increased tactics. Our presenters were to the point, easy to understand, and clearly want us to protect our rental investments and succeed.”
The session was presented by David Grant Mossman, senior analyst, National Equipment Register (NER), a Verisk business, and Tom Rensch, CIC, consultant, Cornerstone Insurance Group, St. Louis, and an ARA Insurance preferred agent.
The seminar kicked off with Mossman distinguishing between civil and criminal rental conversions, underscoring the signals of individuals who rent with the intent to commit fraud. He then cited recent theft trends across the U.S. that are becoming the calling cards of today’s organized crime rings, including: impersonating a known client’s identity; fabricating identities (vs. stolen identities); employing phone or online orders for specific machines; and picking up equipment with a rented U-Haul or Home Depot truck, for example, for resale at cut-rate prices on social media sites.
Mossman also encouraged attendees to not let a focus on these patterns — while important — draw attention from traditional on-site burglary risks, which are not slowing down. To provide maximum protection for your assets, Mossman says to go with your “gut instinct” when a customer seems suspicious and maintain detailed records on each piece of equipment in the event of a theft.
The bridge between Mossman and Rensch’s segments of the seminar was a reminder that American Rental Association (ARA) members can register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road equipment with NER’s HELPTech database for free. ARA members who register their equipment also may be eligible for a theft-deductible waiver of up to $10,000 through their insurance company.
Rensch continued the conversation by drawing on his claims experience to share equipment theft “war stories.” Just a few of the theft countermeasure tips he shared included:
Employing extra scrutiny with out-of-state or out-of-area renters.
Renting late in the afternoon or early in the morning — when you often are slammed — is a common tactic used by thieves.
Pulling another rental store’s trailer but renting from you is a red flag.
Gathering comprehensive details not only about the renter but also about the location where they will be working.
Creating a “new renter” form for counter staff to require of first-time customers.
Ensuring your counter staff have the ability to say “No” to any questionable customer — if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Not hesitating to blame your insurance provider for excessive documentation or verification processes. This can help divert impatient customers’ ire toward counter staff while ensuring thorough vetting.
“Good old gut feelings, face-to-face interactions with your customers and following procedures are the best ways to reduce theft,” Houser says while listing his key takeaways from the seminar. “Always feel comfortable saying, ‘No, I’m sorry, we won’t be able to rent to you today.’ You may lose a potential customer but save a valuable piece of rental equipment. That is especially important today, when replacement equipment is on backorder for many months and revenue is lost.”