Lessons learned from a theft

Sep. 18, 2022

The thefts by fraud of two forklifts at LAX Equipment, Inglewood, Calif., were a wake-up call for company owner Salvador Soto.

“We made some mistakes. It happens and that is the way we learn,” he says, adding that he is implementing several changes since this happened, including:

  • Verifying that customer information is accurate. “Even though we have never had a problem before in the past 25 years we have been in business, we are now taking more measures and not trusting anybody. We are not going to rent to anyone until we know 100 percent that the information is accurate and true. We are requiring a lot more phone numbers — company phone number, home number and other phone numbers. We also are requiring the photo on a driver’s license and making sure the credit card has the same name as all the other information,” he says, adding that even more checking will be done with new customers.

  • Registering his equipment on the National Equipment Register (NER) HELPTech database. “We have not done that, but we are planning to do that now,” he says.

American Rental Association members may register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile off-road equipment for free on the NER HELPTech database, which makes the machine’s information easily accessible to law enforcement. An officer can log onto the NER system and determine the owner of the machine instantly, whether that owner knows his equipment is stolen or not. Registering also allows a rental operator to examine their inventory to confirm that it is up to date and that machine serial numbers/product identification numbers are accurate. Click here to learn more.

  • Using a tracking system on all his forklifts. Soto had used Apple AirTags on his skid steers, which allowed him to track down and, with the help of police, recover a machine stolen from a job site. He now plans to use them on his forklifts, too.

  • Etching a company-identifiable number into a secure part of the machine. So, even if the product identification number or serial number is sawed off, this number will still be there to help identify that it belongs to LAX Equipment.

Detective Jon Thompson with the Inglewood Police Department agrees that rental operators need to stay alert and take proactive measures to protect their equipment.

It’s about being alert to the red flags, he says, particularly when it comes to long-term rentals. “We have found that there are more problems with long-term rentals as that gives the suspect plenty of time to get the machine and sell it. I also would suggest calling credit companies on the large equipment. Make sure the funds are available and ensure the card and the bank match,” he says.

Thompson also is a strong proponent of putting GPS on equipment. “People need to invest in this type of tracking for these units. Try to hide them inside the machine, perhaps welding them into the inner chassis of the equipment. Also engrave the serial number or other type of marking inside the machine,” he says.

As far as job sites, he suggests “doing surveillance on the site and look into heavy-duty locking devices on these machines,” Thompson says.

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