Rob Hoag of RJ Hoag Insurance, Riverton, N.J., an ARA Insurance preferred agent, has seen a lot of rental theft “war stories.”
As an expert in rental business risk management, Hoag is uniquely positioned to understand the best practices that equipment and event rental businesses can adopt to help avoid costly theft attempts by bad actors.
“Theft and conversion both undermine the success of the rental industry,” he says. “The first line of defense is a rental store’s counter personnel.”
Here are some of the theft countermeasures rental business staff — right down to counter personnel — can take to help thwart fraudsters, based on real-life claims Hoag has experienced:
Adhere to a policy of “If their story doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.” “Asking questions of the customer to learn what they are trying to do with the equipment simply to make sure the need fits the equipment is important,” Hoag says. “If the need doesn’t fit the ask or their ‘story,’ it may raise a red flag.”
Invest in theft-deterrence equipment like cameras and GPS systems.
Know where the equipment is going. “This is important so that the rental operator can check the GPS or ask a driver to drive by to check the site,” Hoag says.
Fully vet a prospective customer’s identification — at every level.Hoag advises counter personnel to always “get proper identification, ask questions if they try to pay by a credit card with a different name, determine if the renting party is a known customer or new customer, and learn if the rental is for a local address. All of these items will help the counter personnel develop either a confidence or a concern with the customer.”
Take note of the customer’s vehicle. “Does it have an out-of-state tag? Does it have the proper GVW [gross vehicle weight] capacity and hitch weight/ball size? Does the customer have his/her own trailer and securement chains, or will they be renting a trailer as well? What is the registered state of the trailer and is it owned by the same owner of the vehicle?” These are questions Hoag advises counter staff to consider.
Timing matters.“The time of day and the day of the week can raise concerns that counter personnel should be aware of,” Hoag says. “Rentals on Fridays that include the weekend need to be scrutinized. A Friday rental provides the opportunity for the conversion perpetrator to move the equipment over the weekend without an expectation of the rental store to hear from the renter until the following week. Therefore, the equipment may be three days away before the rental store realizes the equipment is missing. The same concern can be given to late afternoon rentals, which may provide enough time for the perpetrator to move the equipment far enough during the night hours before the rental store realizes the equipment is missing. These can be red flags or may simply raise a concern for experienced counter personnel.”
Keep an ear to the ground. “Knowing your community and construction activities might help a rental store understand what equipment is in demand and whether other rental store owners have shared any positive or negative rental experiences with customers,” Hoag says.
Be on guard in the aftermath of natural disasters. “An increase in stolen equipment is always a derivative of weather catastrophes,” Hoag says. “Hurricanes, floods, fires and tornadoes often leave behind catastrophic damage that is too overwhelming for the local infrastructure and local contractors and equipment. Stolen equipment from other regions often ends up in the catastrophic areas; therefore, it is good to be aware of equipment supply shortages in nearby regions as theft claims may increase.”
Hoag also offers a caution for rental businesses in coastal areas. “Rental stores located near ports should be on the lookout for stolen equipment that can be transported quickly to loading containers and shipped to other countries,” he says.
Hoag encourages rental companies to reach out to him for more information on these and other theft prevention ideas at email@example.com.