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Countertop countermeasures in the Midwest

By Brock Huffstutler

June 6, 2023

Tom Rensch

Tom Rensch

Tom Rensch, CIC, consultant, TR Risk Solutions, St. Louis, and an ARA Insurance preferred agent, has seen a lot of rental theft “war stories.”

He can explain in stark black and white the difference between plain rental theft and the legalese term conversion. “Conversion is when you rent a piece of equipment to a renter and they do not return it. Theft is when a piece of equipment is stolen either from your yard or a job site,” he says.

“Equipment shortages due to supply chain issues can lead to more theft as contractors are hungry for equipment,” he also has observed.

As an expert in rental business risk management, Rensch 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.

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 Rensch has experienced:

  • Employ extra scrutiny with out-of-state or out-of-area renters. In general, most thefts are from these types.
  • Vet unknown renters harder by requesting to see their insurance, auto ID card and vehicle registration along with the typical driver’s license and credit card.
  • Gather comprehensive details not only about the renter but also about the location where they will be working.
  • Look to take a larger deposit from suspicious characters as that may scare them off.
  • Install cameras and add monitors behind the counter showing them being taped. Be on guard if they will not look up at a camera, pull a hoody up or put a hat on.
  • 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.
  • Create a “new renter” form for counter staff to require of first-time customers.
  • Your counter staff needs to have the ability to say “no” to any questionable customer — if their story doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Your “gut” goes a long way in this business.
  • If you use GPS, ping it to see if the equipment is going where the renter said it was going.
  • Remember that “thieves think like thieves.” When they come in with bad intentions, fraudsters have a leg up on honest business people trying to grow their business.

“Also, don’t hesitate to blame your insurance provider — folks like me — for excessive documentation or verification processes when prospective renters complain,” Rensch says. “This can help divert impatient customers’ ire toward counter staff while ensuring thorough vetting.”

Rensch encourages rental companies to reach out to him for more information on these and other theft prevention ideas at