Trending Content

Countertop countermeasures in the Southeast

By Brock Huffstutler

June 6, 2023

Emmett Long

Emmett Long

Emmett Long, CIC, rental risk adviser, Jowers-Sklar Insurance Agency, Rome, Ga., and an ARA Insurance preferred agent, has seen a lot of rental theft “war stories.”

As an expert in rental business risk management, Long 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.

“To catch a thief, you have to think like a thief,” Long says, echoing the sage phrase. “Analyze your weak spots.”

Here are just a few of the red flags that could signal theft intent that Long encourages rental counter personnel to be wary of:

People who come into your rental business from out of state or out of the area. “Consider, or even ask them, why did they drive past other rental operations to get to you?” Long says.

Those who drive a Penske or U-Haul rented truck onto your lot for the purpose of loading equipment. Long cautions that “these are almost 100 percent guaranteed thieves.”

A potential customer seeking to set up a sizable charge account but with no purchase order continuity with your business.

Somebody who comes in to rent something small, brings it back, then rents something much bigger. Returning the small item may be a ruse to establish a sense of credibility.

Someone who does not fully pull into your parking lot, so you can’t capture them on your security camera.

Suspicious body language — such as someone who pulls their hat down or has a hoodie up.

“Essentially, if your gut tells you something is not right, it probably isn’t,” Long says. “You just need to have a healthy sense of skepticism up front. You also should empower counter personnel to say ‘no’ to a potential rental. If they catch a fraudster, great. If the individual turned out not to be a thief, consider it fine — don’t discipline your staffer about losing the rental.”

Long also says it’s OK to make your insurance provider “the bad guy” if your scrutiny of a potential renter starts to escalate.

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

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