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Preventing equipment theft this spring

By Ashleigh Petersen

April 20, 2023

NER logoAs rental company owners prepare their equipment for the busy summer season, there are several ways they can help protect their machines and reduce the risk of theft.  

The tips below come from the National Equipment Register’s (NER) “Spring Equipment Maintenance: The Crime Prevention Tune-up.” The full two-page document can be found on RentalU — the American Rental Association’s (ARA) online learning platform.  

In addition, ARA members can register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road equipment with NER’s HELPTech database for free. When companies register their equipment, NER will send theft deterrent warning decals that let potential thieves know the equipment is registered in a searchable, national database. 

Participating members may be eligible for a theft-deductible waiver of up to $10,000 through their insurance company. Learn more about ARA and NER’s partnership. 

NER Equipment Crime Prevention Tune-up 


  • Can you find the machine identification? If not, call NER for guidance. NER has comprehensive data on this and their experts have been assisting law enforcement to identify machines since 2001. 
  • Is the identification you found actually the machine identification, or is it a component identifier? If you’re unsure, reach out to NER for help.  
  • If the serial number/product identification number decal or plate is not intact and/or legible, NER or the equipment dealer can help with a replacement identification if needed.
  • If the identification is missing, NER strongly encourages owners to report missing machine identification. Stolen plates often are used to hide the identity of stolen equipment. 


  • A company’s name and phone number should be applied in an obvious location on the machine, as well as near the operator’s controls and near the serial number/PIN. 
  • Replace damaged company decals and make sure they include a phone number.
  • Owner applied numbers — such as the company’s inventory control number or unit number — should be prominently visible on the machine. 
  • NER HELPtech registration members are encouraged to apply their free NER HELPtech theft deterrent warning decals to their machines.  


  • Does the serial number/product identification number on the machine match company records? If the machine is stolen, you want to report the machine identification exactly as it appears on the machine. The best way to improve recovery of a stolen machine is to report accurate, confirmed information. If in doubt whether the numbers you recorded are correct, contact NER. 
  • Does the inventory control number or unit number correspond to the correct machine serial number/PIN? Often NER receives incorrect theft reports in which an owner reapplied a unit number to a new machine from an old machine that was sold off but did not update the machine records and reports the old machine’s serial number. Not only may the new machine never be identified as stolen, the owner is reporting that old machine as stolen, and the police may take it away from the new owner.
  • If possible, the inventory control number in a company’s records should exactly match the inventory control number applied to the machine. Just like the serial number/PIN, if the machine is stolen the owner should report exactly what number is on the machine, not an abbreviation of it.
  • Record the serial numbers of major components while performing maintenance, especially if a machine has had a motor transplant. Component serial numbers can be critical in identifying equipment if it’s stolen and the machine identification is altered. 
  • Record attachment serial numbers. Ideally, they should have their own inventory control number, but at least have a record of anything that has a serial number and if it belongs to a certain machine. If an attachment does not have a serial number, be sure to apply an inventory control number or other owner applied number so there is some way to uniquely identify the attachment. 

A picture is worth 1,000 words 

  • Take a picture of each machine and maintain a digital image inventory of all equipment. Have a picture of the whole machine, the machine identification (serial number/PIN), and any unique features — such as company logo, inventory control number, attachments and damage. 
  • Keep images up to date in case a machine is stolen.  

Click here to report equipment rental and purchase frauds to NER online or call 866-663-7872. 

Also, check out ARA’s Prioritize Safety Series video on “Preventing and handling theft” to learn more on this topic. This video can be found in the “Safety and Risk Management” section in RentalU.