Trending Content

How theft red flags saved a Michigan rental operation

By Connie Lannan

November 26, 2023

Ed Craddock

Ed Craddock

The awareness and use of red flags have been key reasons True Value Rental of Bay City, Bay City, Mich., hasn’t been impacted by theft, according to Ed Craddock, owner.

“I have one location. I have shared the red flags with all my employees. Everyone at my operation has learned to be cautious, be aware of their surroundings and take time to verify. If it doesn’t feel right in the gut, my employees know they can ask me or a supervisor. I have no problem refusing a rental if I need to. I would rather turn down a $200 rental than spend six months having to replace the machine, talking to police and dealing with the insurance company. My time is worth something, too,” says Craddock, who serves on the American Rental Association (ARA) Equipment Rental Shared Interest Group and who formed the Equipment Rental Facebook Group.

So what are the key red flags that Craddock and his team watch for? Take a look:

Renters wearing clothing that seems out of place for an actual job site. “I have seen theft rings use the same methods for the past 10 years where they take guys off the street, give them work clothes and a vehicle and send them to rent equipment. They usually come in with brand-new, high-visibility clothing, perhaps wearing a clean hard hat and other related gear. If you are doing construction, your clothes will be dirty and stained. If they come in with brand-new reflective gear, that is the first flag,” he says. Besides, “someone who has to wear a hard hat all day isn’t going to wear it when they don’t have to.”

Renters coming in at the end of the day. “If they come in and try to rush you through a rental at the end of the day, that is another red flag,” he says, noting that they are trying to catch your staff off-guard and think you will not go through all your procedures because you are ready to close, Craddock says.

Bringing in rented vehicles for towing equipment. “I do not rent to anyone who comes in with a U-Haul or Penske truck to tow a piece of equipment. I don’t care what their reason is. Those trucks are usually stolen. That is the first thing thieves were doing in 2018” when there was a rash of thefts in his area, he says.

True Value Rental of Bay City storefront

True Value Rental of Bay City storefront

Wanting to use third-party transportation. “I do not allow third-party transportation entities to transport our equipment. It’s either by us or directly by the renter,” Craddock says.

When callers on the phone ask for a specific make and model of equipment. “When I get calls for a specific make or year of equipment, such as a Ditch Witch SK800 instead of a skid steer, I become suspicious. Those are unusual and specific questions that most renters don’t ask. Most renters usually just ask for a mini skid steer, a regular skid steer or utility vehicle,” Craddock says.

Renters who want to pay by phone. “I do not accept payments by phone. If the credit card cannot be ‘chip-read’ during the transaction, I do not accept payment from it,” he says.

Renters who don’t want to be thumbprinted. “I have cheap, inkless thumbprint pads at the counter. We thumbprint those renters who aren’t from our area or are a first-time renter if they rent high-theft items,” Craddock says.

When things are off with the vehicle license plate. “I pre-inspect the vehicles for towing capacities. I look at the license plate. If it is in-state, I see whether the tags are out of date. If the license plate is out of state, I will ask for more documentation such as asking for the paper registration to make sure it matches the plate. I also ask more questions such as why are they in this area, where is the job, what is the job for and such. A lot of times I can prevent those with out-of-town plates coming to my location because when they call I make it known that I require them to satisfy all these issues before we can continue with the rental,” he says, adding, “I don’t accept vehicle registrations that will expire within 30 days. I also don’t accept expired or temporary plates or a paper ID. They are too easy to fake.”

When the credit card doesn’t match the driver’s license. “If there is any discrepancy, I will call the number on the back of the credit card to make sure that person has the right to use it. I also accept only one credit card, not multiple, and make sure the renter’s face matches the photo on the ID. I also have blacklight flashlights at the counter to check a driver’s license security features that can be seen only by a blacklight,” Craddock says.

It’s about “always being on your guard, taking the time to verify, using GPS units, particularly on my high-theft iron, and also using ARA’s free service of registering our equipment with the National Equipment Register (NER) and using the free stickers available from NER in case any of my equipment is ever stolen,” he says. “We also plan to take photos of equipment being loaded or attached to a vehicle, making sure we see the back of the vehicle with the license plate.”

Why all these measures? Because it is always better to be safe than sorry, Craddock notes.

Post Tags