Online stolen equipment sales warning

30 November 2009

The use of online auction sites to sell stolen plant and machinery is a spiralling problem which requires immediate action, says the UK's leading trade association for hire and rental companies.

HAE (Hire Association Europe) has warned that plant theft - believed to cost the industry around £1 million a week - is rising sharply in the hire sector.

The warning comes after the conviction of two men in the county of Surrey following a major police operation which helped recover stolen plant machinery worth £350,000.

Operation Hardwood led to two men being jailed for five years each for the theft of plant and machinery which they later sold to unsuspecting buyers on eBay.

Mark Bradshaw, head of policy and public affairs for HAE, said the association was now seeking discussions with on-line auction sites to work together to solve the problem.

"Often the theft of hire equipment or fraud committed to obtain hire items is viewed as a victimless crime, but that is far from the reality. Many hire businesses are small family-run enterprises and the losses faced can severely weaken the business or result in closure and loss of jobs," said Bradshaw.

"The use of on-line auction sites to sell on the stolen plant and machinery is a particular concern for our members and we would welcome direct contact so we can work together to tackle this problem. HAE congratulates the Surrey police in setting up and implementing Operation Hardwood and the successful conclusion they achieved," concluded Bradshaw. We are contacting key auction sites to strengthen our co-operation in tackling the sale of stolen items."

What you can do:

  • Seek references for the seller from someone you know who has dealt with them before.
  • Inspect the equipment before you buy.
  • Purchasing from car parks or service stations should be avoided.
  • View or buy it from the company or home address of the seller.
  • Be suspicious of recently re-sprayed equipment.
  • The remnants of a disarmed security device or hastily removed tracker must always be treated with the utmost suspicion.
  • Check the ignition has not been damaged.
  • Look for any previous owner details. If you find any, call them to make sure they have sold it (other identifying marks that may be researched are the engraved/welded asset numbers that would suggest a period spent with a hire company).
  • Ask for documentation - receipts, service history.
  • Larger plant may be registered as road legal.
  • Request a company receipt which includes the seller's full address and VAT number.
  • Don't pay cash.
  • Be suspicious if the sale price is lower than the market value.
  • Item must have its original identification plate and serial number.
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