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Call for action as online theft spirals out of control

Published:  19 November, 2009

UK: The use of online auction sites to sell on stolen plant and machinery is a spiralling problem which requires immediate action, said Hire Association Europe.

It warned that plant theft – believed to cost the industry around £1m a week – is rising sharply in the hire sector. HAE has created a number of initiatives to help tackle the problem.

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

'Operation Hardwood' saw the men 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 online 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.

"The use of online 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."

Merchants entering auction sites should seek references for the seller from someone they know who has dealt with them before.

Inspect the equipment before you buy, said HAE.

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 decals – if you find any, call the owner 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).

Larger plant may be registered as road legal with the DVLA so ask for the V5C.

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.

Items must have their original identification plate and serial number.

If you have you been affected by theft in the hire sector, call HAE on 0121 380 4621 or visit the website.

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