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Using Common Sense and Communication to Combat Crime

By Melissa Somers, Executive Director, CPP of SoCal

The Crime Prevention Program of Southern California (CPP) is a non-profit organization working with our members, law enforcement, the construction industry and area auto theft task forces to educate, empower and engage in a community fighting construction crime.  For information on how you can join the CPP community, contact Melissa Somers, Executive Director @ 562-860-9006 or email: [email protected]  Together, We Make a Difference.

CPP recently hosted a Rental Industry Prevention Summit*, bringing together a group of individuals representing rental companies large and small, to begin an ongoing discussion about theft issues and  challenges present in today’s ever-changing rental industry.   A few of the concerns discussed included finding better ways to protect brick and mortar stores, security solutions that work (and those that no longer work), how fraud is affecting the rental industry and how to better engage in more effective communication.

Theft in the rental industry totals in the millions every year in California.  While some of these thefts involve brick and mortar stores being broken into and equipment being stolen from job sites, many are the result of fraudulent activity in one form or another.  Fraudulent transactions come in many shapes and sizes and it seems the bad guys are constantly upping their game to capitalize on any weak spots in our prevention armor.  It’s our job to protect ourselves with information and resources to combat these types of crimes – and to share our findings with others in the industry to encourage the Bad Guys to move along.

Taking a stand against rental fraud doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on fraud detection gadgets.  Some of the best weapons to protect yourself from becoming a victim are common sense and communication.  Here are a few tactics to consider that may help temper your prevention armor:

  • Establish and maintain your company’s SOP’s (and update them as necessary!)
  • Training. Training. Training. The more information your employees have, the more confident they become looking for issues and listening to their “Spidey Senses” when something feels “off”
  • Don’t let the potential customer take control over the situation. (This is a common tactic of crooks trying to take advantage of your zeal to please a customer. The person tries to convince you of a non-existent relationship to persuade you to skip steps or rush the transaction.  If you truly are doing what you can to assist them in a timely manner, most legitimate customers will be understanding.)
  • Pay attention. If a Driver’s License or credit card that is presented feels flimsy or the color is off, that’s a huge red flag that it’s not valid
  • Know what to look for on a California Driver’s License to verify it’s legitimate
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  • Stay up to date on any changes or redesigns to Driver’s License and Identification cards
  • Check that the name and address match on information presented to you
  • Be observant. You never know when a would-be thief will suddenly decide to bail on the transaction.  Will you be able to describe him / her if asked?  What about the vehicle being used?  Pay attention to basics:  Sex, nationality, approximate height and weight, distinguishing features (facial hair, tattoos, etc.) for the individual(s) attempting to rent and the make, model, color and license plate for the auto they’re driving
  • Verify ID – if a new-to-you person shows up to rent equipment, supposedly on behalf of an existing customer, a quick phone call from your contact number on file will keep legit rental agreements on track and your customer feeling confident that you’re doing all you can to keep them from being victimized, too
  • Keep yourself up-to-date with the fraud alerts your company shares
  • Share your fraud alerts with CPP (CPP members) to help everyone stay one step ahead of the crooks

The moment you encounter a fraudulent transaction (or attempted one), make it known.  It goes without saying that, when applicable, notify the authorities.  Don’t stop there. Send out a bulletin to your other branch locations. Notify CPP of the activity (CPP members) so we can send out an alert to members and law enforcement contacts throughout the region.  The reality is that the crooks are working together to target victims. We have to train ourselves to do the same, therefore reducing our vulnerability as targets.  Generally, if an individual attempts to initiate a fraudulent purchase and is denied, they will simply move on to the next store and keep trying until they succeed.  Taking an active role in the rental community by sharing information will help send a message that’s loud and clear to these crooks that we’re ready and willing to fight to protect our businesses.

The only way we can take a stand against thieves is by removing ourselves as targets.  There are a shocking number of resources available to thieves in their quest to abscond with your hard-earned profits.  Couple that with their ability to skirt arrest and prosecution, and we seem to be fighting an uphill battle.  It’s high time we arm ourselves for the fight by taking proactive steps to protect ourselves and our industry.   We have to join together in order to make our voices heard and to send the message that we will no longer tolerate being a victim without putting up a fight.  Getting involved with a community like CPP is one great way to temper your prevention armor and join in a community of individuals ready to engage in the fight.  Will you fight it with us?

*Call Melissa Somers, CPP Exec. Director to find out how you can join us for the next Rental Industry Prevention Summit @562-860-9006

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