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Plant theft: conduct your own investigation

Guidelines for those in the used equipment trade

With more than £1 million of plant and equipment stolen every week in the UK alone, if you are in the market for used equipment or you are auctioning, financing or insuring it you should certainly watch out.

No matter how many hands it has been through, it never becomes yours. All those in the used equipment trade should be paying more attention to the identity of the machines that they are trading.

As a buyer, you can play a substantial part in combating plant theft. So, what should you be looking out for?

Serial number plate Learn to recognise the individual plates that mark out different plant manufacturers – quite often, thieves attach them to the wrong brand. Also insure that that they are correctly fitted to the chassis. The one shown here, for example, has no rivets.

Location Always buy from the selling company’s premises or home address.

Ignition Check to see if the machine’s ignition has been disrupted or broken. Are wires fused together?

Decals Has the machine got any previous owner decals (markings) on it? If you can find a name or a number, then call the previous owner to make sure that they have sold it.

References Seek references for the seller from someone you know who has dealt with them previously.

Documentation Get hold of as much as you can. Receipts, service history and a DVLA V5 document are good places to start.

Purchase receipt Make sure that the receipt includes the seller’s name, full address and VAT number.

Price Be very suspicious if the price is less that the current market value. The police may press charges against a party for handling stolen goods if they have purchased the machine for less then the market value.

Tim Purbrick is manager of National Plant and Equipment Register TER, which is a privately run database listing both stolen and financed plant