Rental companies have joined forces to launch a crime-fighting website after being stung by almost £350,000 worth of fraudulent hires in the past month.
Cameras, lenses, monitors, memory cards and batteries worth £270,000 were taken from London rental firm VMI. It is thought that the group responsible for the VMI fraud also made off with £65,000 worth of kit from Broadcast Services.
Facilities bosses suspect the same individuals are responsible for half a dozen more fraudulent hires in the past few weeks.
In response, VMI this week set up a website (www.xhire.org.uk) with a rogues’ gallery and lists of stolen kit in a bid to help facilities combat the con artists.
It is the latest bid by VMI to stop rental scams, which managing director Barry Bassett said had led to the loss of kit worth £1m from six companies over the past year.
He said: “We use an email syndication system as a sounding board in suspicious cases, but a website allows people to share more information and search for serial numbers of kit they suspect to have been stolen.”
The hire firms Broadcast spoke to were united in their dismay at the police response to fraudulent hires. “It’s organised crime but the police aren’t interested,” said the managing director of one.
Another said: “If it doesn’t involve a physical break-in, the police seem to class it as outside their remit.”
On Tuesday, insurance brokers Allan Chapman & James (ACJ) and trade association UK Screen hosted a seminar to advise hire firms on the best ways to avoid falling prey to fraudsters.
ACJ corporate sales director Simon Miller said it could be difficult stopping determined fraudsters who can have premises and proper ID.
“They sometimes [legitimately] hire kit to gain the trust of rental firms, which makes it hard to spot,” he said.
VMI’s Bassett said he was seeking financial donations for the upkeep of the fraudulent-hire website, which is also backed by Broadcast Services, but stressed it was a not-for-profit venture.
For tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud click here.