Fraudsters can go to great lengths to convince hire firms to lend them kit, but following some simple guidelines can help to avoid falling prey to con artists.

Go with your gut If you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. Despite the pressure to get your kit out working it’s best to err on the side of caution if you have doubts.

Phone a friend Trade references are key. Ask new customers to provide contact details of people they have worked with - preferably people or businesses that you know. Don’t accept written references that could easily have been typed up by the would-be hirer.

…but don’t rely on them  Broadcast spoke with one hire firm that received the thumbs up on a new customer from another rental company, only to see £50,000 of kit go unreturned. Even if another hire firm vouches for someone, run your usual checks. 

Use a credit agency Running a check with a firm like Credit Safe helps to provide extra useful information and background about people looking to hire kit.

Take a picture If they don’t want their picture taken then alarms bell should ring. As well as acting as a possible deterrent, in the unfortunate event of a fraudulent hire a decent picture will help to warn other hire firms - and it could help you get your kit back.

Check their insurance If the person looking for kit is insured they will already have gone through checks with their insurance company, which should provide some additional peace of mind. But make sure the policy is with a company you recognise.

Take your time It’s tempting to cut corners during the busier summer months but you should always stick to your standard procedures. Hire firms need to be especially vigilant next year when they will have to cope with not only being flat out, they will also have an influx of foreign firms covering the Olympics.  

Look online The VMI-led website is only just up and running but it already contains pictures in its ‘rogues gallery’ and a lengthy list of stolen kit you can check – and add to.