Tradespeople across Britain have been struck with a rise in tool thefts as they battle an increase in van break-ins and use of high-tech electronic key fob thefts, according to insurance provider Simply Business.
The average value of theft claims processed by Simply Business has risen to £1,692, according to the business insurance provider, which covers 135,000 tradespeople in the UK and has been monitoring a rise in tool theft since 2012.
Targeting higher value tools
Simply Business analysed over 3,000 tool theft claims and discovered that the average tool theft claim has gone up by over 15% from 2016 to 2017 – with five percent of claims over £5,000, and some claims as high as £11,000.
This reflects the trade community’s growing concerns over the safety of their equipment, as the Office of National Statistics this January reported an 18 percent rise in vehicle-related thefts overall for 2017.
In March, tradespeople in Plymouth marched in protest at a sharp increase in van tool thefts – the total costs of tool replacement, lost time and damaged client relationships all adding to the toll on tradespeople.
Smarter thieves use harder-to-trace electronic key fob
Previously, thieves used the ‘peel and steal’ method, in which they use their knees to apply pressure to van doors, before pulling them open from the top.
Thieves increasingly employ new, cunning methods of targeting tradespeople, as Simply Business reports an increase in the use of electronic key fobs, available for as little as £30 on Ebay and Amazon.
These are used to open vans, without the need to break and enter, allowing higher value tools to be stolen and leaving insurance claims harder to prove. This method involves two criminals – one who intercepts the signal from the key fob, and another who uses the replicated key fob signal to open the car.
Tool theft trends
Simply Business surprisingly found July was the month with the highest number of tool thefts. Going against the typical association of thefts happening in winter and showing an increase in brazen thieves who use key fobs to steal from vans in broad daylight without attracting attention.
Tradespeople should be on their guard on Mondays, as this day of the week remains the most likely time for thefts, seeing the biggest weekly spike in thieves’ activity.
Tool theft hot spots
Surprisingly, Chelmsford, Tunbridge Wells and Reading made the top ten list of places for tool thefts – with over one in ten Simply Business customers in Tunbridge Wells making a claim last year.
The top ten towns and cities by number of claims in 2017, are:
Top tool theft areas:
- Tunbridge wells
Fiona McSwein, Chief Customer Officer at Simply Business, explains:
“Tool theft remains one of the number one issues affecting hard-working tradespeople across the country. Over the last year, we’ve seen an average of at least two or three tool theft claims every single day. Stolen tools can be devastating – beyond the financial loss, it takes away tradespeople’s ability to carry out their work, leading to loss of time and negatively impacting customer relationships too."
“In 2016, a ‘peel and steal’ craze affected thousands across the country – now we are witnessing new and more advanced ways for thieves to target high-value items, which is a worrying trend. Electronic key fobs can be easily purchased for next to nothing online, leaving thousands of tradespeople vulnerable to theft."
“We hope that by continuing to spotlight this issue, while offering advice and protection, tradespeople can equip themselves with the necessary knowledge to prevent or limit damages from this fast-growing problem."
Simply Business offers the following advice to tradespeople to help prevent tool theft:
- Park for prevention. Try to park with sliding or rear doors against a wall or sturdy fence so that they can’t be opened. Busy, well-lit areas, preferably in view of a CCTV camera are best.
- Store tools sensibly. It is best to remove tools from your van overnight as ‘peel and steal’ and electronic key fobs can leave even well-secured vans vulnerable.
- Mark your property. If your tools are stolen, having identification marks on them will help make sure you’re recognised as the owner if they’re found.
- Keep a note of serial numbers and other data. Providing information like serial number, or at least an itemised list with the make and model of everything taken, will help police identify your tools if they’re found as well as easing the process of making an insurance claim.
- Check your insurance. If you don’t have tools insurance as part of your business insurance policy, consider adding it in. It can help pay for the cost of replacing your tools should they be stolen. You should also check your policy wording to find out exactly what’s covered, what the limits and excesses are, and if there are any conditions.