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How to protect against tool theft

Tool theft is a challenge for tradespeople who have to keep their tools in a van or a lock-up; without them, they can’t work, so here’s a guide to protecting your tools from theft.

With more than £100 million of tools stolen opens in new window across the UK in the past two years, it’s a real issue for tradespeople, who are left unable to work, threatening their livelihood and business.

Leaving your tools locked in a van or lock up doesn’t necessarily protect them, and tools are a popular target for thieves as they are valuable and easy to sell.

Tool theft can cost thousands of pounds in lost tools, stock, and van repairs.

As well as material costs, theft can increase stress opens in new window, feelings of anxiety, and worry about the impact on earnings.

Once a successful theft has taken place, it could invite thieves to strike again – thieves may return to the crime scene, knowing that the tools will have been replaced, which makes prevention especially important.

As many tradespeople are self-employed opens in new window, tool theft can result in cancelled jobs and a shortfall in cash.

Read our guide to self-employed loans opens in new window.


Steps to help prevent tool theft

Always store tools securely

Storing tools securely is a must for any tradesperson, as the less accessible they are, the less chance there is for them to be stolen.

If possible, always take your tools in from your van overnight, as even the best-secured vans are a potential target for thieves.

If you cannot bring your tools in from the van overnight, it’s worth considering having storage boxes installed in your truck or van.

Storage boxes can offer an added layer of security and can be drilled into place in your van or truck.

Stickers that clearly state “tools are not kept in this vehicle overnight” are a cost-effective way to help deter thieves.


Think about where you park

Another way to protect your tools if left in your van overnight is to plan carefully where you park it.

When parking your van, ensure the sliding or rear doors are against a wall or fence, making it much more challenging for thieves to get into your van and access the tools.

Park in a busy, well-lit area, ideally where CCTV cameras have a view of your van.

Carefully chosen parking can deter thieves, but even if they manage to break into your van, the cameras may be able to catch the incident, and security lighting means there may be more chance of a witness to the theft.


Keep your van secure

As a tradesperson, protecting your livelihood involves safeguarding your tools; relying simply on the standard factory-fitting locks on your van may not be enough.

There are always new ways for thieves to break into vehicles to ensure the maximum safety of your tools.

Any added security measures you can add can help reduce your vehicle becoming a target.

An alarm system, security cameras, or a GPS tracker are good ways to help deter thieves and protect your tools.

There are some sophisticated features you can install in your van, including:

  • van vaults
  • single or dual alarms
  • security chip tagging
  • crime prevention stickers

Mark all tools

Adding precautions to protect your tools doesn’t eliminate the risk.

It’s essential to mark your tools with information that will identify them should they be stolen.

Marking all tools with identification initials or your name can help prove ownership if they are stolen.

You can use a permanent marker, paint, or even scratch your name into handles to recognise your property should they be recovered after theft and make it difficult for a thief to sell them on.


Have an inventory and note all serial numbers

A detailed inventory of all your tools is a good way to identify yourself as the rightful owner if your tools are found following a theft.

Take down all serial numbers of your tools and even take photographs showing the serial numbers to support your inventory.

Having serial numbers of items is an excellent way to provide police with the evidence you are the rightful owner following a theft.

Keeping all this information in a spreadsheet will make the process easier if you need to make an insurance claim.

Photographic evidence of your proof of purchase and receipts will also aid any claims you may need to make.


Invest in smart technology

Some tool manufacturers may include technology in their tools that you can use to track stolen tools.

Tracking technology on tools cannot prevent theft but can be beneficial in recovering stolen tools.

If you need capital to invest opens in new window in security options for your tools, there are ways to secure this.

Read our guide on business overdrafts and other working capital products opens in new window.


Have the right insurance

Tools are essential to include on your business insurance policy opens in new window to ensure you can replace them should they fall victim to theft.

Make sure you clearly understand the wording of your insurance policy, so you know what is covered if your tools are stolen.

For example, read the policy details of what your insurer expects you to do to help minimise the risk of theft, such as specific alarms on your van if they are stolen from the van.

You may also get cheaper insurance premiums if your vehicle has lockable storage boxes.


What to do if tools are stolen

Report to police

Filing a theft report to the police is the first thing you should do if you fall victim to theft.

You can report the theft to the police by calling 101 or visiting a police station.

Your insurance company will likely ask for a police reference number as part of any claim.


Make an insurance claim

Once you have informed the police of the theft, the next step is to report it to your insurance company.

An itemised list of stolen items will help you as part of your supporting documentation.


Be wary of second-hand tools

Chances are, if tools are advertised at a suspiciously low price, they could be stolen.

Scanning adverts for second-hand tools for sale is a way to look out for your stolen tools.

A local trades group is a way you can alert other local tradespeople of your stolen tools.

Ensure you do thorough due diligence if you want second-hand tools so you don’t fall victim to buying stolen ones.

To protect yourself, follow these tips:

Tool theft is rife, but ensuring your tools are safely stored and having all the information on them can help limit the effect on your business should you fall victim.


Learn with Start Up Loans 

Want to learn how to manage your start-up’s finances? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.


Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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