This article is about why people insure their equipment, what happens when it’s stolen, and how do you prevent it. This is a salutatory tale about people who rely on their equipment to do business and find that others have their eyes on it for other purposes.

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Business equipment is an asset to be leveraged

A client calls and explains how he’s been relieved of thousands of pounds of computer equipment and the office is in some disarray. He goes on to explain that the goods he was working on for his client have also taken a walk, and he needs to make a claim for replacing all said items. It’s not usual for IT companies to have clients’ equipment with them. So we discussed the items that had gone missing and forwarded the list of assets to be replaced to the insurance company. Insurance companies are always keen to keep the size of any settlement they make down and ask for receipts, so we had those ready.

Photographs of items suffice, where receipts had been mislaid or are with the accountant. It’s amazing how shots of general office shenanigans can prove useful when trying to prove that you did actually own a fantastically powerful computer. Digital inventories are really useful… if you have saved the digital record off site.

He did it

“I actually I know the b@$tard who did it” exclaimed my client, when I asked how they gained entry. He was adamant he knew the identity of the perpetrator. He was certain the CCTV would identify them. This is when CCTV becomes useful, it identifies people who do not wear baseball caps or other people who do not wear “identity avoidance devices”. But it is only a deterrent. CCTV has never prevented anyone from entering a premises. It has served to make criminals more “scientific” when trying to hide their identity. The only way to keep them out is to use physical devices.

Fortunately the client and I had discussed what was required a long time ago, so we already knew that the insurance company would be satisfied that the security was adequate. There is nothing that will stop a determined thief, so the insurers pay out on these occasions. It is the opportunist thief that causes problems for most people in serviced offices because they assume that a) the serviced office covers their equipment (because they should?) b) have great security people who man the desks 24/7 (they never go to the toilet?) or c) are responsible for anything stolen from the premises (they are not!).

They’re back

Older readers will remember that there was a sequel to Gremlins back in the 1990s. The Gremlins that were back in this case were actually the thieves. Yes, they came back and stole all of the new equipment just after it had been replaced. This is not unusual at all, it happens so often that it is laughable. Do the IT companies tip them off when they receive a new order? Do staff in insurance claims departments let thieves know where the new items are being delivered? Do delivery companies have miscreants within their companies that tip off undesirables? You and I will never know the truth. But somehow, people know when new equipment is delivered. I don’t think it is right to be naive and assume that this only happens because an opportunist thief happens to be walking past a office that new equipment is being delivered to. There are a number of ways around it, yet too many to mention here.

This sort of thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth. This is particularly poisonous when the police fail to remove the evidence from a CCTV system before it is deleted. No amount of encouragement will ensure that the police arrive at a non-emergency. They simply do not care anymore, they have been trained to meet targets rather than reduce crime. When they visit the site of a burglary or theft, and realise there is little evidence, they somehow to lose the will to do what they are paid for. It is regrettable that public services have gone this way, yet we must accept that it is a fact and protect our own environment. In this case, I will recommend that the client moves. If they do not, their insurer is likely to offer severely onerous terms and conditions which will not increase their annual insurance investment but will make entering and exiting their office a trial. Something that the cap wearing thief does not have to face too often.

Wrap Up: The police are there to help, yet they are not very good at following up on identifying criminals. The client is really annoyed that the “obvious” offender has got away with it – twice! However, even a private prosecution would fail without any evidence.

Top Tip

If it is your equipment, it is your responsibility. Never expect anyone else to pay for it. You make think your items are covered when in the possession of a third party that is repairing it. What happens if their insurance is inadequate?