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Six in ten tradespeople say that they have been approached by or seen someone they suspected were selling stolen second-hand tools, according to new research by Direct Line business insurance.
The study also revealed the strength of the second-hand tools market, with three in ten UK consumers purchasing equipment this way, and the general lack of public awareness and concern about tool theft.
According to the survey, 29% of tradespeople became aware of a suspicious seller through word of mouth, while just over a quarter encountered them on a website, social media or app selling second-hand goods. Almost one in five (18%) said the person selling the tools was a friend.
The overwhelming majority (91%) immediately refused to buy the tools offered to them by the suspicious seller. 24% notified a trade authority, while 23% informed the police. One in ten still bought the tools despite their suspicions, and over one quarter (26%) considered purchasing them but didn’t go through with it.
The top ten regions for tradespeople encountering suspicious sellers were:
Awareness of the problem
In the event their tools were lost, damaged or stolen, a quarter of tradespeople said they would buy second-hand tools online as replacements. The highest number of this group (39%) would do so because tool theft is so common that they would not risk buying brand new tools unless absolutely necessary.
The second-hand tool market, where equipment is available more cheaply and is generally much quicker to source, is helping to drive tool theft across the country. 30% of UK consumers say they have bought tools second-hand, with 16% doing so on multiple occasions, showing the strength of the market. Nearly half of these buyers 44% have acquired tools from a car boot sale, 34% have got them from a friend, and almost a third have bought them through an official website selling second-hand goods.
A major problem is that many consumers aren’t able to spot the signs of a suspicious seller. Only 30% believe they could identify stolen tools on the market. There is also a general lack of awareness and concern. More than three in ten (35%) were not worried about the prospect of buying stolen tools.
Jonny McHugh, SME Business Manager at Direct Line, says: “Our research demonstrates how the scale and frequency of tool theft is partly fuelled by the demand for cheap second-hand tools which are quick to source. Tool theft is hugely disruptive and often has a devastating impact on tradespeople’s ability to work and livelihoods.
“Tradespeople can help to protect themselves by ensuring they lock tools away securely and take precautions when parking their vehicles. It is also important that they invest in comprehensive insurance cover to help ensure that they are not hit hard in the pocket if their equipment is stolen.
“At Direct Line business insurance, our Tools Essentials offering helps to shield tradespeople from costly setbacks caused by the theft of essential equipment. The service helps tradespeople replace their essential tools within 24 hours so that they can get back to work quickly, minimising disruption.”