Theft from vans can have a devastating impact on the victims. Lost tools can be hard to replace and cause small businesses to rack up big losses. And if you’re moving house and your possessions are stolen from your hire van, the personal impact can be even greater.
The obvious advice is to make sure you don’t leave anything in your van when it’s unattended. But as we all know, that’s simply not possible sometimes. So here are some tips that should help you minimise the risk of theft from your van, whether it’s a rented van or your own vehicle.
Out of sight, out of mind
Never leave anything on display. That means keeping the cab area and dashboard clear. If your van has a full bulkhead and doesn’t have any rear windows, then that’s all that’s necessary. But if you do have rear windows consider covering the rear windows or the contents of your van with a blanket, so that would-be thieves can’t see in.
Remember, even if glass is dark-tinted, you can still see through it if you shine a torch directly on the glass.
When you’re unloading your van — perhaps if you’re moving house — remember to remove your valuables, sat nav and phone from the front. Close and lock the van every time you come and go. Don’t be tempted to leave it open and unlocked unless it’s always in your sight.
Is it really locked?
This may sound obvious, but the widespread use of remote fobs and keyless entry systems means that many drivers just walk off without checking whether their van has actually locked.
I recently wrote about the growing problem of relay attack theft on vans with keyless systems.
But another problem for drivers with normal remote key fobs is that thieves can lurk nearby with signal blockers that will stop your van from locking.
Whatever type of locking system you have, make sure the van is actually locked when you leave it — watch for the indicators to flash and/or listen for the noise of the locks engaging.
Parking carefully won’t always deter professional thieves. But there are a few things you can do to help. Park under street lights where possible, preferably within sight of your home.
If you’re parking in a car park or on a driveway, park against a wall or back right up to the garage door if possible, to reduce access to the van’s rear and side doors.
If you’re in a hotel car park, try and make sure your van is in clear sight of any CCTV and is in a well-lit area.
If you’re moving house, check if your home insurance covers you while your possessions are in transit. If they aren’t covered, consider extending your cover to include this protection.
Protect your keys
It’s amazing how many people keep their keys and wallet by their front door. Yes, it’s convenient when you’re rushing out. But it’s also convenient for thieves.
Modern vehicle electronics makes it harder to hot-wire cars than it used to be. But if you have the keys, it’s very easy. Many thieves now target houses in order to steal their car or van keys.
Vans with keyless systems are also more vulnerable to being stolen by relay attacks when the keys are closer to the van, because the signal from them will be stronger.
Keep keys safe and make sure they’re not visible through windows or when you open your front door.
What should I do if my van is broken into?
The first thing to do is probably to notify the police and your hire company.
If the van has been damaged, the hire company will probably need a police incident number. They may also need to arrange for the van to be recovered to be repaired and for you to get a replacement van.
You’ll also need to contact your home or trade insurance company to see if you can claim for what’s been stolen. This won’t be covered by your hire company’s insurance. Don’t expect them to help with this.
What else can I do to prevent theft from vans?
If you own the van yourself, there are some other precautions you can take. But if you’re using a hire van I don’t think there’s much else you can do.
Tradesmen carrying tools are probably at the highest risk of theft. Such tools are expensive to replace, easy to carry and easy to sell quickly for cash. Household possessions aren’t so desirable.
So if you’re a tradesman using a rented van, remove as much as possible overnight and try not to make it too obvious what the van is being used for. Keep it clean, don’t leave work-related stuff all over the dashboard and make sure it’s locked every time you leave it unattended.