How to Spot a Shoplifter

Shoplifting is not a new concern for retailers across the country. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention notes that shoplifting is one of the most frequently occurring crimes, averaging about 550,000 occurrences per day. Shoplifters are often hard to catch, and many of them repeat the crime time and again. Because it is so common, the far-reaching repercussions of shoplifting in our communities often go unnoticed.

Why We Should Care About Shoplifting

Shoplifting means more than taking unpaid-for merchandise from a store. It can also include having the intent to steal merchandise. What does that mean? Intent to steal can consist of things such as swapping price tags or removing security sensors or product packaging. Research has shown that 1 in 11 Americans have admitted to shoplifting. The numbers are even higher for young people under the age of 16. 

With other, more dangerous crimes occurring every day, you may wonder why we should care about retail fraud. The truth is that shoplifting not only costs retailers money, but it drains communities of resources as well. According to the NASP, shoplifting crimes cost retailers about $50 billion every year. Stolen merchandise results in loss of tax revenue for communities. Those convicted of the offense continue to cost taxpayers money as they enter the justice system. Additional studies have found that retail theft is often a precursor to more serious crimes that could put community members in danger.

6 Warning Signs of a Shoplifter

Shoplifting is a crime that occurs throughout the year and shows a significant increase during the busy holiday shopping season. For retail store owners and managers, it may be impossible to stop theft altogether. However, there are many security precautions that retailers can take to protect their businesses. Perhaps one of the most important ways to prevent shoplifting is to know the warning signs. While there is no standard profile of a shoplifter, there are some telltale behaviors that can give them away.

We have gathered 6 of the most common signs of a potential shoplifter. Hopefully, you can use these clues to train your employees and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a crime. Be on the lookout for these indications of a potential shoplifter:

Oversized Bags: You might not consider it abnormal to carry around a large purse, backpack or reusable shopping bag. But as a savvy retail employee, this should be a red flag. Thieves want to steal as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Large bags can help a shoplifter conceal a lot of merchandise fast before they make their getaway.

Baggy Clothing: Another way that shoplifters conceal merchandise is under large or loose clothing. Oversized sweatshirts, coats and pants can easily hide stolen goods. Employees should also look out for people who are wearing more clothing than makes sense for the weather. Coats in the summertime should raise a red flag. 

Frequent Visits and Loitering: Is there a customer that has visited your store numerous times but has never purchased anything? Or maybe they appear to be waiting for something or someone that never shows up? Shoplifters often scope out the store and monitor the employees before attempting their crime. They may be loitering as they wait for the perfect opportunity to take your merchandise.

Distraction Techniques: To have a better chance of pulling off their crime, shoplifters may use several distraction techniques to divert your employees. Some common examples include requesting out-of-stock items that are located in the back storeroom or asking questions about a product to keep your employees in one part of the store. Shoplifters often work in groups; beware of large groups or groups that split up upon entering the store.

Nervous Mannerisms and Behavior: There are often physical signs that someone might be about to commit a crime. Train your staff to look for excessive sweating, fidgeting or the inability to make eye contact. The shoplifter may also show signs of being hyper-aware of their surroundings, like constantly looking around or scoping out the security cameras. 

Abnormal Dressing Room Conduct: It is common for shoplifters to use the dressing rooms as a base to perpetrate their crime. Retailers should recognize when a customer spends an excessive amount of time in the dressing room. They should also be aware of people who exit the dressing room with fewer items than they entered with. 

Prevent Shoplifting at Your Retail Establishment 

In addition to training your employees to recognize the warning signs of a shoplifter, retailers should take other security measures to protect themselves. Installing up-to-date cameras and arranging your store to improve visibility and security are two very effective ways to prevent retail fraud.

Retail Security Guards with Off Duty Officers 

Hiring professional retail security guards to patrol your store for suspicious behavior is another highly successful method of deterring shoplifters. When you want to protect your business and employees, you need a team of experienced retail security officers to do the job. To find out more about the retail security solutions at Off Duty Officers, contact our team to get a free quote and learn how we can help you prevent merchandise loss at your business. 

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