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How to Identify Shoplifters

Shoplifting Methods

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Shoplifters can be placed in one of two categories, professional and amateur. While both groups can be quite skilled at the art of thievery, professional shoplifters steal to make a living and may use force or intimidation. The non-professional shoplifter may be easier to spot.

Shoplifter Methods

Many of these thieves work in groups of two or more to distract the sales staff while they pilfer. Shoplifters learn to take advantage of busy stores during peak hours or they may hit at times when employees are less alert, such as opening, closing and shift changes.

Hiding merchandise is the most common method of shoplifting. Items are concealed in the clothing of the shoplifter, in handbags, strollers, umbrellas or inside purchased merchandise. Bold shoplifters may grab an item and run out of the store. Other methods include price label switching, short changing the cashier, phony returns, and so on.

Spot the Shoplifter

Unfortunately, there is no typical profile of a shoplifter. Thieves come in all ages, races and from various backgrounds. However, there are some signs that should signal a red flag for retailers. While the following characteristics don't necessarily mean guilt, retailers should keep a close eye on shoppers who exhibit the following:

  • Spends more time watching the cashier or sales clerk than actually shopping.
  • Wears bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather or coats when unnecessary.
  • Walks with short or unnatural steps, which may indicate that they are concealing lifted items.
  • Takes several items into dressing room and only leaves with one item.
  • Seems nervous and possibly picks up random items with no interest.
  • Frequently enters store and never makes a purchase.
  • Enters dressing room or rest rooms with merchandise and exits with none.
  • Large group entering the store at one time, especially juveniles. A member of the group causes a disturbance to distract sales staff.
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