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How do we catch people like this?

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  • How do we catch people like this?

    I was recently hired in an AP position for a major retailer. Still wet behind the ears, but I'm trying to approach this position with confidence and take it as seriously as I can (or as corporate policy allows, at least).

    Getting the hang of noticing the tell-tale signs of someone who may attempt to shoplift, well that will be an undertaking in itself, but now I have another concern:

    When I told my brother about the job, we got to talking about retail theft in general, and he out of the blue said, "I could come into your store and steal without you or anyone else knowing."

    Of course, I had to ask... How?

    And what he told me was something that I had definitely heard before, as I'm sure you all have heard of as well -- the barcode fraud scam. The first I ever heard of it was when the high-ranking executive of a Silicon Valley firm was caught doing this with legos. And for those who don't know, the scam involves printing barcodes for low-priced items, sticking them on similar but high-priced items, and getting a discount.

    And in our conversation, I found out for the first time that my brother has first hand experience with getting away with this crap.

    I told him simply that I reckon these barcode fraudsters will have similar behaviors of a shoplifter (shifty, looking at cameras, trying to find blind spots, etc) and I would spot one putting on a barcode label. Many times these fraudsters try to return the same merchandise to get full price refund or store credit, and many get caught this way.

    He said he was never caught. I think I can understand why. It seems quite easy to stick on a UPC label without really being noticed. That's the problem, here. The five steps (or six, really) have that step of concealing merchandise. And passing all points of sale... But a barcode fraudster, he would enter the area of the merchandise, select the item, take it to a Point of Sale, pay for it, and leave. Like a regular customer. Even worse, is my store has a self-checkout area. The transactions are monitored, but the items themselves are not handled by a cashier.

    That being the case, how could I make an apprehension if my only proof is that I witness a transaction taking place that prices the item lower than it should be?

    Any advice would be appreciated... how to spot these guys, how to catch them red-handed, etc. Or maybe I'm just worrying too much, and it's not all that common? Should I just focus my attention on traditional shoplifting and internal theft?

  • #2
    Your post comes off as suspect. What retailer do you work for? Many have "ticket switch" apprehension policies. Study up and learn all you can.


    • #3
      Sorry, I wasn't sure whether we were allowed to state the store we work in, so I apologize if that comes across as somehow suspect (?).

      To clarify, I work for Walmart. I know, I've heard it's not the best place to work in AP, but I am also not that experienced, as I guess you were trying to point out was obvious.... Ticket switching, as was defined, only talked about the ones who literally did just that -- SWITCH them. Physically removing a sticker or barcode from a product and placing it on another. Those, by the very nature of the actions, are easier to spot than those who come to the store with their own stickers, wouldn't you agree?

      The APC told me I HAVE to see them do it to make an apprehension, whether its a "switched" barcode or their own from home. She even told me of an apprehension she made of a guy who used a razor blade to cut the barcode off a cardboard box to tape it on another box. Easy to spot. I guess that method is more common, since it's actually a covered topic, versus the printed barcodes that I've only read about in the news. Any real insight you have would be greatly appreciated, though.


      • #4
        +1 to what Cap said, sounds suspect..

        Why not ask your LPM or the senior APs you work with? This isn't that new of a scam
        Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: "Hey, let's be careful out there.."



        • #5
          In my world, I would deny the sale and gather intelligence on the subject to pass onto the other stores.

          Ticket switches are an old but common scam. Associate knowledge is key to prevention.


          • #6
            Remember when they started putting price tags on merchandise? No? Well that's when switching price tags started.
            Retail Security Consultant / Expert Witness
            Co-Author - Effective Security Management 6th Edition

            Contributor to Retail Crime, Security and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference


            • #7
              s. With shopkeeper's privilege, you only need probable cause to detain someone suspected of theft. Seeing someone switch the barcodes is definitely probable cause enough. That's what the LPs are for, to observe if people are doing this. Watch carefully and check if you see anything remotely close to this. You will learn to catch these guys with experience in the field.
              Last edited by GuardSecSSCS; 07-30-2013, 02:26 PM.