How to spot a shoplifter


Working in retail, staff need to be aware of the different tell-tale signs of a shoplifter. There is no standard physical description of a shoplifter as they can come in any shape or size and be any age. Many amateur shoplifters, however, give themselves away due to their behaviour in the store.

Make sure to keep an eye on body language, anyone spotted talking or mumbling to themselves could be doing so as a way of coping with any anxiety they may be having about stealing. Similarly anyone fidgeting, playing with their hair or tapping on the counter could also be doing so due to anxiety or stress because of the situation they’re in.

Another tell-tale sign of a shoplifter would be lurking around in corners or lingering round the store, they could be doing this to try and avoid the view of CCTV or in the hope that staff will not notice them and their activity as much. Hiding products and merchandise can also be a sign of a shoplifter. By moving the product from its assigned section in the store and hiding it behind something else this gives the illusion that the product has been sold or moved so staff may not be suspicious. Make sure staff are vigilant in watching what customers are doing on the shop floor so that they can correctly restock the hidden items, preventing the shoplifter from being able to return and take it.

A common shoplifting technique is the theft & distraction method, this is carried out by using multiple people. One of the group will target the staff member and ask questions or make conversation in order to distract them whilst another will stash the goods and then leave. Watch out for large groups entering the store and make sure that there are always enough staff members to hand in order to prevent this technique being successful.

Avoiding eye contact with staff or even other customers can sometimes give the game away that whatever they’re doing is dodgy. Get staff to engage in conversation with any suspicious looking customers, if not all customers, as this can scare the shoplifters away or deter them from targeting your store and products. Of course when requesting staff approach customers ensure this is done in caution to safeguard employees from any possible danger. On the other hand, anyone who seems more interested in the cashier than the products could also be seen as suspicious. By doing this they are trying to check that the cashier can’t see what they’re doing or making sure the cashier is occupied serving customers in order for them to get away with shoplifting.

People entering the store wearing largely oversized clothing or coats could be doing so to use this space for stashing merchandise, get staff to keep an eye on all customers entering the store and use floor staff to continue to do this. That way any potential shoplifters won’t be able to sneakily hide things in their jackets without being spotted.

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