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Tips for Spotting Shoplifters

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Shoplifters may be divided into amateurs and professionals. The ways of detecting them often differ significantly.

For amateurs:

  1. Look for signs of nervousness

  2. Observe people who look around to see if they are being watched.

  3. Be aware of people who head for areas of the shop that appear to be hidden from view.

  4. Watch people carefully if they react strangely when approached with offers of assistance.

  5. Be suspicious of people who are surreptitiously watching everyone else instead of looking at the merchandise.

  6. Be aware of people who are wearing inappropriate clothing, for example coats on a warm day. They may be using the coat to hide goods.

  7. Be aware of people carrying umbrellas when there is no indication of rain and none has been forecast. Shoplifters often hide goods in the unopened umbrellas.

  8. Observe people who appear to react with alarm to noises or nearby voices.

  9. If a person is pushing a pram notice if there is a baby inside it. Also take note of the people putting their hands in the prams. Prams are often used to hide shopstolen items.

  10. Observe people who are wearing sunglasses, scarves, hats and other items that help conceal their identity, especially where it is unusual or unnecessary to do so.

  11. Notice what people are carrying, especially open handbags, open carrybags, etc.

  12. Watch people returning to the same spot again and again.

  13. Observe people leaning over counters, reaching into display stands, and going to areas of the shop that are off limits to customers.

    For Professionals:

  14. Notice people who do not seem to be interested in the merchandise. But go straight to an area and then quickly leave.

  15. Be careful of groups of people. Professional shopstealers often work in gangs, with some distracting shop assistants while others do the stealing.

  16. Notice people in a hurry to leave the shop.

  17. Observe people closer than normal to the merchandise. They may be leaning or standing closer so that they can hide the items being stolen.

It must be emphasised that people exhibiting these behaviours are not necessarily shoplifters, but they may well be. In addition the list should not be taken as covering every single indicator of a shoplifter.


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For many more tips, pointers and practical advice see our Fraudproofing Your

Business Manual