SHOPPING IN PERSON
1. Make sure you can carry the load.
Consider all that you’re buying and how you’ll get it to your vehicle. If you buy more than you can carry, you become potentially more vulnerable by becoming fatigued, plus you make yourself more visible to potential thieves. Plan ahead and arrange for a friend or store employee to help you take packages to your car.
2. Be on the lookout for identity theft while you’re online.
If you shop online, practice solid internet security and choose companies you know and trust. Check the background of any company you’re not familiar with. And remember – if any deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While scam artists still run schemes in person or over the phone, they also work online to get you to click on a fake link or send your financial information to a bogus email address.
3. Keep your financial information away from wandering eyes.
Protect your credit card information, especially as you stand in line to pay. It’s an easy way to prevent identity theft and credit card fraud. Crowded stores can be an easy place for someone to steal your information, just by looking over your shoulder.
4. Leave a paper trail — for your own reference.
Save all your receipts. Along with needing them for returns, it’s also a good idea to confirm your purchases against your credit card or bank statement. Once identity thieves have your credit card info, they will make small purchases, or “pings” to see if the card is still active. You can help prevent further theft by consistently reviewing your statements for unusual or frequent purchases.
5. Have a plan to keep your children safe.If you shop with children, rehearse what you will do in case you get separated. Make sure everyone understands where the central meeting place is and to ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
SHOPPING ONLINE SAFETY TIPS
1. Shop with reputable retailers
It’s best to shop directly with online retailers you know and trust. Bookmark your favorite shopping sites to get there quickly and safely. Avoid typing the name of the retailer into your browser bar.
That’s because a tiny typo could land you on a fake site that looks just like the real one. Make a “purchase” on an illegitimate site and you may unwittingly hand the scammers your credit card number and other personal info.
2. Vet new-to-you businesses
Did you spot an amazing product from a new seller? Do your homework on any business you’ve never purchased from in the past. Look for online reviews and search the Better Business Bureau website for complaints. Check the “contact us” page on the website for a U.S. address and phone number. Then take it a step further: call the business to verify.
Why? The FBI reported that some scammers hijack the contact info of real U.S. businesses to make their shady site look legitimate.
3. Beware amazing deals
Did you spot an ad on Facebook or Instagram offering rock-bottom prices or an eye-popping offer of free stuff? Reports of lost money from social media scams have more than tripled in the past year, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Remember, if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. The FBI found that many sites at the center of its recent spate of complaints were advertised on social media platforms.
Compare prices before you buy. Unusually low prices could be a red flag that you’ve landed on a fake site that’s been set up to snag your personal information or steal your money.
4. Don't browse on public Wi-Fi
Avoid shopping from public Wi-Fi next time you’re sipping a latte at your favorite coffee shop. The guy staring at his phone at the next table could be a hacker spying on your online activity.
And shopping online often requires giving out information that an ID thief would love to grab, including your name, address and credit card number.
5. Use a VPN
If you ever do use public Wi-Fi, protect yourself with a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the server.
Cybercriminals lurking nearby won’t be able to see what you’re doing or intercept your personal information. A VPN is the only way to shop online safely from public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes and other public spaces.
6. Pick strong passwords
A strong password is like a secure lock that keeps cyberthieves out of the accounts where you store your private information. Here are some quick guidelines on how to choose a good password:
- Use a complex set of lower and uppercase numbers, letters, and symbols. Or consider a long passphrase that you can remember and others are unlikely to guess.
- Avoid dictionary words and personal information a thief could easily find or guess, like your kid’s birthdate, your dog’s name or your favorite sports team.
Look for a lock icon in the browser bar of a site to verify that they use SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption. The URL also should start with “https” rather than just “http.”
7. Check site security before you buy
Secure websites are configured to mask the data you share, such as passwords or financial info. Shopping only on secure sites reduces the risk that your private information will be compromised while you shop.
You might get emails or texts offering amazing bargains or claiming there’s been a problem with a package delivery. Delete suspicious messages from unfamiliar senders. And don’t open attachments or click links in messages because they could infect your computer or phone with viruses and other malware.
8. Don’t fall for email scams
Here’s a general rule: No shopping website should ever ask for your Social Security number. If a site does request this type of very personal information, run in the other direction.
9. Guard your personal information
Provide reputable sellers the minimum personal info necessary in order to complete a purchase.
Always use a credit card to shop as securely as possible. First, a credit card doesn’t give a seller direct access to the money in your bank account. Second, most credit cards offer $0 liability for fraud.
10. Pay with credit, not debit
That means you’re not out any money if a crook uses your account info to make a purchase. Your credit card company will ask questions, investigate the fraudulent activity and send you a new card.
11. Add extra security with a virtual credit cardA virtual credit card can offer even more online shopping security. Some credit card issuers will give you a temporary card number that’s linked to your credit card account.
You can use the temporary number to shop online without showing the seller your real credit card details. If a thief gets ahold of the virtual credit card number and later tries to use it, they’ll be out of luck.
12. Keep an eye out for fraudCheck your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week. Or set up account alerts to notify you of any new activity on your card. When you receive a text or email notification, you can check your account to make sure you recognize the charge.
13. Mind the detailsAfter you make the purchase, keep the details in a safe place. Hang onto the receipt, your order confirmation number and the tracking number the seller provides. If you have a problem with the order, this information will help you get the issue resolved quickly.
14. Track your stuffAfter you make an online purchase, keep tabs on it to make sure it’s headed your way. If the merchant refuses to provide shipping info or respond to your requests for the status of your order, contact your credit card issuer for help. They may remove the charge from your bill and look into the matter.
Did you get scammed? If so, file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Tip: If you suspect you may be a victim of ID theft, the FTC offers an identity theft recovery plan.
15. Report scammers
But following these online shopping safety tips may help you foil scammers and avoid becoming a target in the first place.
PACKAGE SAFETY TIPS
The holiday season brings an increase in package shipments and packages left at residences can become a tempting target for criminals. The Athens Police Department urges residents to report any suspicious vehicles or activity in their neighborhoods and offers the following security tips for holiday package theft prevention:
If using the USPS as your shipping provider:
- Don't leave delivered mail and packages unattended.
- If you're going out of town, put your mail on "hold" at your local Post Office.
- Ship using "Hold for Pickup". Customers can redirect incoming packages shipped via the USPS to their local Post Office.
- Customize the delivery. Customers can provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location.
- Secure the shipment using USPS Special Services, such as Signature Confirmation or Registered Mail.
If using a private courier service (UPS, FedEx, DHL, Amazon, etc…)
- Tracking - Package tracking tells you when your package is delivered.
- Install Security Cameras - Security cameras help keep track of activity at your front door.
- Porch Lock Boxes - Porch lock boxes that delivery drivers can access will protect packages.
- Delivery Manager – Many companies offer free delivery manager services that you can use to track packages, redirect packages to convenient locations for pickup, request vacation holds and more.
- Have packages delivered to your workplace/office – Consider having your package delivered to your office or friends’ houses that you trust and will be home to get your package.
- Require signatures for delivery - To prevent your package being stolen off the front porch, side door, back porch, or garage area, ask for signature delivery.
- Insure your upcoming packages - Insuring your precious holiday parcel will guarantee you reimbursement if unfortunately, your delivery was stolen or lost before you lay your hand on it.
BUSINESS OWNER'S PROTECTION
Keep shoplifters at bay with these 10 tips
Shoplifting is an industry-wide problem, and no store earns a 100% no-theft rate. While you can’t prevent 100% of shoplifting incidents, use these tips to make it more difficult for would-be thieves to successfully steal from your store.
As technology advances, you can leverage software to help prevent shoplifters. Given the cost of inventory, it’s worth investing in systems that can help combat shrinkage and loss due to theft.
10 effective ways to prevent shoplifting in your retail store:
- Keep your store organized and tidy
- Know common shoplifting tactics
- Optimize your store’s layout
- Install security cameras
- Add mirrors to your store
- Use customer service as prevention
- Use signage to deter thieves
- Train your employees
- Use retail inventory management tools
- Identify at-risk items
1. Keep your store organized and tidy
An unorganized store is an ideal playground for shoplifters. When items are left in the wrong sections and inventory is not organized well, it’s difficult to identify when products have gone missing.
Making sure products are constantly pulled forward on shelves, for example, makes it easier for staff to notice missing quantities of items, and makes it more difficult for thieves to inconspicuously swipe items from fully-stocked shelves. However, avoid overstocking display shelves or units with too many products, so you can clearly view how much stock is out at any one time.
Embed regular tidying and stock organization tasks into your everyday practices, and even more so during busy retail periods such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday.
Shoplifters are constantly coming up with new ways to thieve without getting caught. Knowing the most common ploys and behaviors shoplifters employ will help you be on guard in your own store:
- Working in pairs: One of the oldest tricks in the book, one person distracts sales floor staff while the other pockets goods.
- Hiding products: Shoplifters often hide items in their own clothing, in other items they’ve actually purchased, handbags, strollers, reusable shopping bags, and their shoes.
- Price switching: Shoplifting doesn’t always mean missing items that aren’t paid for. Thieves will also often swap pricing tags or labels from one product to another so they’re charged less for a more expensive item.
- Grab and run: Some shoplifters wait for an opportune moment — perhaps during a busy period, or when all sales staff appear to be busy — to dash into your store and run off quickly with items. This is more common in stores that don’t have security guards or don’t have anti-theft alarms placed at the entrance.
3. Optimize your store’s layout
Each store has its own ideas about how to display products and design their floor layout, but there are several ways to optimize store layouts to help prevent store theft.
The most common layouts often place customer checkouts near the entrance/exit, so that all customers will pass it as they leave. This gives staff a good chance of spotting shoplifters before they leave the store, and also serves as a deterrent if thieves know they have one last hurdle to pass before exiting. For example, below, Smartsheet visualizes the common ‘grid’ store layout, which places the checkout at the exit/entrance of stores.
The grid layout is one of the more popular store layouts as it helps customers move easily around the store, but also ensures any shoplifters have to pass the checkout area before leaving. Source: Smartsheet Software.
It’s also important to eliminate any blind spots in the store. This means keeping product displays below eye level, keeping high-ticket items behind lock and key, and making sure your store has good lighting.
4. Install security cameras
Security camera systems have a threefold purpose: they act as a deterrent to shoplifters; they allow staff to monitor the whole store and people who might be acting suspiciously; and if shoplifters do steal, there will be evidence identifying them to help with prosecution.
Installing surveillance cameras can also reduce your insurance premiums in some cases.
5. Add mirrors to your store
Mirrors are great tools to reduce blind spots and increase visibility of both products and people in both large and small stores. You can purchase anti-theft mirrors of all sizes, shapes, and angles of visibility to use in your store. They’re also a low-cost method of shoplifter prevention for retailers on a budget.
Many retailers use mirrors to improve staff visibility of the store floor. Source: Insight security.
6. Use customer service as prevention
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent shoplifting is by leveraging your customer service practices. Here are some ideas to help use retail management and service techniques in the battle against shoplifters:
- Greet all customers: These days, it’s common practice to position a member of staff at the entrance of the store to welcome all customers. Not only does this set the scene for a good customer experience, but it also lets shoplifters know that they’ve been acknowledged.
- Maintain adequate staffing levels: As we mentioned previously, one common shoplifting tactic is to work in pairs and distract sales floor staff. If you have enough people on the sales floor, thieves will be less likely to steal.
- Ask each customer if they need assistance: Again, not only is this good customer service, but by asking if a customer needs help and letting them know where you’ll be if they do, you’re also showing potential shoplifters that your staff are attentive and not passive.
7. Use signage to deter thieves
Retail stores commonly use signage to make thieves extra aware that the store has taken anti-theft measures. These signs usually inform people of installed cameras, whether the store is part of a local anti-theft group, and that shoplifters can expect to be prosecuted. Again, signs are a low-cost way to let thieves know you are alert and they will face consequences for shoplifting.
8. Train your employees
All staff should know how to spot scams such as price switching and false returns, and they should also know about standard anti-theft protocols, such as the size of bags allowed in your store.
However, your staff should not only be aware of the tricks that shoplifters use to get away with stealing but also how to deal with shoplifters once they’re in the store.
This should include knowing how to alert other members of staff and management of potential shoplifters via a “code” or announcement, knowing when they should and shouldn’t approach suspected shoplifters, and when to alert police and security guards.
Implement a shoplifting policy that details how staff are expected (and not expected) to act when it comes to dealing with shoplifters.
9. Use retail inventory management tools
For example, a retail software system might show that a large number of a certain item has gone missing in the last month, and this item might be both easily swiped, and currently placed in a low visibility area. This kind of information gives retailers insights into how to beef up their retail theft prevention techniques.
10. Identify at-risk items
Your average shoplifter won’t target items such as expensive jewelry or large electronics, instead targeting small, easily swipeable products that are easy to conceal.
Use inventory management tools to identify your most expensive inventory, and work out a plan to protect these items. This can involve placing items in lockable cabinets, placing items close to the counter, or placing them in a highly trafficked area of the store that’s always manned by a staff member.