Visualization Tool Spots and Deters Retail Crime

Organized retail crime continues to grow despite increased awareness and measures. According to the National Retail Federation's Organized Retail Crime survey issued in mid-June, it affects almost every single retailer, with 95% reporting they have been a victim in the past 12 months — a six percent increase from 2010 — and senior leadership is paying attention. According to the survey, many companies are allocating more personnel and a greater investment in technology to combat the problem. But what are viable solutions?
New legislative efforts and technology are steps in the right direction. Many states already have passed bills to impose stiffer penalties for criminals, while others are working tirelessly to lobby in states where budgets are feeling the pain of lost sales taxes. Retailers are doing their part too to identify and combat these crime rings. Many are looking to technology solutions such as a new offering by The Retail Equation.
The company is helping retailers sift through data and identify organized crime by using encrypted credit card information, customer loyalty cards and/or a consumer ID number to create a purchase and return history on each consumer and link that individual to other customers using the same information. The result is an automated tool that identifies and connects individuals while creating two visual depictions of organized retail crime operations — one advanced set of graphics for retailers and another that offers a clear, simple depiction for those that may not be familiar with the loss prevention industry.
These visuals help retailers in three ways:
1) as source of evidence, proving that organized retail crime is occurring in that chain,
2) as a means to measure the size of the impact, and
3) ultimately to help determine patterns and predict future instances of premeditated theft.
A prominent retailer in New York City recently used the technology to identify numerous individuals and automatically link them to one another with a statistical analytics model. Then, using the visual tool, the retailer was able to graphically plot the individuals to depict their connections to one another. When viewed separately, these individual associations may have appeared insignificant, but as a whole they painted a broader picture of ongoing fraudulent behavior.
Through these findings, the retailer not only discovered it had fallen victim to return fraud, but ultimately identified and incarcerated members of a booming organized crime ring operating actively and successfully in New York. Use of these graphics instantly puts a retailer ahead of the game in combating retail crime, equipping them to deliver hard facts about specific people in fraud rings to the state officials, district attorneys and police officers with the power and authority to stop these crimes.
Tom Rittman is vice president of marketing for The Retail Equation.
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