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In the past year, 93.5 percent of retailers say they were the victim of organized retail crime, according to NRF’s ninth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey, down slightly from 96 percent in 2012.
For the past three years, more than 90 percent of the retailers surveyed have admitted to being victims of ORC, and eight in 10 (81.3 percent) believe that ORC activity in general in the U.S. has increased over the past three years.
“We are extremely concerned by the organized patterns that are taking place in the retail industry right now as these crime gangs continue to find ways to maneuver the system,” said NRF VP of Loss Prevention Rich Mellor. “Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, savvy, unconscionable criminals are selling stolen merchandise for a profit that doesn’t belong to them. With the types of organized retail crimes changing in severity each year, retailers remain vigilant in their fight against ORC.”
Additionally, 77.8 percent of retailers say they have experienced store credit merchandise/gift card fraud, in which thieves return stolen merchandise without a receipt for the sole purpose of receiving store credit via a gift card, and then sell that merchandise credit for cash to secondary markets that include kiosks, pawn shops and check cashing stores.
“This is an important crime to keep an eye on, as this could easily turn from being an organized tactic to one that amateurs could adopt,” Mellor said. “In conversations with retailers and law enforcement, we’ve learned that there are already defrauding processes being put in place, but retailers continue to lose millions of dollars to this enterprise scheme.”
One of the more distressing trends in organized crime activity is thieves’ likelihood to resort to violence to avoid being apprehended, putting store personnel, law enforcement and customers at risk. According to the survey, retailers say on average two in 10 (18.3 percent) apprehensions lead to some level of violence, up from 15.2 percent last year and 13 percent in 2011.
Individuals connected to “gateway crimes,” or crimes that are known to lead to bigger crimes, such as the use of or sale of drugs and weapons, are often found to be associated with organized crime gangs. According to the survey, retailers say on average 44.8 percent of those apprehended for ORC are involved in gateway crimes.
NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad.