security and loss prevention at Xmas

Take your security walk: security and loss prevention at Christmas

The article is a guide to completing a quick preparedness audit that not only deals with what you are expecting - increased customer counts and the cash they generate - but also with the unexpected.

This security 'walk' begins outside the store and then through the building looking at areas such as POS area, product security, staff-only areas, access control, cash control, staff safety and emergency planning.


  • Graffiti and untidy public areas and car parks will impact on your customers' decision to shop with you. Get any problems with these areas tidied up.
  • Check your inwards goods controls and facilities. You'll have larger stock volumes than normal and don’t want it sitting around in the car park.
  • Crime, such as vehicles being broken into, needs to be reported to your local police. Together with the police put steps in place to deter or detect such offending.
  • You may be working later than usual. Where are your staff parking, what is the outside lighting like?
  • What’s your rubbish area like - tempting to rummagers or arsonists?

Building security

  • Check that your doors, windows, grilles, locks and alarms are in good working order. It's better to deal with any small issues before they become major.
  • Key security. Who has what keys and what are the key identification numbers in case they need to be replaced?
  • With extra stock on hand, check your stockroom security. Will your systems and accuracy be maintained with the extra volumes?
  • If the unexpected happens e.g. doors won't close, broken window etc, your best preparedness will be to know who to call for help. Prepare a callout list just in case.

Robbery risk and cash control

  • With extra cash on site comes the extra risk of robbery - reduce the amount of cash held at your POS.
  • Always use a safe to secure cash.
  • Revisit your company's Armed Robbery Safety Procedures. If you don't have any, take advice from your local police or visit to access the police crime prevention advice for businesses.
  • Consider having a security company uplift your banking. Never take business cash home.
  • Carefully vet temporary staff and reinforce company rules.
  • Revisit your opening and closing procedures. Be aware of what is happening in your environment. If you think something or someone is suspicious, act on those suspicions - take a second look.
  • If you do fall victim to a robbery, don’t be a hero. Safety first. Remember robbers typically want just three things: control, money, escape.


  • Expect thieves to be 'out and about'. Increased customers in-store can give thieves extra cover but also increases the number of eyes on them.
  • Some good advice to deter thieves is:
    - Be aware of customers and their behaviour
    - Show customers you are alert to what is happening in your store
    - Always acknowledge customers and practice excellent customer service
    - Don't stereotype; anyone can steal.
  • Ensure all staff understand what is expected of them in the event of theft. Conduct role plays with staff on dealing with suspicious customers.
  • If an incident does happen and the thief is uncooperative or aggressive, don't give chase. The risk is too great. Observe from a safe distance to provide the police with information.

Credit cards

  • People using counterfeit or stolen credit cards will be more active over the busy period. Some indicators of these fraudsters could be:
    - The person not caring about price or warrantees
    - Foreign cards
    - Asking you to swipe a chip card rather than insert it into the card reader
    - Trying multiple cards if one is declined
    - Using a card from a pocket rather than a wallet
    - Wearing disguises like hats, sunglasses
  • Ask for photo ID.
  • Look closely at the card. Remember that if you phone for authorisation this does not guarantee payment. It will verify whether a card is genuine but not whether the owner is using it.
  • If you accept card not present transactions, be extra vigilant with your checking. If in doubt, decline. The risk is yours. Talk to your bank about minimising the risk. Warning signs include:
    - Large one-off purchases
    - Multiple same items purchased
    - Requested delivery address differs from cardholder's address
    - Rush or urgent delivery requested
    - Late request to change delivery address or notify delivery time
    - Overseas delivery
    - Country of delivery address differs to country of card issue
  • Counterfeit notes
    - There are always those who will attempt to pass fraudulent notes. For information on what to look for in a genuine bank note visit

Returns and refunds

  • Revisit your policies. Ensure all staff (including temporary staff) understand your policy and the law.
  • Inspect all returns. You wouldn't be the first retailer to refund an apparent unopened box only to find it contains phone books or counterfeit or substandard products.
  • Be alert to 'customers' coming into the store with no product who then steal a product to match the receipt they have. Good customer acknowledgement can deter this type of fraud.

Staff safety
With late nights and the increase of dishonest or aggressive people visiting stores around this time, it is always good to remind staff to keep safe. Some advice is:

  • If they notice 'suspicious' people alert the management team.
  • When approaching these people, keep an extra distance. A good rule of thumb is two arms' length, use barriers and position yourself so they can leave the store without pushing past you.
  • When leaving after dark have a torch, a mobile phone and a plan. If possible use a buddy system.

Take your 'security walk' now. Be prepared and enjoy a successful holiday trading period.