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Essays; Longform Intelligence; Retail Theft on the Rise: Organized Crime Increasingly Violent

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That same year, the Federal Trade Commission reported that identity theft crimes cost businesses and individuals an estimated $53 billion (Federal Trade Commission).

In 2003, identity theft cost business and consumers close to $53 billion and identities stolen from around 10 million Americans (Dinev 77).

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The media often asks me if retail store security personnel use “profiling” tactics as a means of determining which customers are most likely to steal. The answer is undeniably, yes.

While retailers are benefitting from ecommerce business they must face on-going issues associated with utilizing ecommerce technology.

Most major retailers have published policies against discriminatory acts but few that I've seen specifically address racial profiling by it's security personnel. Not surprisingly, incidents are occurring, which feeds the question of how much racial profiling exists in retail stores? For example, in one major department store the security staff used radio codes (code 3) as an alert anytime a black shopper came into the area. In another store, 90% of the shoplifting apprehensions were of ethnic customers where the store demographic reports only showed a 15% minority customer base. And in still another store, sales associates were told by security officers to call them anytime an ethnic minority entered their sales area.

Data suggests that identity theft accounts for roughly $50 billion stolen each year from citizens and businesses in the U.S.

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Believe me, merchants don’t like monitoring their customers to prevent theft, but they know that it’s a matter of economic survival. Merchants know that closely watching customers is bad public relations if done crudely. However, the retail industry loses over 31.3-Billion dollars every year and shoplifting represents about one-third of it. Customer surveillance is limited to the public areas where there is no expectation of privacy as opposed to inside fitting rooms and restrooms that are considered private areas. Knowing that you are under surveillance is an uneasy feeling. No one likes being watched and being made to feel like you’re not trustworthy. However, if trained professionals do the surveillance properly, most people will never realize they were observed while shopping. A problem can arise when untrained or unqualified security, loss prevention or off-duty police undertake the task of store surveillance. The majority of the complaints of racial profiling that I have seen in retail stores have to do with the perception of being stalked throughout the store in an effort to intimidate them into leaving.

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There are other types of profiling based on store apprehension histories and industry experience that has taught LP professionals who to "include" and who to "exclude" when scanning the store for potential shoplifters. For example, one profile is that people rarely shoplift while in the presence of their spouse, significant other, or parents. After scanning these persons they might quickly be bypassed as theft candidates. Shoplifting is a crime of opportunity and desire. Trained loss prevention staff will spend most of their time observing those customers whose conduct demonstrates both opportunity and desire. For example, a customer standing alone in a remote aisle, carrying a large empty shopping bag, and looking from side-to-side would be immediately suspicious until their conduct proves otherwise.

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That same year, the Federal Trade Commission reported that identity theft crimes cost businesses and individuals an estimated $53 billion (Federal Trade Commission)....