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The Zellman Group and the International Association of Chiefs of Police focus on ORC Recovery

This October, The Zellman Group, LLC is sponsoring the 123rd International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Annual Conference and Exposition in San Diego, California.

The IACP Annual Conference and Exposition is the largest gathering of police officers in the United States. Currently the IACP has over 20,000 members, made up exclusively of police officers who have held executive roles in police agencies. The IACP is dedicated to advancing the law enforcement profession through advocacy, outreach, education, and programs.

The Zellman Group has a long history of working closely with police, especially through their work in Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Recovery. At the conference, CEO Stuart Levine, and Director of ORC Recovery Bill Ramos, are discussing the growing problem that is ORC and the importance of police involvement in ORC/ORT. “The relationship with Federal and local Law Enforcement leadership is instrumental in bringing ORC/ORT cases forward for prosecution and eventual recovery.  Our sponsorship with the International Association of Chiefs of Police ensures this continued networking to support the retail industry,” Levine states.

In a study conducted by the National Retail Federation in 2015, 97% of surveyed retailers were victims of Organized Retail Crime. Out of every $1 billion in annual sales $453,940 was lost from ORC. Out of those retailers surveyed, 78.8% support the need for federal ORC legislation. In states with ORC legislation, approximately half of retailers surveyed note that ORC laws are having a positive impact from increased support from law enforcement.

 

Learn more about The International Association of Chiefs of Police at: http: www.iacp.org/

 

Part II. The Future of ORC Management

What it Takes to Be Made Whole

By Garett Sievold, Contributing Writer

Imagine you’re a retailer with a major theft problem of a product at one of your stores (probably not hard to do). You start to poke around and discover the product is not only disappearing from one store, but it’s going missing across an entire region. You analyze theft data from store locations and by times of day. You study incident reports and other relevant information. Before long, your investigation points to a troubling realization—an organized ring of thieves is hitting your stores and your dollar losses are mounting. What now?

Identifying the bad guys is perhaps the easiest part of the process for loss prevention departments and retailers—successful civil recovery is typically more elusive. In one recent study citing liability, administrative burden, and the potential for bad publicity, several retailers admitted they don’t bother with recovery. Even some involved in civil recovery said they perceive limitations. “It’s not worth it,” said one retailer flatly (Retail Loss Prevention in Perspective, Gill, PCRI, 2016).But you’ve got a million-dollar case on your hands and you want your money back. You’ve got to do something.

Less experienced loss prevention departments may not know where to start, others are just learning to deal with organized retail crime (ORC), and others handle cases in any number of unique ways. But since recovery tends not to be a core competency, all retailers face significant obstacles to success.

It’s common for even the most competent loss prevention departments to lack skill in navigating the intricacies of the judicial system, and to lack confidence in knowing to which agency they should direct their case. They may be unsure who to engage to undertake related work, and they often lack the time and manpower to follow up on judgments. And while a retailer’s legal department may be masterful at negotiating leases, it is often not as comfortable working criminal cases, and may lack an understanding of the range of powerful legal tools that can be used to pursue civil recovery.

Success factors

Whether you will be successful in recouping losses in your million-dollar ORC case depends on a complex series of interrelated activities. One of the first is to assess whether your investigation is sufficiently complete to pitch the case to an agency, according to William Ramos, director of ORC recovery, a new service from The Zellman Group, a leader in civil recovery and loss prevention investigations. “We look to see if they have any missing information, fill in the blanks, and work with clients to put a complete case together,” he said.

A critical aspect of information gathering in this initial stage is to obtain details on the assets of persons of interest—before arrests are made. As a vetted authorized user of Thomson Reuter’s CLEAR, an invaluable yet costly intelligence tool, Ramos says they’re able to identify co-conspirators and get a clear picture of what recovery might be possible. This benefits a retailer in future restitution negotiations because it demonstrates upfront that the retailer is fully aware of the money that is available to be recouped—and that it intends to go after it. “It puts the retailer in a better position when they take the case to law enforcement and beyond,” said Ramos.

Also paramount to successful recovery is a retailer’s ability to navigate the complex legal environment that surrounds ORC cases. The ORC recovery service assists with documentation for presentation to law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts, and helps guide retailers to select the most effective path forward, such as whether to pursue the case on a local, state, or federal level, or whether to pursue civil litigation. The program also frees loss prevention departments to get back to conducting investigations rather than having to track cases and enforce court orders.

One essential document for successful civil recovery is a victim impact statement, according to Stuart Levine, President and CEO of The Zellman Group. “It’s a tool to make sure the retailer’s interests are represented as the case moves forward, so that judges are aware that they need to make the retail victim whole again,” he said. “We identify at the outset that the real victim in the case is our client and that we want our money back.”

An overlooked piece of a recovery effort—but perhaps one of the most important of all—are relationships. Although law enforcement and judicial system connections aren’t typically an important part of ordinary civil recovery cases, they are vital in cases of organized retail theft, according to Levine. Just about every case will come up against a brick wall—or several of them—and having experienced people that can break them down is vital, adds Lauren Bridgeo, vice president of operations at The Zellman Group. ORC recovery has a big hitter on its team in the form of John Shanks, Zellman’s manager of law enforcement relations. With 30 years of experience in civilian and military law enforcement, Shanks has forged relationships with a variety of stakeholders that prove priceless in ORC recovery cases.

As the above discussion suggests, successful civil recovery requires overcoming obstacles and jumping through hoops. However, there are some encouraging signs for retailers. The 27th Annual Retail Theft Survey by Jack L. Hayes International, of large retailers showed that they recovered 7.5 percent more from shoplifters in 2014 than the year before. And that retailers now have for the first time a service to help them manage ORC cases—ORC recovery—suggests that the retail industry no longer needs to cede the proceeds from seizures to law enforcement agencies and provides retail victims a much-needed voice in the recovery process.

Part I. The Future of ORC Management

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

By Garett Sievold, Contributing Writer

Houston had a problem. For that matter, so did the rest of Texas and neighboring states. Boosters were hitting retailers hard, “waltzing in…and brazenly walking out with stolen products of all kinds, from medicine and baby formula to health and beauty supplies,” according to the FBI. The ring of thieves shipped stolen merchandise (using phony accounts) to a shell company’s warehouse in Houston. The goods were then stripped of stickers and anti-theft tags, shipped to wholesalers, and put back in circulation. Every year from 2008 to 2012, this one shoplifting operation swiped an estimated $10 million worth of products.

But in March 2012 the jig was up. Ringleader Sameh Khaled Danhach was placed under arrest. Executing a warrant on the Houston warehouse turned up more than $300,000 worth of merchandise, as well as a ledger revealing that in just over one year Danhach paid $1.8 million for stolen merchandise that he turned around and sold for $2.8 million. In 2014, it took a federal jury in Houston just one hour to find Danhach guilty, and he was sentenced to serve 12-plus years in prison. Danhach appealed, filing a motion to suppress the evidence found in the warehouse search, but a few months ago, on March 9, the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.The case is exactly the kind of crackdown on organized retail crime (ORC) that gives retailers hope and that law enforcement loves to tout. Indeed, the Danhach case was featured in the agency’s 2013 edition of The FBI Story, an annual compilation of successful major investigations and operations. “It all came to an end thanks to a multi-agency investigation by the FBI, the Houston Police Department, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of victim merchants,” the report trumpeted (“Organized Retail Theft—Major Middle Eastern Crime Ring Dismantled”).

But what, exactly, is the “end” of cases like these? They certainly have a feel-good conclusion—everyone enjoys seeing bad guys put behind bars—but Stuart Levine, president and CEO of The Zellman Group, questions whether retailers truly receive justice (or even adequate pay back) for their cooperation. “The retailer isn’t represented,” says Levine. “They just see that they never get their money back.”

Levine believes retailers need to be mindful of the unique interest that law enforcement has in such cases—to build as big a case as possible—which does not usually well serve individual retail victims of ORC. Additionally, the law typically allows for local and state law enforcement to liquidate assets from the crime rings they bust, which they are keen to do, so restitution for retailer victims is not (to put it nicely) high on their agenda. Finally, unless courts are pushed on the issue of restitution for retailers from the outset, they, too, typically neglect it.

Providing retailers an opportunity for their interests to be represented in ORC cases is exactly what The Zellman Group is after with its new ORC recovery program. Through the program, the first of its kind in the industry, retailers get help building strong cases and navigating the complex judicial environment to finally start getting back what they’re owed.

The need for a strategy to recoup losses from ORC is made clear by the latest industry data from the 2015 Organized Retail Crime Survey from the National Retail Federation. Nearly all retailers surveyed—a whopping 97 percent—reported being victims of ORC activity in the previous 12 months. More than 4 out of 5 retailers said ORC activity had increased in the previous year, with 48.5 percent reporting a “significant increase” in ORC activity. It’s a $30 billion-dollar problem annually, according to the data, and the attitude toward risk among the criminal element hasn’t significantly changed. “It’s still seen as an easy crime and that it’s treated lightly,” said William Ramos, director of The Zellman Group’s ORC recovery program. “A professional shoplifter may have 30 arrests before they see 6 months in jail.”

To be sure, progress has been made in the fight against ORC. Some 30 states now have ORC legislation on their books, up from 25 from a year ago. Surveys also indicate a greater awareness and understanding of ORC among law enforcement. But these developments only help retailers indirectly in their fight against ORC, according to Lauren Bridgeo, vice president of operations at The Zellman Group. ORC laws aim to hold professional shoplifters more accountable, they aren’t focused on making retailers whole again. And awareness among law enforcement—although it has made them a more valuable source of support for loss prevention departments—has chiefly resulted in police becoming savvy enough to seize assets for themselves. “The changes in laws are helpful for prosecutions but when it comes to recovering retailers’ losses they haven’t made much of a difference,” said Bridgeo. “To this point, it’s law enforcement that has reaped the benefit of proceeds from successful ORC cases.”

Given that the deck is stacked against retailers to recover money from ORC cases—and because the problem of ORC isn’t going away—it’s important for retailers to proactively define a strategy for managing it. To that end, retailers need to objectively assess whether they have the expertise, connections, bandwidth, and desire to manage cases—or whether partnering with professionals whose primary business is asset recovery is a better option for complex and time-consuming ORC cases. In Part II of our report, we’ll examine exactly what this alternative approach to ORC management looks like.

John Shanks joins The Zellman Group’s ORC Recovery Team

The Zellman Group is proud to announce John Shanks as the Manager of Law Enforcement Relations. John has an extensive law enforcement and military background. John’s more than 30 years of experience in civilian and military law enforcement and solid background in instructional system development provide a solid foundation for relationship building with Law Enforcement when engaged in ORC Recovery cases. He is a former Texas Police Officer holding a Texas Master Peace Officer License and several Instructor certifications. John is a veteran of the United States Air Force where he retired as a Law Enforcement Master Instructor from the Joint Law Enforcement and Security Training Center at Lackland AFB, Texas. Recently, John was the Senior Director of Development & Law Enforcement Relations at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and worked on law enforcement safety and violence reduction issues on Capitol Hill. John is the founder and Chairman of the USAF Police Alumni Association and Foundation a non-profit charity dedicated to preserving the history of Air Force Policing and honoring the sacrifice of USAF Cops killed in the line of duty.

The Zellman Group, LLC, based in Greenvale, NY, is the leader in Civil Recovery, a loss prevention services and consulting company working in the retail, food service and hospitality industries. Visit our new ORC page at ORCRECOVERY.com

The Zellman Group Announces the Industry’s First ORC Recovery Program

The Zellman Group, LLC, the leader in Civil Recovery and Loss Prevention Investigations announces their newest service ORC RECOVERY. Organized Retail Crime costs the retail industry more than $30 billion each year according to the National Retail Federation. ORC is a serious issue for large and small retailers nationwide.

The ORC RECOVERY department will be lead by William Ramos as the Director of ORC RECOVERY. Bill has more than 30 years of domestic and international retail investigation experience. He is a CFI. Bill, together with his team of investigators, the Law Offices of Michael Ira Asen, and The Zellman Group’s network of Law Enforcement contacts, has the criminal investigation, civil recovery and litigation expertise to deliver a cost-effective program and provide maximum ORC recovery.

Over a year in development, this expert team will assist clients in determining the scope of cases, assist in compilation of case information and documentation for presentation to law enforcement, prosecutor and civil courts. Their experts are able to interface with field investigators, Law Enforcement and Prosecutors pre-arraignment. Additionally, as a fully vetted authorized user of Thomson Reuter’s CLEAR, they are able to provide full due diligence on current assets and backgrounds of persons of interest. The team has the core relationships to negotiate with prosecutors, defense counsel and law enforcement for the distribution of proceeds with the goal of ensuring the highest recovery possible. Where reasonable, they will pursue civil litigation to seize assets, obtain and enforce judgments.

The Zellman Group and Chief Counsel Michael Ira Asen will be available to discuss this exciting new service at RILA in Dallas and NRF Protect in Philadelphia.

The Zellman Group, LLC, based in Greenvale, NY, is the leader in Civil Recovery, a loss prevention services and consulting company working in the retail, food service and hospitality industries.

Visit our new ORC page at ORCRECOVERY.com

Free Bagging in Food Service

POS analytics have become one of the most powerful tools available to retailers over the years. EBR tools have been perfecting their capabilities to be more effective in thwarting the efforts of the ever clever thief! Just as those dishonest employees exist in retail they exist in the food service industry as well. Learned areas of opportunity are imparted on others and the cycle of dishonesty can continue long after the problem employees are gone. In completing POS analytics for clients outside of the retail vertical, it became apparent that some of the same theft methodologies can occur in the Quick Serve and the Table Service industries.

For example, many people believe that “free bagging” or “pass-offs” are solely a retail issue. These actions take place when dishonest employees pretend to scan items and bag them to steal for personal gain or the gain of friends and family. This is not uncommon in the food industry. Below are few additional signs of what to watch for:

Cancels –A server will enter all items in and once they receive cash payment simply cancel the check. This will allow them to keep the money paid.
Line Voids or Error Corrects – A check is fully rung in and a price is quoted. Then the highest dollar items are usually voided or error corrected off as this allows for the highest profit by the employee.
No Sales – Often employees learn the price of popular items. Instead of ringing in these items, you can quote the price and once the guest pays cash, perform a no sale. This will allow the employee to make change for the guest and pocket the amount paid.
Sku Manipulation – Again a server will learn commonly priced items, often times they can quote totals based on their knowledge and experience. A guest will place an order and the proper price will be quoted. The server will then go get the food or beverage items. Once the server collects payment, they create a check containing a smaller priced item (usually as low as they can get to maximize profit). They can make change for the guest if needed and pocket the difference in the totals.
Discounts/Price Overrides – Servers verbally give a total, then, once payment is made, can apply discounts or price overrides to lower the check. Once they make the change expected, the amount taken off becomes profit for the server. This can also be seen with coupons, rewards or other discount promotions.
Written by: Dominic DeNicola, Supervisor of Analytics

For more information around our Analytics Services please contact Sales@zellmangroup.com

Civil Demand Under Attack in the Maryland Legislature

Shrink costs the US retailer $42 billion dollars according to the 2014 Global Theft Retail Barometer study. Internal theft and external theft are major components of this mind boggling number. Members of the retail loss prevention community understand the cost of internal and external theft goes far beyond the loss of product or property. Consumers pay the price for these losses in higher cost of goods and retailers spend millions to protect goods to ensure availability to consumers. Designing, developing and purchasing protection devices that don’t negatively impact sales yet provide protection for the retailer can be a very expensive proposition. Many companies are struggling to survive in the brick and mortar world, poor shrink results erode profit and put companies at further risk. When a retailer shutters its doors in a market, it is not just the company that loses, the consumer, the employees and the neighborhood all suffer. Civil Recovery was designed to support retailers in the economic fight against theft and loss of profit.

Civil Recovery has also significantly impacted the criminal justice system. Many retailers choose not to prosecute and follow the civil path, while others make a blended decision. A retailer’s decision to not prosecute does not diminish the quality or value of the apprehension. Having a resolution other than prosecution relieves the burden on the criminal justice system while still sending a message to the shoplifter that theft has consequences. Civil Recovery gives retailers options. Imagine retailers putting millions of cases through the criminal justice system. Police departments and courts would be burdened with the influx of cases, surely causing a back log in most jurisdictions. In states with “three strikes” laws, there is potential burden on the penal system.

When choosing a Civil Recovery program ensure it is compatible with your customer service philosophy. Evaluate your demand amounts, higher is not always better, even if the state allows it. Certainly, ensure you are within state statute, but a simple evaluation of your data will show that success is not always achieved by demanding the highest amount. Finally, ensure fees are reasonable and never excessive.

Protecting the civil recovery laws in each state is an important component to the Loss Prevention program for retailers. Losing Civil Recovery in any state has the possibility to impact customer relationship, law enforcement relationships, judicial relationship and the retailer’s loss prevention budget. We encourage retailers to speak up in Maryland and express their concern regarding the potential repeal of statues 3-1303 – 3-1308.

Written by: Lauren Bridgeo, VP of Systems & Field Services

For more information around our Recovery Services please contact Sales@zellmangroup.com

Harder for Retailers, Easier for Fraudsters

We are always intrigued to see what Brian Krebs has to say on Krebs on Security, his blog about fraud and security in the online world.
Krebs recently posted an article, “AntiDetect Helps Thieves Hide Digital Fingerprints,” with a video demonstrating how the latest software “AntiDetect version 6.0.0.1” helps fraudsters change the digital fingerprint on their computer. While this is not new to the underground world of cybercrime, it shows us how much easier it is for fraudsters to make purchases online and how much more difficult it’s getting for online retailers to stop them.
With dozens of tools created to help bad guys commit fraud, online retailers are under a great deal of pressure to keep one step ahead of the fraudsters. And, as I have noted before, most online retailers are not fraud detection and prevention experts.
Seeing how little effort it takes to change a device fingerprint is a stark reminder that throwing a few tools together in the hopes of scaring away or stopping a fraudster in his tracks before he steals from you is a crapshoot at best. Trying to keep up with fraudsters is more than a full-time job — it’s something best left to the experts.
The video illustrates just how much damage can be done in minutes; the fraudster quickly steals more than $200 worth of goods that will then be sold and turned into cash. Given a few hours, this guy could steal tens of thousands of dollars worth of goods. Retailers with a fraud system that relies heavily on device fingerprinting or IP/geo-location techniques alone are at great risk for this kind of scenario.
To truly reduce fraud, online retailers MUST have a system of several interlocking technologies, designed to work together without relying too heavily on one type of detection method over another. Device fingerprinting and IP/geo-location are great tools, but they are even better when they work in conjunction with velocity checking, linking technology, proxy detection, scoring and re-scoring techniques, among others, and provide the retailer with in-depth information about each transaction. Without this type of detection and prevention system in place, online retailers will continue to be easy targets for cybercriminals.
To see Krebs speak in person and learn more about identifying and thwarting fraud, register here for Kount’s Fraud 360 seminar in Boston on April 14th or New York on April 16th.

For more information on a complete fraud prevention platform, Zelligent, contact sales@zellmangroup.com.

Are Just Your Loyal Customers Getting Their Just Rewards?

Loyalty/Rewards programs are a very effective way to reward your customers and induce their return to your stores to make more purchases. More companies across all verticals have these programs, and they really work! Just look at people’s key rings when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, or the pharmacy…they’re usually filled with the little rewards cards!

In most cases, when a loyal customer meets the purchase threshold, a discount coupon or certificate is generated, and mailed or e-mailed to the customer. Those loyal customers then redeem those coupons/certificates in your stores…just as your organization intended…works like clockwork, win/win….right?

But are you sure that your program isn’t rewarding those that have not earned those valuable discounts?

Deception and fraud in loyalty/rewards programs affects your company’s bottom line, and can occur in several different ways, so let’s take a look at them.

Policy may dictate that employees are to ask all customers at checkout if they are a rewards member, and if not, would they like to sign up. This capture rate is usually tracked in one form or another, and if an employee has a low “capture” rate, then they may get some pressure from the Manager or even the DM. There are several ways that an employee can fraudulently keep their capture rate up and also gain access to, and redeem, those valuable discounts that don’t belong to them.

1. Signing up customers who aren’t interested – The employees are asking the customers, but those that are not interested get signed up anyway without knowing it. The employee activates a new account, and just leaves all the customer info fields blank, and/or just makes up a name, and then throws the card away after the customer has left. This ensures a near perfect capture rate!

2. Not even asking customers – This is the same method and result as above, except the employee doesn’t even bother asking the customer if they are a member, or would like to sign up.

These first two methods are deceptive and typically a policy violation, since they do not create any loss, as no discount coupons are generated or mailed.

3. Signing up themselves, family, or friends – This is where fraud/loss can occur. The employee opens a new rewards account and completes all of the customer information. But in this case, they sign up themselves, a family member, a girlfriend, a friend…someone known to them. The employee then uses the rewards card for every single, or several sales for every shift that they work. The discounts build up very, very quickly using this method, and as soon as just one of those coupons are redeemed, there is a loss to the company, and the fraud has occurred.

At The Zellman Group, our team of analysts are experts in the detection of these violations to your loyalty/rewards program, and will ensure that just your loyal customers are truly getting their just rewards!

Written By: Dave Mall, LP Analyst

For more information about Analytics please contact sales@zellmangroup.com

The Zellman Group Answers the Call with a Technology Upgrade

The Zellman Group, LLC introduced its latest enhancement to their Recovery Call Center with a Communication System Solution in late January. The latest in VOIP technology provides The Zellman Group with a self- hosted solution that is seamlessly integrated with their case management system, among other features such as a predictive and progressive dialer, and live redundancy at their co-location in Boulder, Colorado for disaster recovery purposes.

The new solution with its two dedicated T1 connections and 92 sip trunks will allow The Zellman Group to optimize productivity. The Zellman Group prides itself in using only live representatives stationed in their Greenvale, New York offices as well as in a number of additional states. The Zellman Group understands that the subjects are more than just a shoplifter, but they are the sister, the brother, the uncle, or the mother of your potential customers and are treated as such with the highest level of customer service. This system allows specialists to maximize inbound and outbound communications and spend even more time with subjects while ultimately increasing collections.

Increased efficiencies also come by way of the integration with The Zellman Group’s custom case management system. Recovery Specialists no longer have to manually navigate in the case management system as the click-to-call technology will populate all case related information prior to the call.

The Zellman Group has always been a leader in PCI compliant, cutting edge, user friendly technology for their clients, their specialists and the subjects. The ability to pay through recoverypay.com, IVR or a specialist has always been available with call prompts available in English, Spanish and French. Now subjects will immediately be connected to a specialist that speaks their preferred language.

The call dialer enhancements also include both predictive and progressive functions. This means zero downtime for the Zellman Specialists and less manual work. Specialists no longer have to switch gears for outbound call campaigns as all calls are received as inbound through this state of the art technology. The Zellman Group will always remain risk adverse and will always acknowledge FDCPA guidelines. This system is complete with automatic area code cutoff times, which means calls cannot be mistakenly made during an off hour.

The Zellman Group provides clients with 100% visibility to all of their case information. Inbound and outbound communication has always been saved to the case and available via their robust web portal. Calls are always available for a client to request. Their new solution now provides automatic failover and dual redundancy, so everything is now replicated live in their co-location and always available.

In addition to The Zellman Group’s attention to client needs, their dedication to customer service and client culture, this enhancement keeps them at the forefront of recovery solutions, now conducting outbound dialing campaigns faster and more efficiently than competitors’ call center capabilities.