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April 6, 2011

Social networking is an idea that few people living in the modern world are unfamiliar with.  Facebook, Linkedin, and Myspace, to name a few, enjoy hundreds of millions of members who use their sites to keep in touch with friends, exchange ideas, and gather information.  To be sure, the widespread use of the internet has created new and exciting opportunities for sharing in a global community.  However, despite its recent spike in popularity and general awareness, “social newtoworking” is anything but a new concept.  In fact, loss prevention professionals around the world have been dealing with the darker side of social networking for decades or longer.

In much the same way online social networkers share information about consumer products, movies, and music, criminals and thieves share information about vulnerable retailers and security conditions in an underground social network.  While they don’t employ the use of modern technology or operate in the public purview, they are effective none the less.  When one criminal successfully breaches a retailer’s security and escapes with cash in hand, it is safe to assume that other potential offenders within their social network will learn of their approach to the robbery.

In a recent discussion with a law enforcement professional, I was told that in the first seven days after a robbery it is estimated that 20-25 individuals will learn how the crime was committed and the value of the cash stolen from the retailer.  So how do retailers protect themselves against nefarious social networking?  Simple: send a message.  Instead of broadcasting vulnerability, retailers must send a message of strength and security.  Using the latest in intelligent safe technology and surveillance equipment, the same social network that broadcasts opportunities to potential offenders will transmit a warning.  Avoid retailers with secure-steel safes and corresponding camera equipment.  Don’t pick a fight with an opponent that is prepared.

Many retailers today are wisely using online social networks to reach new customers and inform existing clients.  However, few consider what message they are sending to criminal networks.  The question remains: if you are a retailer, what message are you sending to underground social networks?  A warning or an invitation?


~Jeff Hauser

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