Theft By Impersonators

It seems like over the past year or two we are hearing of more thefts, and/or attempted thefts, by people impersonating someone else (Corporate help desk, Home Office IT Dept, an associate, armored car driver/pickup person, fire fighter, police officer, security guard, mystery shopper, etc.). We are also noticing more retailers having daily, weekly or monthly passwords, passphrases, etc. for service vendors arriving at store level, or incoming phone calls to a store or warehouse/DC. Even with these passwords/passphrases, thieves continue to impersonate others in order to commit their thefts.   A few examples:

NJ: The owner of a convenience store told police a woman dressed in firefighting gear, including full PPE (personal protective equipment) arrived and told everyone to leave the building as she was investigating a gas leak. She stole several items, including lottery tickets, during the incident.  Upon being apprehended by the police, they learned the woman had stolen the firefighting gear (jacket, boots, pants, helmet, flashlight, etc.) from a fire truck parked outside a nearby fire station. The woman was charged with burglary, robbery, theft, weapons charges and impersonating a public servant.

GA: A man impersonating a store associate stole on at least two separate occasions a total of nearly $50,000 in cellphones. The impersonator walked into the stores pretending to be a store associate in order to gain access to an inventory locker which was full of cellphones. On one occasion a man dressed as a store associate, approached the customer service desk and asked for the key to the cellphone locker. He stated he was a new associate and needed an escort to the locker’s location. After being left alone at the locker, the man placed approximately $18,000 worth of  cellphones in a duffle bag and returned the key to the customer service desk before he exited the store. On a second occasion, the man/impersonator used the same tactics at another store, and walked off with about $30,000 worth of cellphones.  Police believe the impersonator was a former associate having the correct clothing and knowing some the of store managers’ names.

MI: A man impersonating a lottery agent entered multiple drug stores and walked off with over a thousand dollars in scratch-off lottery tickets. Upon entering the stores, the man convinced employees he was a lottery agent and was there to service the lottery machine(s). The gig was uncovered when a real lottery agent visited one of the stores and noticed some anomalies at the location. Videos from several stores showed the same suspect vehicle and the same man wearing a jacket with distinctive emblems. When the police arrested the man, they found “unique clothing” at his home which also appeared in the store surveillance videos. The impersonator was charged with one count of first-degree retail fraud, a five-year felony.

NM: A man impersonating a store associate, entered the store dressed as an employee. After entering an employee-only area, he grabbed a six-wheeled cart and proceeded to load the cart with televisions. Then he walked out the front door without paying for the televisions.

NY: A man wearing an FBI jacket entered a jewelry store and presented a gold badge as he was impersonating an FBI agent. He inquired with the jeweler about purchasing a loose diamond. Upon agreement for a diamond, he told the jeweler he would get a cashiers check and return the next day, which he did still in his FBI jacket. The cashiers check he used to purchase the loose diamond, turned out to be a forgery thereby allowing him to steal the diamond. The police were contacted, and the man was  arrested and charged with grand larceny, criminal impersonation,  and possession of a forged instrument

NY: A thief impersonating a Delivery worker terrorizes and duct tapes a family before robbing them of tens of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry. Video footage shows a man in a uniform and cap approaching the house and knocking on the door while holding a decoy package/box.  A couple minutes later someone allows the man inside while another man in uniform runs up into the house. Police report this was not the first robbery in the area with the same MO (Modus Operandi) of impersonating a delivery man.

Scotland: A conman impersonating a Poppyscotland collector stole a charity collection box from a convenience store. The impersonator told store employees he has there to gather the collection box and in turn gave the employees an empty collection box to replace it. Two days later an official Poppyscotland collector arrived to pick-up the collection box which was used to support members of the Armed Forces.  The owner of the store told the official collector that someone had already collected the charity box and obviously they had been scammed

FL: A man impersonating an armored car worker walked into a store wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a black duffle bag, both with  the company’s logo affixed. He asked to pick-up the store’s deposit from the previous day. The store manager denied the man access to the back room noting his badge was the wrong color, his hat was missing the company shield, and their deposit was picked up earlier in the day. The man left empty handed without incident.

CA: Just after opening, the store received a telephone call from an individual identifying themselves as a member of the company’s IT Dept. The person stated they needed the store’s  assistance in verifying some overnight updates to the Gift Card processing at the POS. They had the store read them some gift card numbers and process them thru the register to validate the so called “over night updates”. Only later was it determined that the person claiming to be form the IT Dept was an impersonator and the store had been scammed.

Most of the above examples were from on-site impersonators, but we are seeing just as many if not more telephone impersonators trying to commit fraud. A couple of the main areas these fraudsters are trying to circumvent are gift cards and technical support, especially dealing with the POS system. Calls are received by the stores from someone impersonating a Corporate/Home Office employee from a variety of departments (IT, Store Ops, Procurement, Customer Service, Inventory Control, POS Help Desk, Sales Audit, etc.) trying to get the store associate to “test” the gift card system, credit card  approval system, or select issues with the store’s POS System.

All on-site and phone call inquiries should be challenged by Store Management to ensure they are legitimate. ‘When in doubt, check it out’ before proceeding. Retail stores need to have daily, weekly or monthly passwords or passphrases in order to combat those who try to impersonate others for fraudulent reasons.  The stores/locations should also be tested on these passwords or passphrases to ensure their ongoing compliance.  $

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