Magazine Article | December 1, 2004

Avoid Hiring Thieves With The National Retail Theft Database

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Internal loss prevention starts with knowing potential hires.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, December 2004
Matt Pillar

It's estimated that 85% of retail theft goes unprosecuted in America. That's a scary statistic and not such a great testament to our society's crime-fighting resolve. If the stat is accurate, too many instances of retail employee theft and fraud end with, "You stole from this company. We won't press charges, but you're fired," instead of, "You stole from this company. We're pressing charges, and you're fired." Nonetheless, there exists a validated-by-admission-of-guilt, CRA (credit reporting act)-audited database to help you avoid hiring even those who avoided prosecution or went the civil recovery route for restitution.

Does Your Background Screener Have Access?
Since 2002, USIS (US Investigations Services) (Annandale, PA) has been maintaining a database of thieves begun in 1918. Names of shoplifters and crime-committing employees, along with detailed accounts of the circumstances surrounding their cases, are added to the National Retail Theft Database every day. If you're one of the nearly 1,000 retailers who have tapped the database as part of a thorough prehire background check process, you know its value - especially if it helped you prevent hiring a confirmed thief. And if you're a user, you also know how the database has grown to its current size. You have to pay to play, but the access fee to screen your potential hires against the data is nominal. USIS was charging a paltry $2.50 per screen at press time, cash it claims is used solely to maintain the massive data repository. But here's the hook - the vendor requires those retailers who want to use the database to contribute to it as well. Retailers such as Sears, Circuit City, Guess, Neiman Marcus, and Saks are among those who use the service. They all contribute to it by ratting out confirmed thieves and fraudsters caught stealing in their stores in hopes of avoiding - and helping others avoid - the hiring of another thief. It's our soft-on-crime mentality that makes the database valuable. After all, if so few cases of retail theft are prosecuted publicly, how meaningful can a standard criminal background check really be?

While most of USIS' users are tier one retailers, Director of Marketing Brian McMurray says that access to the National Retail Theft Database is open to retailers of any size. What's better, the company announced that it's enabling even more access to the database by partnering with background screening companies that will begin offering it to their clients as a value added service - albeit for an added (though likely small) fee. Background screener First Advantage (St. Petersburg, FL) recently wrapped up a beta test of the database with USIS and is among the initial group of screening companies that will offer it to retailers.

Ultimately, the best way for retail to clean up its hiring pool is to quit slapping wrists and start pressing charges. In the meantime, there exists this massive database project that has just become much more accessible to retailers of all varieties. Wise LP (loss prevention) professionals will use it.