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Career Profile: Loss Prevention Specialist

Job Duties, Education Requirements and Salary Outlook for Loss Prevention

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It may come as a surprise to some of you, but not everyone is honest and trustworthy. This unfortunate fact is made painfully clear in the retail sector, where unscrupulous employees and less-than-honorable shoppers account for nearly 7 billion -- that's billion, with a 'B' -- dollars in losses from retail theft each year. To combat the problem of retail theft from both shoplifters and employees, most major retailers employ loss prevention specialists.

These specialized units exist to provide security for the stores, prevent theft of merchandise from would-be shoplifters, and apprehend dishonest employees. Loss prevention specialists are a vital part of any successful retail enterprise as they help to minimize the harmful effects of retail theft.

Job Functions and Work Environment

Loss prevention specialists primarily work indoors at major retail stores. They may wear civilian clothes in order to blend in with other shoppers, or they may wear a uniform or other form of identification, such as a badge, to identify them as store security.

People who work in loss prevention employ a number of tactics to reduce the amount of theft in stores. These may involve covert surveillance of suspicious individuals by posing as shoppers or monitoring video feeds in a control room.

At times, loss prevention teams may stage investigations and stings on retail employees suspected of committing theft or fraud at their own store.

When a potential shoplifter is identified, loss prevention specialists will apprehend and detain them. They will then notify the police so that a law enforcement officer can make an arrest. In some instances, loss prevention specialists will work closely with detectives and criminal investigators to solve incidents of major thefts or other high profile retail crimes.

The job of a loss prevention specialist often includes:

  • Monitoring shoppers
  • Safely apprehending and detaining suspected shoplifters
  • Writing reports
  • Planning investigations and stings
  • Communicating with the public and fellow employees
  • Using surveillance and radio equipment
  • Providing court testimony

Loss prevents specialists work closely with store management and law enforcement. When a shoplifter or employee is caught stealing, the specialist may be asked to write a supplemental report or witness statement for the police. She may also have to testify in court in the event a case goes to trial.

Some people may become violent or attempt to flee when confronted by retail security personnel. Loss prevention specialists can potentially become injured in any confrontation or chase that may ensue. Because their authority is limited, in these instances most loss prevention a specialists will seek police intervention as soon as possible.

Education And Skill Requirements

Communications skills are an absolute must in the field of loss prevention. People who work in the field must keep their supervisors and store managers informed of their activities. More importantly, they must be able to deal with people who may become emotional or angry when confronted. They must be able to do their best to diffuse such situations.

Observation and critical thinking skills are also vital to a successful loss prevention career. A major component of the job involves watching shoppers, identifying suspicious behaviors and taking appropriate actions.

For entry-level positions, a high school diploma or GED is usually sufficient, along with a background check. Most employers will provided their own extensive training and orientation.

For advanced and management positions, experience and training will be required. Many loss prevention managers come from law enforcement backgrounds, and others have worked their way up the chain to advance their careers.

For the best chance of advancement, keeping up with trends and innovations in the industry is a must. There are several loss prevention associations that specialists can join to gain more information about the industry and gain useful skills and knowledge.

Job Growth and Salary Outlook

For entry-level positions in loss prevention, salaries will usually start at or just above the minimum wage. There is potential for advancement in the field, and with training and experience loss prevention managers can earn up to $50,000 annually.

As retail theft continues to be a major source of lost revenue for stores, the need for loss prevention specialists will continue. Growth in the specialization is largely tied to growth in the retail industry.

Is a Career as a Loss Prevention Specialist Right for You?

Loss prevention is a vital part of the retail industry in that it helps retailers keep costs low for all customers and helps to preserve the health of individual stores and chains.

Working in loss prevention is an excellent way to break into a criminology career, providing great opportunities to gain valuable experience that will translate well into other fields such as law enforcement.

With hard work and perseverance, you can make a career out of loss prevention. If you enjoy working with people and have an affinity for the retail industry, and if you understand and appreciate the problem that retail theft causes, a job in loss prevention may be perfect for you.

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