Business and Retail Crime Awareness Seminar

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Fight For Your Life

Sometimes you can tell the effectiveness of a program by its immediate impact on you; halfway through the Business & Retail Crime Awareness Seminar, I was already promising to never use a credit card or go online ever again! By the end, I convinced myself to pay better attention to my surroundings, and to be ready to fight for my life.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), South American Theft Group Intelligence Network and Keiser University co-hosted the forum at Keiser University for roughly 50 people and businesses on Thursday, May 11. Sergeant Josh Quaintance from the LCSO’s Highway Interdiction Unit began the program with an emphasis on skimmers: small devices criminals attach to gas pumps, ATMs and credit card readers that capture your information including PIN numbers. “Give it a firm tug before inserting your card,” says the Sergeant. “If it comes off, it is a skimmer, so immediately contact us.” Common skimmer locations are banks on weekends and gas station pumps furthest away from the cashier, as criminals prefer minimal exposure.

If a credit card’s numbers do not line up or it has a zip code written in black marker in the signature section, it is most likely phony. It is often not the bogus credit cards that bust the criminal but their behavior, so it is crucial that workforce personnel recognize the reaction. “Most people are surprised when you turn down their credit card,” the Sergeant explains, “but the bad guys often display no reaction and just pull out another one. That is a major red flag.”

We’re #1!

Carrie Kerskie, director of Hodges University’s Identity Theft Fraud Institute, discussed “Cybersecurity & Data Breaches.” “Florida is #1 in fraud thefts for 15 straight years, and identity theft for 9 years until Michigan passed us last year. Miami is #1 in the nation, Naples #5 and Lee County #19. We are the hotspot because we have wealthy people and a transient population, with tourists and a lot of international exposure.”

As for businesses, “You will have a date breach someday,” Carrie relates. “You better be protected and have a written plan in place for when it occurs. Encrypt your files and backup! Don’t open unsolicited emails with a link or attachment. Avoid free Wi-Fi and if you find an unknown USB device, never plug it in. Most systems get breached through a third party. Remember, 60% of small businesses fold after a data breach because mitigation is too expensive and they lose the trust of their customers.”

Robert Taylor, Director of the South American Theft Group Intelligence Network, called South Florida “the hub of crime. No matter where we arrest the bad guy in the United States, there is always a connection to Miami.” Like Sergeant Quaintance, he preaches training small business employees to notice unusual behavior, whether from the criminal or customer. “If you are a bank teller, and the same elderly lady takes out $50 every Friday, then she wants to withdraw $10,000, tell her she needs to speak to your manager. All it takes is that right person to say, ‘This is unusual for you,’ because the criminal is usually nearby watching, and is gone! The elderly are so vulnerable because they want to make friends.”

When In Doubt, Act!

The session concluded with Staff Sergeant Scott Griffith of the LCSO focusing on “Active Shooter & Workplace Violence.” “Should this happen to you,” said Sgt. Griffith, “evacuate or hide immediately. Lock your door or block it with furniture because a shooter wants to harm as many people as possible as easy as possible, so they are less likely to try to get in a locked door. Call 911 and provide as much information as possible. Businesses are the most likely locations for Active Shooter situations, followed by education, government and houses of worship.”

When entering a building, “look for exits. You need to think about these things in advance, because our brain sees pictures, so if we are unfamiliar with the situation, the brain says, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ and freezes. We are creatures of habit and an unplanned emergency throws a monkey wrench into that. Another reaction you have to overcome is denial, as in ‘this can’t happen to me.’ When in doubt, act!”

There are three options: Run, Hide or Fight: “Use any available means to get out, including emergency and alarmed exits,” emphasizes Sergeant Griffith, “but only if you safely know where you are going; if not, stay concealed. It is not good to get caught in a long hall when a bullet travels 1,500-feet-a-second. Encourage others to leave with you, but don’t wait or go back in.”

Be mentally prepared to fight, says the Sergeant. “This is your last option, so get into that mindset. What wouldn’t you do for your children is how you must think. It will surprise you what you can do when you are scared! You can put out someone’s eye with scissors, because it is life or death — him or me. Put car keys or a pen along your index finger, with the end anchored against the palm of your hand, and thrust it firmly into the eye or throat, because if the bad guy can’t see and breath, you can get away. Scissors are great, and fire extinguishers, because once you choke them with the fog, regrip the can and ram it into their head, with that sharp metal ring on the bottom!”

The LCSO offers business security assessments, self-defense classes and numerous other programs either for free or a minimal cost. Contact Community Relations at 239-258-3280 or communityrelations@sheriffleefl.org; for the Identity Fraud Institute, reach Carrie at ckerskie@hodges.edu or see Hodges.edu/Identity; and for the South American Theft Group Intelligence Network, see www.SATGIN.org.

“I cannot say any of this will help you, or save your life or business,” Sergeant Griffith says in conclusion, “but if don’t take these steps, you are in for bad news.”

 

Gary Mooney