By Michelle Graff
New York--Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy has two very specific tips for jewelers this holiday season.

The first is to be on alert for credit card fraud, and the second is to be aware of continued distraction thefts by the nomadic ethnic group Roma, also known as Gypsies.

In an interview with National Jeweler on Tuesday, Kennedy said that the JSA is seeing a significant amount of credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud is considered a type of theft, which was the only category of crime in the jewelry industry that had increased by the midway point of the year, rising 5 percent, the JSA said in August.

Jewelers need to be sure that they and their employees follow the requirements of the company that issued the credit card “absolutely to the letter” to avoid chargebacks, Kennedy said.

Often, fraudsters will try to have salespeople deviate from the required procedure, asking them to punch in the numbers or to swipe it even if it’s a chip card.

Some also will make a phone call if the transaction is denied, which is purportedly to the credit card company but is actually to an accomplice, who provides a “force code” that overrides the denial.

The JSA also cautions against accepting credit cards over the phone unless the customer is well known to the jeweler, with “well known” meaning that they’ve been in the store more than once just recently.

“When the card is not present, then you are at risk,” Kennedy said. “There’s no way of guaranteeing who it is or anything about them.”

He said that jewelers also need to be aware that distraction thefts allegedly being perpetrated by Roma (Gypsies) are continuing, a trend the JSA first reported to the industry in October.

20161021 Roma-theftsThis security camera still shows two women wanted in a $12,000 distraction theft at a jewelry store in Gilroy, California, in October.
At that time, there had been incidents in California, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan, and an attempt at a jewelry store in Bend, Oregon.

Since then, the thefts have continued, including a Nov. 20 distraction theft at a jewelry store in Arlington, Texas, that involved two women and resulted in the loss of a $7,100 gold necklace and two gold bracelets worth $7,250 each.

Generally, Kennedy advised that jewelers be on guard this time of the year when the store gets crowded and the sales staff is busy, though he noted that it’s a misconception that crime against jewelers spikes in November and December.

Yes, it is a time of year when staff can be more easily distracted because of the amount of action in the store. But that’s counterbalanced by the fact that stores often have more staff on the sales floor, which acts as a deterrent to thieves.

Statistics support this.

JSA’s crime report for 2015 shows that when compared to other months, December ranked relatively low in a number of categories.

For example, there were two three-minute burglaries in December 2015, compared with 18 in the month of April; 19 grab-and-runs, compared with 38 in June; and 4 smash-and-grabs, compared with 11 in January.

Overall, the JSA’s 2015 report showed that January--not December--was the most active month for all types of robberies while November was actually the least active.

“The popular wisdom is that the holidays are the most dangerous time of the year for jewelers, which is not true,” Kennedy said.

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