By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
New York—Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy has two main tips for jewelry businesses as the coronavirus drastically alters life across the United States.

First, if jewelers choose to, or are forced to, close their stores, every single piece of merchandise needs to be put away, out of view, even their least-expensive pieces.

Secondly, all companies with employees now working from home need to make sure they have proper protections in place to avoid becoming victims of computer-oriented crime.

COVID-19 is a crisis without precedent in our time.

Kennedy said the only event that comes close was 9/11, but even that horrific morning does not compare in scale or duration to what the nation is experiencing now—and is going to experience—in battling the coronavirus.

“It’s going to be a while [until things go back to normal], under the best of circumstances,” he said.

Nationwide, businesses, from bars to movie theaters to jewelry stores, are closed or operating with reduced hours.

In the jewelry industry, early responses to a survey Jewelers of America started taking this week show that more than half of jewelers have kept their stores open, though many have cut back their opening hours or transitioned to by appointment only.


Only 8 percent of retailers who’ve responded so far say they’re closed. (The JA survey will be open through Friday for those interested in participating.)

For stores that remain open, whether with regular hours or reduced, JSA’s key recommendations for preventing crime don’t change—jewelers need to keep showcases locked, only show one item at a time, not resist in the event of a robbery and have door buzzers to admit customers.

Kennedy said one question that has popped up since the onset of the pandemic is, should jewelers view surgical masks as a red flag, something a potential criminal dons to conceal his or her identity?

JSA’s answer is no.

“We don’t think that’s a serious risk at all,” he said. “You don’t fully conceal your identity even if you have a surgical mask on. That’s not what criminals do.”

Jewelers should, instead, focus their energies on watching for common red flags.

People entering not just with surgical masks on but sunglasses and hats as well, or in clothing that’s not appropriate for the season, are considered red flags.

Other red flags include people who wander around the store aimlessly, not really focused on product, or push to try on higher-value goods.

JSA says retailers should have a code word that alerts all employees to the presence of a suspicious person in the store.

For stores that are closed or plan to do so, the biggest threat is, obviously, burglary, and Kennedy said there is one standing JSA recommendation they need to heed.

“It’s even more important now to make sure that if you’re going to close, you put everything away,” even the less expensive merchandise, he said. “Merchandise left in showcases is a magnet for criminals.”

Jewelers should otherwise follow JSA’s standard recommendations when it comes to preventing or mitigating the impact of burglaries, which include:

-- Having adequate line security for the alarm system and testing the system from time to time;
-- Responding to all alarm signals promptly;
-- When arriving to the scene of a possible break-in, examining not only the ground-floor windows and doors but also the roof, sidewalls and all other possible points of entry;
-- Not positioning safes on outside walls or walls that abut other stores or offices, as it gives burglars the chance to access the safe through the walls of neighboring businesses; and
-- Having a safe that’s UL-rated TRTL 30x6.

Kennedy said for businesses that have transitioned largely, or entirely, to telework, they need to be on alert for cybercrime, particularly involving employees’ home computers that don’t have the same protections as work computer servers.

All jewelry businesses need to make sure their computer networks have robust, up-to-date firewalls, malware protection and email spam filters.

If they don’t have these, they need to install them.

In addition, employers should emphasize the need for staff members to be “extraordinarily careful” about phishing attempts, Kennedy said.

Phishing refers to attempts to gain access to an individual’s or business’ passwords and/or accounts via an email made to look like it comes from a known sender—a company, like Netflix, or a person with whom the recipient regularly does business.

These emails ask the recipient to click on a link or provide sensitive information, like a password.

Often, there are little clues that tip off the receiver to the fact that it’s a scam. The sender’s address might be one letter off, or the body copy of the email can seem stilted, awkward or otherwise a little off.

The Federal Trade Commission has a guide to recognizing and avoiding phishing scams.

“You should be very, very careful about the [sender’s] address and the message that’s coming in before you open it or click on,” Kennedy said. “Anytime you have doubts, just delete it.”

Kennedy will join National Jeweler Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff for a webinar on store security in the times of COVID-19 on Friday, March 20 at 2 p.m. EDT. Register here.


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