Safeway shares playbook on cracking complex gift card fraud cases

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Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO“This whole case started with one customer complaint,” noted Safeway’s Corporate Loss Prevention Manager John Knowlton.

Knowlton knows all too well that combing and sifting through smartly collected data is key to breaking a major case. During a case study recap of this recent gift card case involving Safeway, American Airlines, online auction sites and law enforcement, Knowlton walked LP ’12 attendees through every step of this successful, yet complex case.

And complex it was, involving multiple suspects, jurisdictions and locations over three years. Here are a few stats on the research Safeway compiled before roping in law enforcement:
$467,000: Total monetary amount of fraudulent transactions
$275,000: Portion of fraudulent transactions tied up in gift card purchases
$81,000: Portion of fraudulent transactions used for BART transit tickets for resale
321: The number of unique credit card numbers linked to the crime ring
42: Number of transactions that Safeway captured through video surveillance

What were Knowlton’s keys to success? He offered session attendees a few takeaways:

Tip 1: When it comes to prosecution, you may need to find local victims. Knowlton: “The most successful investigations, from what I’ve found – include a local victim.”

Tip 2: Packaging your investigation correctly is key for law enforcement. “We packaged our case for law enforcement exactly like our ORC group packages for law enforcement. We walked in with a platter.” Knowlton also suggested, “Give them pages and pages of data along with video to support the most current lines.”

Tip 3: Be upfront about what you can and can’t provide in terms of data and customer information. Knowlton: “So there aren’t any surprises … we take time to speak with the investigators and explain what we can and can’t give them.”

Tip 4: For law enforcement, don’t ever limit your retailer request to a specific transaction. “If you limit your request to one transaction, that’s all you’re going to get,” Knowlton explained.

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