Posted: 08/08/2016

Indies should be vigilant after latest mystery shopping scam

Jonathan Winchester Shopper Anonymous UK
Jonathan Winchester: Farm shop security is “pretty dreadful”

Farm shops are being warned to tighten up security by mystery shopping experts in the wake of a “legitimate shoplifter” scam.

Greater Manchester Police and Devon & Cornwall Police have both been alerted to a company called Mystery Shopping UK, which was recruiting people to steal from stores under the premise of testing security.

One apprehended “thief” told police she was a “mystery shoplifter” and was under the impression that, once caught, she would be able to contact her employers to verify her undercover credentials.

She said she had been briefed to put “stolen” items in clear bags and send them directly to Mystery Shopping UK, which since appears to have gone to ground and its website no longer exists.

Jonathan Winchester, chief executive of Shopper Anonymous UK – which does carry out legitimate undercover shoplifting for independent food shops – told FFD that smaller delis are less vulnerable to this kind of crime but larger stores with concealed areas are at risk.

“Farm shop security is pretty dreadful because they trust everyone,” he said, adding that his company’s thefts were always staged with the owner on site.

Winchester said one assignment saw his staff steal £492 in 50 minutes, including two oak chairs. On another occasion shop staff opened the door for the “thieves”.

Jill Spencer, president of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association Europe, said suspicious employees should always request ID or, if they were still unhappy, contact the police.

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