Shop safe: parking, 'marking' and 'luring' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shop safe: parking, 'marking' and 'luring'

Shop safe: parking, 'marking' and 'luring'

Crooks often use windshield fliers as a lure to get people to linger on a certain side of their cars. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Crooks often use windshield fliers as a lure to get people to linger on a certain side of their cars. (Source: WMC Action News 5)

They have their own names, like yoga exercises or gourmet sandwiches.

They are the lures and communication tricks thieves and robbers use to get customers to drop their guard at retail stores.

Multiple law enforcement and personal protection sources told WMC Action News 5 these techniques are what crooks use most often to steal what they covet the most:  smart phones, purses/sunglasses, jewelry and prescription drugs. In fact, July 15, a robbery suspect still at large showed signs of using some of these methods when he robbed and dragged a woman for her Xanax prescription in the parking lot of a Walgreens at 4625 Summer Ave. in Berclair.

Sensei Clif Bullard of the Memphis Martial Arts Center, 2543 Broad Ave., said consumers can lower the risk of encountering these crooks simply by where they park. He shared the common sense first: park closer to the store, under light poles (even in the daylight. When you come out of that movie, for example, it may be dark by then).

But Bullard also implored shoppers not to park next to obstructions:  shrubs, landscaping, large trucks, vans and SUV's. "Anything that you can't see through between you and your car presents a threat," Bullard said. 

Inside the store, the threat can get personal. Bullard said that's when the bad guys use their communication skills to try to loosen up a 'mark.'

One of their methods, Bullard revealed, is called forced teaming. "The use of the word we," he explained. "Saying things like, 'Well, looks like we've got another hot one coming up today,' or 'We've got a problem here. How long are we going to have to stand in this line?' Building a rapport that does not actually exist."

Bullard revealed another retail crook communication trick: loan sharking. "They'll offer a slight insult that is easy to prove wrong in an effort to make you engage them. Things like, 'You're probably too snobbish to talk to a guy like me.' You're not a snob, so you sit there and talk to them, which is what they want."

Robby Beard, former police officer and martial arts expert of Bartlett's USA Karate, 2819 Bartlett Blvd., said retail crooks even employ "lures" to get customers out of stores and into parking lots. He exposed two of them:

* The Keyed Car Lure. "You pull up in your nice car, and you go into the store. Then someone comes in and says, "Is that your white Ford out there? Somebody's keying your car!" That person was actually watching you park, casing your vehicle. You run out to see what's wrong with your car and guess what? He's got you at your vehicle." 

Beard said don't take the bait. Blow off the keyed-car claim with something like, "Oh, no! Well, I've got insurance that'll take care of it. Thanks!" End the conversation and consider asking a security officer or store employee to escort you to your vehicle after shopping.

* The Windshield Flyer Lure. Someone's stuffed a flyer under one of your windshield wipers. Beard said that's often a way an attacker gets you to delay getting into your vehicle -- or to get you to a particular side of your vehicle, where they're waiting for you. "I just tell people, look, leave the flyers there. Drive off...or at least drive (home or to another location) where it's safer. Then you can take the flyer off."

When you are ready to leave the store on your own terms, have your key out and ready in case you should need its panic button. Hold it with the key's blade protruding from your fist. That may serve as a defensive weapon.

Eliminate distractions. Stay off your cell phone. Yank those headphones or ear buds out. Be aware of your surroundings.

Also, look for sudden changes in the environment around your parked vehicle. "A perfect example is right here behind me," Bullard said, pointing at an empty parking spot book-ended by large SUV's. "You've got two SUV's, both with tinted windows," he noted. "If you're parked in that center spot, you're completely blind. You can't see anything going on. You want clear line-of-sight, in a spot that is well lit.

"Also, look for shadows. It is a lot easier for an attacker to hide himself than to hide his shadow. If you see a shadow that shouldn't be there, pretend to mistakenly drop your keys. As you bend down to pick them up, look and see if there's anything there that shouldn't be there. Ask security or a store employee to escort you out and just that will deter most people."

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