The man whose patented technology has probably detected more checkout fraud than any other recent invention was at the Retail Risk – London conference last week.
StopLift Checkout Vision Systems has detected more than two million incidents of scan-avoidance at both manned and self-checkouts at retailers around the world, the company’s CEO and founder Malay Kundu was able to announce.
That number has been ticking up nicely in the past few years – in June 2015 StopLift announced it had detected 1.16 million incidents, and in March 2016, 1.5 million.
The question many delegates at the conference may have been asking is whether shoplifters have found a way of bypassing StopLift.
Initially designed to crack down on ‘sweethearting’, (when cashiers pretend to scan merchandise but bypass the scanner) Stoplift’s solutions are increasingly catching scan avoidance at self-checkouts.
Self-checkout theft and other scan avoidance has been up to 5 times higher than at manned checkouts, Kundu told Retail Risk News.
“Retailers always suspected that self-checkouts would be highly prone to scan-avoidance, and our technology has certainly found this to be the case,” he said.
“It turns out that self-checkouts are typically blind if you avoid the weight sensors. In general people can beat self check-outs fairly easily.
“Another reason self-checkouts are prone to theft is they give people a built-in excuse. If they walk out of the store with items they didn’t scan they can always say ‘I thought scanned!’” he added.
The U.S. National Retail Federation states that retail shrink was approximately $44 billion in 2015 and about $14 billion of that was due to scan-avoidance. Supermarkets, with their lower profit margins, are particularly vulnerable to scan-avoidance, which has accounted for an almost 35% profit loss industrywide.
Kundu studied at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, along with several members of his team, and developed facial recognition systems for detecting terrorists at airports before hitting on the idea for StopLift.
StopLift’s Scan-It-All video analytics technology monitors 100% of security video (from cameras already installed in stores) and can immediately distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent behaviours at check-outs, instantly flagging up suspicious transactions and beeping store assistants.
Essentially the invention is a way of putting to use CCTV footage that would otherwise never be watched; most chains do not have the staff to monitor more than a fraction of footage, said Kundu.
Many retail chains now use the system – in the UK for instance it is used by Tesco, Sainsburys and Iceland.
The public can watch how the Scan-It-All system works on StopLift’s website, and no doubt shoplifters have been studying it.
Stoplift’s incident log shows that a great deal of shoplifting is still opportunistic, Kundu said last week.
“But at the end of the day the technology doesn’t care if a thief is professional or not, it just cares whether the items are paid for,” he added.