JSA: Beware of Switch Artists

Jewelers' Security Alliance logoThe Jewelers’ Security Alliance has issued a bulletin warning retail jewelers of crimes committed by switch artists.

JSA in its bulletin, which is being mailed to members, listed a number of cases where these thieves who pose as customers, successfully switched diamond jewelry with cubic zirconia.

JSA describes switch artists as “sleight-of-hand thieves who will most often attempt to substitute a cubic zirconia and sometimes moissanite for diamond merchandise. The types of goods switched include loose diamonds, earrings, pendants and rings, and can range in price from less than a thousand dollars to many tens of thousands.”

JSA listed following ways jewelers can prevent switches from thieve posing as customers:

A. Show only one item at a time.

B. Don’t turn your back on any customer.

C. Wait on only one customer at a time.

D. After a customer has handled an item, re-examine it to make sure it is the same item before returning it to the showcase. It could be a CZ, Moissanite or an inferior stone. You must either loupe it, or use diamond and Moissanite testing equipment.

E. Eye-level cameras that focus on the selling surfaces where diamonds are presented discourage switching by thieves. In addition, cameras may provide the evidence you need if a switch does occur, allowing a retailer to prove the event and avoid a mysterious disappearance in which the retailer cannot provide information regarding how the real goods were lost.

F. While inspecting an item, if a customer drops it, begins to faint, claims to be ill, asks for a drink of water, or engages in some other distracting activity, be especially on guard for a switch. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by any disturbance or commotion. If you are uneasy with a customer, request help from another salesperson or manager in the store.

G. Use identification tags on jewelry merchandise. Do the customers seem unusually interested in the tags? Perhaps they’re planning to return, or have an accomplice return, with an item to switch and a tag just like the one used in your store.
H. When placing an item back in its tray, be certain it has the genuine store tag, and that the item and a fake tag have not been substituted. Never allow a customer to return an item of jewelry to a tray.

I. Keep all trays completely filled, either with goods or with markers. Do not leave empty spaces. Accordingly, if a space is empty, you will know something is missing.

J. When showing loose stones, use a locked tweezers.

K. Be careful for a box switch after an item has been placed in a box but before the customer has paid and left the store. Always check the item in the box again after a customer has looked at it “one last time.” Pay very careful attention if a customer brings his own gift wrap or seems overly concerned that an item be placed in the box in a certain way.  A common ploy is for the thief either to switch the box itself or palm the item in the box, and then say that they will go out to the car for a checkbook or a wallet and return shortly to pay.

L. Be especially careful of customers who wear or carry items that could assist them with a switch, such as newspapers or parcels, and who place such items on the showcase counter.

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