Common Organized Retail Crime Methods

ORC is a growing problem across the nation. Learn more about the most common methods of ORC.

Last Updated:
March 8, 2024
| ~
min Read
Kailey Boucher
Marketing Writer


When you think of retail crime, a shoplifter smuggling expensive goods might come to mind. Although smuggling is a common form of theft, organized retail crime (ORC) is a much larger threat that poses more expensive consequences. Studies show a significant increase in ORC in recent years, and the measures groups take to carry out these organized attacks are becoming more creative and difficult to prevent.

What is Organized Retail Crime (ORC)?

Organized retail crime refers to the coordinated and premeditated activities of criminal groups targeting retail stores for financial gain. These criminal groups often engage in various illegal activities, such as theft, fraud, and vandalism, with the intent to exploit vulnerabilities in the retail supply chain.

Organized retail crime can involve multiple individuals working together to steal merchandise, commit refund fraud, or engage in other illicit activities that harm retailers and consumers alike. These criminals may operate across different locations, using sophisticated tactics to evade detection and maximize their profits. 

The impact of organized retail crime extends beyond individual stores, affecting the entire retail industry and prompting the need for collaborative efforts between retailers, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to combat and prevent such criminal activities.

This article will go over some common organized retail crime methods and the impact of ORC on small business and big businesses alike.

Wondering how ORC impacts your business? Read more here


Flash robbery (also known as a smash and grab attack) is when a group of people—often a gang—coordinates an attack against a business. According to a recent NRF report, almost two-thirds of brick-and-mortar retailers have seen an increase in organized crime activity in their locations in the form of shoplifting gangs. 

During a flash robbery, a group of people shows up at a planned location, grabs as much merchandise as possible, and runs. Flash robbery group sizes vary greatly, ranging anywhere from 5 to 100 people. Large groups can be especially problematic for store owners and security teams; it’s nearly impossible to stop and detain 100 people when an attack occurs. 


Have you ever been annoyed by a strict return policy? You purchase something but the item doesn't work out, so you bring it back to the store, only to realize you don't have the receipt or the card you used to purchase the item. The clerk says you're out of luck, and you're stuck with an item you’ll never use. It’s so inconvenient, right? Chances are, the strict return policy exists because the store is trying to prevent return fraud, a common form of ORC. In 2020, fraudulent returns cost retailers $25.3 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. 

There are many different types of return fraud. A few common methods include: 

  • Receipt fraud: utilizing stolen receipts to return merchandise for profit.
  • Price switching: replacing original labels with higher-priced labels and returning merchandise for a profit.
  • Returning stolen merchandise: shoplifting an item and returning it for profit. 
  • Bricking: purchasing a working electronic device, purposefully damaging it or removing valuable parts, and returning the item for profit. 


Modern-day supply chain logistics are mind-blowingly complex—there are so many moving parts that work together to ensure the safe and timely delivery of goods. Unfortunately, there are also many ways that those working parts can be disturbed. Cargo theft is when criminals steal merchandise during its journey from the point of origin to the final retail destination. 

There are a variety of ways that criminals perform cargo theft. A few well-known approaches include:

  • Fictitious pickups: criminals present themselves as drivers with counterfeit paperwork and drive off with loaded vehicles.
  • Coerced stops: a loaded truck is stopped and robbed during transit.
  • Terminal robberies: an organized group ambushes a trucking facility and hijacks loaded vehicles. 
  • Leakage: criminals smuggle small amounts of goods from shipments—so small that businesses do not notice the missing merchandise. 

While cargo theft requires a lot of planning and precise execution, the pay-off is high. According to an annual report conducted by Sensitech, the average value of a cargo theft attack in 2020 was $166,854. On top of that, there was a 23% increase in cargo theft from 2019 to 2020. 


In a world where crime is more common and criminals are more creative than ever before, it is becoming increasingly crucial for retail shop owners to implement rigorous surveillance measures. The good news is that as ORC continues to evolve, so does the security industry.

ORC Detection Methods for Retailers

As retailers navigate the complex landscape of organized retail crime (ORC), implementing effective detection methods becomes vital to safeguarding their businesses and protecting customers. 

Advanced technology plays a crucial role in this endeavor, with many retailers embracing cutting-edge solutions to identify and thwart organized criminal activities. Utilizing sophisticated surveillance systems, facial recognition software, and artificial intelligence, retailers can enhance their ability to detect patterns indicative of ORC. 

Collaborative data-sharing platforms among retailers and law enforcement agencies also prove invaluable in identifying and tracking organized criminal networks. Additionally, employing predictive analytics to assess purchasing behavior and transaction patterns can help retailers stay one step ahead of potential threats. By combining technology-driven solutions with strategic partnerships and proactive analytics, retailers can bolster their defenses against the ever-evolving landscape of organized retail crime. 

These best practices to combat organized retail crime will help you stay vigilant and ready for whatever comes your way. Protect your retail business with these organized retail crime prevention tactics.

Contact the LVT team today if you are ready for customizable, innovative security solutions that will grow with you and keep you, your employees, and your merchandise safe. 

More Posts You'll Love