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How to Become a Loss Prevention Specialist | A Guide

A person steals a box of goods from a store. A loss prevention specialist is hired to catch such activity.

A recent study by American Retail Security revealed that inventory shrinkage in business represents more than $44 billion in annual losses for US retailers. While that is just 1.38% of retail revenues, the dollar amount is staggering. Out of this, just over one-third of loss comes from shoplifting and another third from employee theft. The remaining loss arises from administrative and paperwork errors (16.5%), vendor fraud or error (6.8%), and unidentified losses (6.1%). However, retailers can reduce the overall impact by hiring competent loss prevention specialists. If you are interested in thwarting crime and helping businesses thrive, this may be your career. Below we provide an all-encompassing guide for those thinking of becoming a loss prevention specialist.

What is a Loss Prevention Specialist?

A loss prevention specialist implements loss prevention policies to protect a company’s assets. Losses arise from theft, employee fraud, errors in business, and other issues that cause a reduction in revenue in a business. These professionals investigate and analyze data gathered from many places within the work environment. This data comes from security cameras, filed reports, and digital information — such as reports from the point of sales (POS) machines — to eradicate avoidable losses and preserve profits in a company.

What is Loss Prevention?

Loss prevention, also known as retail loss prevention, involves using established procedures to minimize losses and preserve profit in businesses. The primary objective of loss prevention protocol is to reduce the rate of preventable losses.

Preventable losses refer to business costs caused by accidental or deliberate human activities. Preventable loss, also known as “shrinkage,” is expected in the retail sector. Many businesses that employ loss prevention strategies have an in-house team or use an external loss prevention agency.

Loss prevention involves:

  • Investigating losses
  • Setting up sting operations to catch employees taking money or products
  • Apprehending shoplifters
  • Monitoring security systems — alarms and closed-circuit cameras
  • Educating store staff as well as operations managers on risks due to fraud, theft, and harassment
  • Keeping track of stock
  • Enforcing safety measures to prevent loss through injuries to staff or customers
  • Protecting people, money, merchandise, and equipment
  • Preventing cybercrime

The loss prevention department also handles physical security in most companies, such as locks, keypads, closed-circuit cameras, and sometimes heat sensors. These professionals work towards better management to minimize business losses. Sources of losses include:

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Natural disasters
  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Terrorism
  • Injuries

These specialists also work alongside human resources to maintain integrity and accountability for those who work within the stores, warehouses, and offices. This prevents losses from harassment cases and the like.

Duties of a Loss Prevention Specialist

The primary duty of loss prevention specialists is to curb losses to boost an organization’s profits. They watch over the sales area of retail goods to prevent the changing of price tags and shoplifting. Some patrol in full uniform to act as theft deterrents. Others dress in street clothes and pretend to be customers as they look for what’s commonly called “the steps.” The term “step” refers to suspicious behavior that may lead to theft.

A loss-prevention specialist also helps reduce employee-perpetrated store shrinkage/losses. This requires great attention to detail, as there are many ways and opportunities for employees to steal. Cashiers might reduce an item’s price for a friend. They can also simply fail to charge for merchandise, placing it directly into a shopping bag. Furthermore, employees may try to perform fraudulent returns. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the loss prevention specialist to prevent such behaviors.

Below are some other functions of a loss prevention professional:

  • Coordinate and communicate with management about loss prevention techniques and strategies
  • Perform audits to see that employees process, handle, and monitor the company’s inventory properly
  • Develop policies that will favor the company
  • Train staff in the best practices for reducing shrink and losses
  • Minimize financial losses due to theft, vandalism, accident, and injury
  • Work with local law enforcement agencies, state attorneys, and government officials

Why Do Businesses Need Loss Prevention Specialists?

Loss prevention specialists hold a crucial role. The primary objective of businesses is to acquire gain and consequent growth. These two have theft as their most bitter enemy.

Loss prevention specialists aim to prevent, identify, and stop theft in whatever form it presents itself. Their job involves being a major source of stability for any business, especially those in retail. Aside from preventing theft, businesses need loss prevention specialists for an overall upgrade of the efficiency of their staff. The knowledge that the company monitors them can cause staff to work with a higher level of honesty and efficiency.

These specialists might also handle first aid and emergency procedures. Without them, businesses stand the risk of suffering from significant losses due to accidents at work. They can also face bad publicity due to poor control of certain circumstances, especially those connected to health and safety.

Steps to Becoming a Loss Prevention Specialist

If you consider a career as a loss prevention specialist, here are the necessary steps to get you started on the right track.

1. Graduate From High School

Even when some employers do not specify the educational qualifications, completing high school is a necessary starting point that equips candidates with basic skills.

2. Gain Experience

Although not all employers require it, having experience as a security officer, loss prevention agent, or loss prevention manager can help you land a job.

3. Consider Getting a Degree

While it is not a prerequisite to securing a job as a loss prevention specialist, having an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree could be a shot in the arm for your career. A degree, especially in a related field, will give you a competitive edge in the industry, especially if you want to advance in your job. Furthermore, having higher degrees may land you a supervisory or management position with more responsibilities and higher salaries.

4. Apply for an Open Position

Once you have the education and experience, it is time to kickstart your career by applying for an open position in department stores, warehouses, and shopping malls.

In the process of interviewing, the employer may deem it important to conduct a background check before offering you a position. Since this is a common practice, especially for jobs in security, you should expect it. The employer selects the criteria for such checks and can cover everything from verifying education to examining criminal records.

5. Receive On-The-Job Training

Even if you have previous industry experience, you will receive extensive on-the-job training. This is necessary as it will acclimate you to the company’s procedures and policies. Typical training topics include communication skills, report writing, crisis response, basic first aid, shoplifting deterrent methods, and proper restraint methods. For most of this training, you will work with a more experienced colleague to learn the daily routines of your new workplace.

6. Advance Your Career

Some ways to get to the pinnacle of your career include moving to positions with higher pay or applying for jobs in other companies. Gaining more experience and higher education will also help you on your journey to the top. In addition, you can join professional organizations in the loss prevention field, attend conferences, and keep abreast of industry news and opportunities. Membership in organizations such as the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) can help you grow your network.

Differences Between Loss Prevention Specialists and Security Guards

A loss prevention specialist detects and investigates shoplifting by both employees and shoplifters in retail establishments. They have the right to apprehend offenders and report the case to local law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, security guards protect the assets from catastrophe and nuisance by enforcing prevention measures.

It is important to note that loss prevention evolved from security when retail establishments continued to experience theft and preventable reductions in revenue. Although loss prevention specialists and security guards have similar services, the specialists offer more resources to thwart shoplifting and financial loss.

Another difference between a loss prevention specialist and a security guard is that the former helps keep track of records of losses and aids in monitoring shipments, fraud, and returns. While the latter solely monitors the store and high theft products. Often, security guards only move around the store, ensuring that things are in place and letting people in and out of the establishment at the appropriate time.

Loss prevention officers educate employees on installing security devices on retail items. They know a shoplifter when they spot one and know how to stop them. Both of these professions can involve sitting in a room with a multitude of monitors while watching what goes on in the shop.

Loss Prevention Specialist Job Titles

Retail businesses use loss prevention strategies and techniques to prevent employee appropriation and theft. The following internal actions by staff can threaten a business’s profitability:

  • Money removed from the register
  • Unsanctioned discounts given at the register
  • Faked refunds

With loss prevention techniques in place, shoplifting and internal theft in retail businesses will decrease.

Some jobs available for the loss prevention specialist include:

Loss Control Consultant

Loss control consultants partner with businesses to protect employers from financial loss/shrinkage. The loss control consultant recommends strategies and techniques to prevent these risks. Other responsibilities include:

  • Evaluating a business’s safety and loss risks
  • Implementing systems and procedures for the company and its employees to prevent safety issues, theft, and inventory loss
  • Conducting routine risk assessments
  • Evaluating workers’ compensation and insurance claims

A loss control consultant can carry out their duties for one business with multiple locations or work with several smaller retailers.

Director of Loss Prevention

A loss prevention specialist can work as a director of loss prevention. In this role, the specialist develops and oversees security operations, primarily focusing on retail loss prevention. Responsibilities consist of setting the goals and strategies for protecting a retail location, including its merchandise and other property assets. In analyzing the site’s financial performance, they may also develop a theft response policy and monitor employees to prevent internal theft. Qualifications to become a director of loss prevention vary but often include a bachelor's degree in business or a related field and experience in loss prevention, typically as a manager.

Loss Prevention Specialist Skills

Loss prevention specialists need specific skills to perform their duties satisfactorily. Some of these skills include:

  • Observation: Probably the most crucial skill, scrutiny is essential at all times. To fulfill most of the job’s demands, a specialist in loss prevention should be able to observe and analyze customers’ reactions and behavior. They should also know what decision is best (out of many) to make in a crisis. The ability of a loss prevention specialist to actively and accurately show high levels of scrutiny can set them apart on the job.
  • Communication: Equally important, this skill is necessary for the smooth running of the workspace. A loss prevention specialist should be able to adequately express their opinions to the officers and personnel they answer to. Also, they should be able to effectively explain possible problems with available solutions to the persons involved no matter the time frame available.
  • Physical Stamina: This skill is primarily valuable in times of crisis. The ability to salvage a situation quickly can depend on how in shape the loss prevention specialist is. This fitness is in terms of flexibility, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy, and strength.
  • Composure: In addition, a loss prevention specialist must be calm. Certain situations require a lot of composure while being faced with a distressed but loud and sometimes offensive client
  • Customer Service: Loss prevention officers often come in contact with customers who need direction. They need to show excellent customer service skills and a friendly demeanor in such times.
  • Electronics: Since loss prevention specialists deal with specific gadgets, a basic knowledge of electronics is important. They often use radio receivers and have to monitor CCTV cameras.

Certifications for Loss Prevention Specialists

Before acquiring the certifications below, you need a high school diploma. Though not necessary, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree (in criminal justice, psychology, or business) can help lend credibility to your resume.

Certified Security Supervision and Management (CSS)

The CSS program requires prior experience in security and supervisory management. Qualified candidates must give proper responses to ten simulated scenes demanding immediate action. Certified by the International Foundation for Protection Officers, this accreditation is valid for two years.

EPA Amusement Operators Safety Certification

Hinged on risk management practices, this EPA program gives practical insight into how best to manage industry accidents. As a comprehensive program, it teaches the use of safety equipment. The Event Planners Association awards this credential. Candidates do not need years of experience.

First Aid, CPR, and AED Instructor

Endorsed by the National Safety Council, this certification comes in handy for the job of a loss prevention specialist. The education obtained from this program is helpful for life-saving circumstances, which can appear at any time while on the job. The program meets the OSHA requirements.

Loss Prevention Certified (LPC)

This 3-year LPC certification provided by the Loss Prevention Foundation is mainly for advanced personnel like loss prevention management and executives. It entails written and oral exams. You must have more than two years of work experience to be eligible for the certificate.

OSHA Safety Certificate

With no examinations or renewal requirements, the OSHA Safety Certificate program is a basic necessity for all loss prevention professionals. It spans 40 hours, covering safety measures according to OSHA and General Industry 1910 standards. In addition, physical hazards and work-related health issues, together with an interpretation of the Federal Register, are covered by the program.

Security 5 Certification

The Security 5 Certification program, certified by the EC-Council, offers basic networking literacy skills for the commencement of high-end IT and security programs. It is valid for three years.

Educational Requirements for Loss Prevention Specialists

One doesn’t need many formal qualifications to become a loss prevention specialist. While a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree is not often required, they could be helpful.

The minimum educational requirement for a loss prevention specialist is a high school diploma or a GED. People who obtain a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree are generally interested in career advancement.

Statistics show that over 46% of loss prevention specialists hold a bachelor’s degree, while about 26% hold an associate’s degree. Furthermore, only 3.8% have a master’s degree.
Interestingly, over 51% of loss prevention specialists studied Criminal Justice.

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Salary/Job Outlook for Loss Prevention Specialists

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes loss prevention specialists under security guards and gambling surveillance officers. The BLS places the salary of loss prevention specialists at an average of $31,050 a year. The top 10% earned over $51,600 in 2020. There are many good-paying entry-level law enforcement job options with a degree in criminal justice.

With theft being a major concern to businesses, the job will remain a necessity for many retail companies. The many measures to prevent the loss, including cameras and other security monitoring gadgets, require loss prevention specialists to be directly involved.

According to the US Bureau of Statistics, this field is moving rapidly, with a faster than average growth rate of 15% between 2020 and 2030.

Work Environment for Loss Prevention Specialists

Most loss prevention specialists work in retail companies consisting of stores and warehouses. The remaining professionals work as trainers and consultants.

In terms of keeping everyone safe, they ensure that all safety items such as fire extinguishers, alarms, and exit doors are in good working condition and in the right places. In the case of accidents needing emergency action, they will be at the forefront to ensure minimal loss of life and property.

Depending on the rank of the worker, most loss prevention specialists work primarily at retail stores. They protect the store from significant financial losses caused by theft from shoplifters and dishonest employees. These professionals are usually a part of the security team. And, they can be seen on patrol in the shop either in plain clothes or uniform.

Bigger shops and supermarkets with advanced security systems utilizing cameras are usually also part of the monitoring team that sits in front of the screen.

Warehouses employ loss prevention specialists for a variety of functions. They include a bit of bookkeeping and accounting and their general duties to ensure adequate checks and balances, especially on the other employees.

Loss prevention specialists also work for other venues such as museums and smaller art galleries. Here they prevent theft of items and violence, which could lead to the destruction of important art pieces.

Lastly, an advanced segment of this group acts as consultants, providing professional advice. They help stores with significant security issues or assist managers needing guidance for changes in their security protocol.

Next Step

Loss prevention specialists have a real chance to help businesses maximize profit and stop bad guys from taking advantage of any lapses in the organization’s security structure. They work with a high degree of integrity and trust. Additionally, these professionals can earn decent pay and move on to become consultants with the right experience and education. You can visit the education resource center to learn about loss prevention and other related career paths.

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