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Target Scam Exposes "Enormous Issue" With Self-Checkout

Retail theft is getting out of control, claims a loss prevention expert.

Over the last year, Target has made headlines for imposing item limits, ramping up security, and slashing hours of operation for self-checkout lanes. The controversial changes are aimed at preventing theft, but many customers are fed up with Target's evolving restrictions. While self-checkout adds value to the overall shopping experience, loss prevention experts say the scan-and-go kiosks are becoming a financial liability for Target amid surging rates of theft.

RELATED: New Law Could Ban Self-Checkout at Walmart and Target.

"It's essentially putting customers on the honor system, which you can only imagine how bad that can go," explained Cory Lowe, the director of research at the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC), in an interview with local news station CBS 12.

While self-checkout is "very desirable" for customers, there is a huge "risk of shopper error while using the systems," Lowe said. For instance, a Florida resident was recently accused of swapping barcode stickers on Pokémon trading card packs while operating Target's self-checkout machine.

Richard Reppert has racked up more than two dozen counts of theft and fraud after hustling self-service kiosks at multiple Target locations in Florida, according to police reports obtained by CBS 12. He reportedly paid $4.99 for items that normally go for upwards of $50 each, and did so for three consecutive months before getting caught.

"It is an enormous issue," Lowe said in reference to Reppert's fraud allegations.

"It's one of the issues that is constantly at the top of mind of anyone who has self-checkout. Just because you have opened up yourself, you created a vulnerability, within your organization," he continued.

RELATED: Walmart and Target Anti-Theft Measures Could Be "Final Nail in the Coffin," Shoppers Say.

Several strategies exist for tackling retail shrinking, many of which Target is already enforcing at certain stores.

"There are systems to track and ensure that [what] you're taking out [of] the self-checkout area [has] actually been paid for," Lowe said, such as "some receipt checking" and "reducing the number of items that are allowed to be scanned at a self-checkout area."

In more advanced cases like that of Target, a self-checkout loyalty membership may be beneficial, he added.

"Restricting self-checkouts to only people who have identified themselves, so if I'm a loyalty card member," Lowe told CBS 12. "It's a value exchange, right? I'm trading as personally identifiable information for reduced friction, shopping."

Target hasn't hinted at any membership of this kind, at least not yet. However, multiple reports have suggested that the retailer plans to install new anti-theft technology in its self-checkout lanes later this year.

The high-tech security mechanism is called Truscan. According to USA Today, it's "designed to detect if there is anything near a kiosk that has not been scanned. It will then release audio and visual cues if an item isn't scanned correctly." The technology will keep a digital record of customers with a history of improper scanning.

Truscan is expected to roll out sometime this year, per reports.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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