Blog, Strategy

Strategic Retail Issues: Tiger Kidnap and Social Media

An item by crime correspondent Martin Evans in yesterday’s (3rd July) Daily Telegraph newspaper highlights the unforeseen hazards of using Twitter. According to the paper, burglars monitor social networks and pick up useful information that helps them target empty homes whilst their owners are on holiday. ACPO burglary spokesman, Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, is quoted as saying “Users of social networking sites need to use caution when telling people where they are or posting messages about valuables in their possession or in their homes.” The tactic apparently forms part of the plot of upcoming film release The Bling Ring, due out later in the year, but the risk isn’t just to the rich and famous, it also applies to lesser mortals, to retail business, and encompasses more calculated crimes too.

Social media can provide business with extraordinary tools, both for marketing and for their original use in keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, and those that share interests. Small retail businesses in particular can use social media to their advantage, building up contacts with potential clients and satisfied customers alike. However there may be unforeseen consequences from sharing the wrong kind of information, particularly where employees work in sensitive or vulnerable environments. As you can imagine jewellers are generally security aware, but social media have opened up a potential chink in their armour. During my twelve years as a spokesman for the retail jewellery sector, and co-founder of SaferGems, I saw all sorts of information shared on Facebook, and some of it would have helped a criminal track staff movements or indentify times when a shop would be vulnerable. And proprietors aren’t exempt either! It’s not just junior staffs who make slip ups, and it is all too easy for anyone to innocently share information on social media sites that could be extremely useful to fraudsters or potential kidnappers; the essence of Tiger Kidnap being to build up a picture of the potential victims movements through stealth, stalking, and secret surveillance.

Tiger Kidnap

Surveillance: No need to leave the desk!

Coincidentally, only a couple of days ago managing director of Training For Success, Ian Kirke, informed me that they have developed a highly participative workshop that provides pragmatic advice to members of staff who work in vulnerable roles and high-risk organisations, for instance within the financial sector. After recently providing a number of workshops for a leading UK financial organisation they balanced an overview of current threats – how to mitigate the risks posed from social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) – with discussions and analysis of police case studies. Facilitated by a serving Detective Superintendent (and Facebook user) the programme also got to grips with a scenario-based exercise exploring what to do if a demand/threat is received and how to work alongside the police.

As a direct result of the intervention staff immediately corrected existing deficient security settings and conducted a review of potentially hazardous content. Whilst there is as yet only a small, but growing, threat of Tiger Kidnap, exactly the same techniques could apply to the jewellery sector, and my intuition tells me that jewellers need someone with the right balance of theory and ‘real life’ experience of law enforcement to analyse their weaknesses and help build up their defensive strategy.

MICHAEL HOARE Note: TFS works with organisations to minimise threats, providing training courses and consultancy to help companies and workers deal with business risks and threats. They can be contacted via