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Store theft on rise in past year

Theft and organized retail crime is continuing to grow, as consumers crowd local malls and shopping centers during the busy holiday shopping season.

Approximately 67 percent of retailers surveyed reported an increase in organized retail theft in the past year, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation. About 96 percent of surveyed companies had experienced organized retail crime in the past year. Losses averaged $726,351 per $1 billion in sales, an increase from $700,259 last year.

» RELATED: Safety measures heightened at local shopping centers for Black Friday weekend

“These crimes happen across the country every day, with criminals getting smarter, more brazen, more aggressive and sometimes even attacking store employees and shoppers,” said Bob Moraca, NRF vice president for loss prevention.

Local malls have been impacted by theft in recent months. Earlier this month, two men asked to see a Gucci watch worth $4,600 at a Dayton Mall jewelry store. The man who had the watch on his wrist reportedly looked at the clerk and stated, “I’m sorry,” before fleeing the mall.

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The survey found six in 10 retailers had recovered merchandise from physical fencing locations including pawn shops, flea markets kiosks and temporary “pop-up” stores, about the same as last year. Only 56 percent of retailers had found stolen goods online, down from 75 percent. About 28 percent had found their stolen merchandise exported illegally outside the U.S.

» RELATED: 5 tips to protect your credit card information during shopping season

Another major loss for retailers comes in the form of return fraud. Retailers expect 11 percent of purchases to be returned this year, and that 11 percent of those returns are likely to be fraudulent. That increases even more during the holidays. During the holiday season, 13 percent of purchases are expected to be returned, with 11 percent believed to be fraudulent, according to the NRF.

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