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Flash mobs pose threat to retailers: Marsh

Flash mobs pose threat to retailers: Marsh

NEW YORK—Marsh Inc. is warning retailers of potential risks posed by criminal “flash mobs” that might suddenly swarm stores to steal merchandise during the holiday shopping season.

In a statement, the New York-based brokerage unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. noted that while flash mobs—groups organized through social media to suddenly assemble in a public place—are generally thought of as harmless or entertaining, thieves that take advantage of flash mob techniques to organize and overwhelm stores present a risk this holiday shopping season.

Marsh noted that 10% of retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation this summer reported being victimized by at least one criminal flash mob event over the previous 12 months, with the occurrences often resulting in injuries to customers or employees, theft and property damage.

Groups directed to specific locations

Marsh noted that, using social media, criminals can direct large groups of individuals to specific locations to disrupt business and traffic, with the chaos that sometimes results escalating to a level that can't be controlled by loss prevention, mall security or police.

In a report released Thursday, Marsh suggests several steps retailers could follow to prepare for or respond to a flash mob, including monitoring social media sites to identify potential threats and reviewing business interruption plans and insurance programs.

Marsh also recommended training employees on how to respond to disorderly conduct, assault, theft and looting; developing appropriate internal and external communications plans prior to an event; and communicating regularly with local law enforcement.