You’ve been there hundreds of times, it’s just another trip to Wal-Mart. You pick up what you need and check out at a self-service register. Suddenly, an intimidating security officer steps in front of you and accuses you of not paying for everything. You’re only allowed to leave the store after pleading your innocence at length.
Think that’s the end of your worries? Think again. Wal-Mart may now send you a civil demand from an attorney for expenses they believe they’re owed—even without a criminal conviction. It’s something that could happen to anyone.
Steps to protect yourself while shopping
To avoid unexpected accusations of shoplifting—even for the most upstanding shoppers—there are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Keep merchandise in shopping carts or baskets where it is in plain sight.
- Do not take unpaid merchandise into bathrooms.
- Skip self-checkout kiosks and go to a staffed register.
What to do if accused of shoplifting
You’ve taken all proper precautions, but a store still suspects you of foul play. Here’s what you should do if accused of stealing:
- Remain calm and collected: It won’t benefit you to get upset or angry and may even cause the situation to become worse.
- Be prepared to stay in the store: Stores may detain people they think have shoplifted until law enforcement arrives, but they must have probable cause.
- Get in touch with a lawyer: If a store decides to press charges, you’ll want the help of an attorney to represent you in the legal proceedings.
Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you may find yourself in situations beyond your control. Being prepared to respond to unexpected accusations can put you in a stronger position to defend yourself.