'Tis the Season For Stealing

Holiday shopping season often means a shoplifting spike, stores are investing in security measures.
3:00 | 11/15/13

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Transcript for 'Tis the Season For Stealing
Black friday can be a discount shopp shopper's dream. During the holiday season, in particular, some will be looking for more than a discount, a real steal. To the tunes of billions of dollars. As retailers prepare for the big sale season, they're also going to great lengths to prepare for those trying to avoid paying at all. Abc's rebecca jarvis got a look behind the security cameras. ♪ Reporter: 'Tis the season for finding a great bargain. Doors are opening early with the juiciest deals this year coming before you could even digest your turkey. But as more retailers line up to steal the thanksgiving spotlight, there are those bad apples fryis trying to steal from them. Shoplifting costs retail industries more than $26 billion last year. And the holidays only fan the flames. What is it about the holidays that make people steal? People are more likely to commit theft during the holidays because of the crowds, because of the frenzy. They're figuring retailers are really distracted. They're not going to notice. They are. Reporter: They're noticing? They are. Reporter: Rachel styer wrote "the steal" a cultural history of shoplifting. Some shoplift for the thrill. Some shoplift to soothe anxiety. Stealing the item helps them address the anxiety that they're feeling. Other people shoplift out of revenge. They feel that they are owed something. Reporter: The early openings, the long lines, the big sales. All of this chaos add cover for the shoplifters. I would say increased holiday traffic always creates a higher sense of urgency. As protection, something lifts up, the traffic, a priority all year long. Reporter: Industry speak for guarding your goods. Stores spend so much time, money and effort trying to make their merchandise look gorgeous and appealing to people. And of course, not everyone can afford the gorgeous and appealing merchandise. That doesn't stop people from desiring it. Reporter: It is not just a few sticky fingers. This stuff can get really organized. They call them flash robs, coordinated groups of thieves who swarm stores. Watch as this chicago area clothing store gets hit. In some cases the theft is loud and crazy look at this florida wal-mart. In others it is surprisingly calm. Authorities believe the trend began with teenagers stealing candy and drinks look you see here. But there is now also concern that organized criminals are adopting the same tactics making off with thousand of dollars in merchandise. Even families are getting into the act. In florida, police suspect this family of nine use their children to hit the local toys "r" us. Then there is the stealing that is more subtle. People returning items to make a profit. In 2012, $9 billion worth of return fraud, 30% of that occurred during the holiday season. So what is that? 3 billion? 3 billion. A lottery tailers are losing to people bringing back items they want to return without a receipt. Guess what they didn't buy it there in the first place. Retailers are really busy this time of year. They're so overwhelmed. They don't have time to double check. Reporter: Big stores like target have been on top of all the theft for a while now. Investing millions on security cameras and personnel hoping to catch shoplifters in the act. Target let us inside for a rare look at their crime lab and investigations headquarters in minneapolis. This is a very secure environment. We do make sure only people that are authorized come into the building. Reporter: Next time you are in a target, remember you are never really alone. We can watch several, several stores. We can pull up different live shots. Reporter: The holidays are especially brutal on supermarkets. These stores usually only make a few cents profit on each item. In stores like this one in massachusetts, they put pictures like this on the wall. The loss to thieves nationally for supermarkets comes to $6 billion a year. The cost has to be made up somehow. If we aren't profitable we have to charge more for what we are selling. Reporter: In many cases it is not the customers after the free stuffing, most of the theft that occurs at your grocery store happens right here at the checkout, at the hand of the employees. Watch how this works. An overhead view of the cashier, items traveling past the bar code. See the red target. That is a turkey. What is happening right now, the cashier is suddenly jumping it around the scanner so it is not being rung up as a charge. Although it is mixed in with other items that are. Now, with the turkeys, some places really see a spike, as many as four times more turkeys heisted in november and december, than in the rest of the year combined. Basically when you see that turkey being stolen, they have to sell 50 more turkeys to make up for the one that was given away for free. We asked maureen about what happens to the people who get caught? And while she was reluctant to discuss the actual incidence of insider theft in her establishment, he said everybody is told when they start here that, yes, they are on camera. When we hire folks we tell them we have cameras in the stores. Reporter: But the cameras are there primarily to protect the stores. Customers should be cautious this team of year too. Just be aware of also your personal security. Make sure you are not leaving your bags unattended. If you are going to try something on or paying at the register, keep your belongings close by. If you think all of this only comes at a cost to the retailers, think again. Stores charge the theft right back to you. By raising prices on everything they sell. Meaning, that bargain in your shopping cart, well it may not be such a steal after all. I'm rebecca jarvis for "nightline" in new york.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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