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Warning Signs

A reminder: Although the warning signs described below are common to many records thieves, most people who exhibit these signs are not thieves.

If you notice these behaviors in a board member, employee, volunteer, or researcher; be alert, not suspicious. But if you see multiple warning signs, pay attention and consider taking further actions.

Insider (employee, board member or volunteer)

  • Establishes his own rules
  • Arrives at work early or stays late
  • Leaves frequently for no obvious reason
  • Is secretive about activities and sensitive when questioned
  • Warns others when a supervisor approaches
  • Is not a “team player”
  • Does not take vacation
  • Aggressively collects related materials outside of work
  • Is experiencing pressures in his/her personal life which could trigger financial problems


  • Submits voluminous records requests or requests items unrelated to the stated research topic; browses rapidly through documents
  • Examines materials on other tables or carts and scans materials being used by other researchers
  • Distracts staff or researchers
  • Seems preoccupied with the surroundings, including frequent monitoring of attendants, cameras, or mirrors; shields materials from electronic or human monitors
  • Fails to remain at assigned station; moves to dark corners or visually obstructed areas; makes frequent trips to lockers, copiers, reference desks, restrooms, or outside
  • Behaves obnoxiously to discourage staff attention or conversely, behaves in an overly friendly manner with staff and attempts to curry favor
  • Demonstrates a sense of self-importance or “VIP” status; demands substantial attention from staff
  • Fails to follow rules, even after being corrected