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A solid retail security system along with knowing the signs and traits that shop stealers often show is a surefire way to ensure the stock in your store is safe from theft. Here’s a few you will want to look out for:-

1. Oversized, baggy or out of place clothing

If someone is wearing long, oversized clothes or long clothes that look out of place (a baggy jumper on a hot summer's day for example), this can sometimes be a sign that the person may try to hide goods in their clothing.

Inversely if it’s the middle of winter and someone doesn’t have a coat or is wearing skimpy clothing, this could be a sign they’re planning on stealing a coat or jacket.

If something looks out of place it’s worth taking note and keeping an eye out – for example, if someone constantly has their hands in their pockets, this could be a sign that they’ve cut holes in the liner to allow them to move their hands out of the bottom of their jacket to steal items without being noticed.

2. Distracting Sales Staff

Often a technique used by shoplifters is to work in pairs. One person will distract the sales staff whilst the other does the stealing. If a person is deliberately trying to get you to move to a certain position or trying to make you move away from someone you’re trying to watch, this can be a sign they’re working with someone to get you out of the way so their partner can steal when you are distracted or can’t see them.

Particularly keep an eye on people who don’t seem overly interested in the items they’re asking you about.

3. Out of Place Behaviour

If someone is planning on stealing their behaviour can sometimes give them away. Watch out for people who:-

  • Are sweating when it’s not hot
  • Seem overly nervous
  • Seem flushed or red of face
  • Are talking with a dry mouth or talking very quickly
  • Are talking with friends or others in a fast, suspicious manner
  • Look at the ceiling (looking for camera positions) or seem to be ‘scoping the place’
  • Are regularly looking at where sales staff are located
  • Leave the store very quickly
  • Walk funny, tug at their clothing or do other ‘out of place’ movements that most shoppers don’t make

4. Out of place accessories

Big bags, coats and other accessories can make great hiding places for shoplifters. Another item that’s used extensively by shop stealers are umbrellas. Using an umbrella the shop stealer will walk along with the umbrella hanging from their arm or elbow. The umbrella will be typically be unclasped but not opened and they can simply drop items into the umbrella and walk out of the store.

5. Hanging around in the same spot

If a person is hanging around in the same spot for what seems like longer than normal, they could be waiting for the right time to steal something, building up the courage to or figuring out their strategy for stealing an item.

6. Taking multiple items into a dressing room

You will find this method is tried in clothing stores pretty regularly. A shopper will take multiple items into the dressing rooms and try to put items on underneath their own clothing, attempting to remove the security tag. Also another strategy is they will wear old or torn clothing and simply put on new clothing and walk out of the store.

7. Body additions, slings and casts

There’s plenty of stories around where thieves have used fake arm casts, slings and even fake pregnant bellies to steal items. If someone is displaying any of the signs above and they also have a cast that doesn’t look quite right (for example, the cast looks overly large, doesn’t have padding or is made of a strange material) this can be a sign that the person is using this as a tool to hide stolen items.

8. Don’t look for people, look for actions and behavior

Just like humans, shop stealers come in all shapes and sizes, ages, colours and backgrounds. It could be kids, old ladies, a young mum or a tradie. There’s no typical shop stealer that fits a type of look. This being the case it’s important for you and your employees to look out for suspicious actions and behaviour rather than types of people.

"There is no stereotypical shop stealer. It can be anyone."

9. The Backroom

Another method is profiling a store that only has one employee on (either by staffing or if it’s close to closing time, etc) and getting them to go into the backroom for something. Whilst the employee is in the back room the thief (or a partner) will steal items and most times leave the store before the employee has even come out.

10. Don’t Forget About Employees

No-one likes to think it but employees can be cast under the spell of an opportunity too good to pass up. Some of the more bitter cases can be employees that have taken small amounts over an extended period of time. This can soon mount up to thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars worth or stock or cash taken from the business.

Ultimately the goal of a store shouldn’t be to ‘catch’ shop stealers, it should be to reduce and prevent as much as possible the theft in the first place.

Having a solid Retail Security System in place and well trained employees is going to help reduce theft in your stores and make for a healthy business.

Easitag is an Australian based business that specialises in theft reduction solutions by helping store owners install retail security systems and security tags.

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