Techniques for Identifying Shoplifting

Written by joanna swanson
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Techniques for Identifying Shoplifting
Identifying a shoplifter can save a retail store a lot of money. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

One of the largest problems for retail businesses is shoplifting. Smaller items that are not clearly visible to employees are common targets of shoplifters, but larger items and even clothing can be shoplifted. Identifying a shoplifter can be difficult, but there are several things that employees can watch for to try to catch shoplifters. Remember that a person has not shoplifted if the item is in full sight and they have not left the store. Attempting to hide the item does constitute shoplifting, however.


Shoplifters will often try to distract employees while they are shoplifting. Have your employees on the floor pay attention to each customer as he enters and shops so that he does not have any private time to hide items. Also, watch for groups that come in and then quickly separate so that they are hard to watch at all times. One member may also approach any employee and begin asking questions to distract the employee from the others who are shoplifting.


To get stolen items out of a store, shoplifters may also use clothing to hide items. Women can hide items between their legs under a full skirt. Good shoplifters can even hide large items this way. Large clothing can be used to hide items and may have hooks or extra pockets hidden inside to hold things. A customer who always has a hand in her coat pocket may have cut a slit in it to hide her hand as she grabs items. If dressing rooms are not closely monitored, shoplifters may put on unpurchased clothes under their clothes and try to walk out.

Hiding Devices

Shoplifters can also use devices to help them hide stolen items. Shopping or paper bags sitting at a shopper's feet can have stolen items dropped into them. Re-usable bags that are not from local stores or dirty and worn paper bags can mean a shopper is attempting to shoplift. Purses or slightly open umbrellas can be used to hide items, as can baby strollers or carriages. A newspaper can also hide small items.

Physical Tells

People who are shoplifting often exhibit physical signs that they are shoplifting or under stress. Their eyes often move frantically, looking for people who might observe them hiding items. They may also appear nervous or anxious and may refuse service. Shoplifters often loiter around an area, looking at items but not purchasing them. Watch the way people walk; hiding items about the body can make walking difficult.

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