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How do store security tags work?

Updated February 21, 2017

A store security tag is a small plastic device that emits a high-frequency radio signal. This signal can be turned on and off by the store. The security tag emits this signal at all times, so if a customer tries to leave the store without paying for an item, the tag sets off an alarm at the exit. Security alarms are gateways that customers pass through when exiting a store. They look like common metal detectors, though, in most cases, they do not actually respond to high quantities of metal.

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The Basics

A store security tag is a small plastic device that emits a high-frequency radio signal. This signal can be turned on and off by the store. The security tag emits this signal at all times, so if a customer tries to leave the store without paying for an item, the tag sets off an alarm at the exit. Security alarms are gateways that customers pass through when exiting a store. They look like common metal detectors, though, in most cases, they do not actually respond to high quantities of metal.

Location

Store security tags are typically placed by the manufacturer inside the plastic cases of CDs, DVDs and video games. They are ideal for small items that are easily concealed. If a person conceals a CD inside their coat, a store worker won't necessarily be able to see this. However, if the security alarm picks up the tag's signal, the alarm will go off when the person tries to leave the store without paying for the item or having the tag deactivated. The only way to deactivate a security tag is to buy the item.

Deactivation

Once a consumer has purchased an item, a device built into the checkout counter can deactivate the security tag. This device is, essentially, a high-powered magnet that, when the item is moved near it, neutralises the signal being emitted from the security tag. This device emits a loud "beep," signifying that the security tag has been deactivated. Only now can a consumer leave the store without setting off an alarm. Also, once a tag has been deactivated, it cannot be reactivated.

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About the Author

Stephen Lilley is a freelance writer who hopes to one day make a career writing for film and television. His articles have appeared on a variety of websites. Lilley holds a Bachelor of Arts in film and video production from the University of Toledo in Ohio.

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