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March 22, 2023

Be aware of the most common shoplifting techniques being used in supermarkets

Article written by: The Veesion team
Reading time: 5 min
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Shoplifting is an issue for both small local shops and large supermarkets. Concealing an item is one of the most common shoplifting techniques. This can be done in several ways, depending on the resourcefulness of the thief. To help you better to spot the different shoplifting techniques and catch shoplifters, let’s look at each of the techniques in more detail.


>> Infography: The 6 Most Common Techniques used by Shoplifters in Store

Concealment is the most common shoplifting technique used in supermarkets

In-store theft damages retailers’ profits. It’s actually the main cause of retail shrinkage. However, there are solutions available. And to implement them, it’s useful to be aware of the main concealment techniques used by shoplifters.

Concealing items in a bag

Concealing items in a bag is one of the traditional forms of shoplifting. An item can be concealed, for example, in a backpack, shopping bag or trolley. Thieves may incorporate a false bottom in the bag or add pockets that are difficult to detect. They may also slide one shopping bag inside another, and then hide items in the space between the two bags. Supposedly ‘forgetting’ items in a bag when paying at the checkout is also a common practice in supermarkets.

Thieves may also resort to using what could be considered ‘tools of the trade’. For example, a metal-lined bag. Such a bag is designed to prevent any security tags on items from triggering the alarm system. A magnet placed inside a conventional bag may also be used to the same effect. Similarly, small inconspicuous, box-shaped devices, known as alarm jammers, can be used to interfere with the signals emitted by security tags.

Hiding products in clothing

Clothing can be used to conceal any number of products, especially small items. Shoplifters may hide items in their trouser or coat pockets. Or up their sleeves.

This technique consists in taking an item of the shelf and then slipping it into clothing while pretending to put it back on the shelf. This sleight of hand technique is especially seen in make-up aisles of supermarkets (e.g. theft of lipstick, perfume, and foundation tubes). These are namely products that can be tested in the store: shoppers can apply lipstick or foundation on their hand to test how it looks on their skin. These items will obviously be picked up and put back by customers.

Hiding items in prams

Another shoplifting technique is to hide products in a pram. In the mind of a potential thief, this is the last place a security guard would think to look. The bottom of a pram can be covered with a blanket, which is why thieves consider it an especially good hiding place.

In addition, it’s easy to hide items amongst previously purchased baby products (such as food, baby toys, wipes and bottles).

Modifying tags, stickers and labels: a somewhat sneakier shoplifting technique

Some shoplifting tactics are, at first glance, less obvious than concealment. One of these techniques is sticking the wrong label on products. This especially concerns products that are sold loose and by weight, such as fruit and vegetables. When weighing the food items, the thief will stick a label displaying a lower price per kilo.

  • If the store sells a range of similar but differently priced products, the thief will just select the lowest price per kilo.
  • The thief may also place more of the food item into the bag after weighing.

Switching tags is another form of theft. For example, the price tag of a cheaper item will be stuck over the original product label. At the checkout, the correct item is displayed, but at a lower price. That way, store staff can easily be fooled.

Detecting theft in real time

Our list of shoplifting techniques will help you to spot the various body gestures and movements made by a potential shoplifter. These can be summed up as follows:

  • leaving items in a bag, and not paying for them at the checkout;
  • slipping items into clothing;
  • using security tag jammers;
  • hiding new items amongst previously purchased items;
  • switching product labels and tags.

Until recently and regardless of the size of the retail store, the body gestures associated with these shoplifting techniques were only detected by the store’s staff. Detecting theft is namely the job of the security guard, who may be assisted by surveillance cameras placed in strategic areas around the store. However, the human eye is not infallible. This is where AI (Artificial Intelligence) can be of great help in considerably increasing the detection rate of body movements associated with theft.

An algorithm capable of detecting the body movements of a thief

Veesion is video surveillance software that uses an algorithm to actually detect the body movements and gestures of shoplifters. It’s installed on the stores’ existing surveillance cameras. It analyses camera footage in real time to detect suspicious behaviour. Each time suspicious behaviour is detected, a push notification is sent to the security guard’s and/or store manager’s terminal (e.g. phone, computer or tablet). Please note that this is not the same as facial recognition technology. AI technology actually works to protect the identity of shoppers. Veesion enables the security officer to act quickly to intercept the suspected shoplifter.

Intervening quickly to prevent shoplifting

Thanks to our detection system, your store’s security staff will be able to act quickly to intercept any suspected shoplifter. This can be done before the shoplifter even gets to the checkout or leaves the store. The security officer can confront the suspect with the recorded footage. In most cases, the suspected shoplifter will then take out and return the concealed items.

The risks of being caught shoplifting

The security or store manager may decide to reach an amicable agreement with the person caught shoplifting. This may involve asking the person to pay for the items stolen, and then recording their information in the store’s shoplifting database. The person will then be banned from entering the store in the future.

That said, according to French law, shoplifting is classified as simple theft punishable by a prison sentence of 3 years and a fine of €45,000. The store manager may therefore decide to request the intervention of a judicial police officer and file a complaint. This particularly applies in cases where the thief has already stolen from the store before.

In summary, it’s clear that thieves have devised a variety of different shoplifting tactics. These include concealment, use of jammers and label switching; thieves are certainly not short of ideas. Unless coupled with recognition software, surveillance cameras alone do not allow stores to detect all suspicious behaviour associated with shoplifting. AI is unquestionably very effective in identifying the body gestures and movements of shoplifters. Thanks to this tool, a store’s security staff can be alerted in real time of any theft in progress and thus act quickly. The camera footage can also be used as evidence of the crime committed. Theft in ‘flagrante delicto’ is a crime punishable by law.

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