Signs of a Shoplifter: 10 Ways to Spot Thieves in Your Store


Retail theft is a major problem for many businesses. It’s estimated that nearly $50 billion of merchandise was stolen last year. While many big box retailers can afford to take a hit from lost inventory, it could shut many smaller businesses down from a sudden rise in shoplifting.

There are many precautions that businesses can take to prevent retail loss, but one of the best measures is to look for common signs of a shoplifter. There are some basic things that all retailers should look out for in their store. And while you don’t want to be suspicious of everyone, keeping a watchful eye will help protect your business.

1. Repeat Shoppers

Watch out for shoppers who have done it before. If it’s worked in the past, many shoplifters will return to try it again. Put up photos of past thieves so that you’re more likely to recognize them if they come in again.

You can also invest in military-grade facial recognition technology. Or one of the Precogs from Minority Report.

2. Outrageously Large Bags

Watch out for hoodies or oversized bags, like the outrageously large purse shown below. Even if they aren’t shoplifting, anyone who owns that should be prosecuted for something.

3. Jackets in Warm Weather

A large winter coat in July might be room for suspicion. A lesser used tactic comes in the form of Dr. Who style scarves. These can be used to hide surprisingly large objects and could be a sign of a shoplifter.

4. Lumpy Clothes with Obvious Shapes Underneath Them

Likely scenario #1: If someone happens to sneak a brand new pressure cooker up their parka, look for the outline of the pressure cooker in the parka to catch them.

5. Groups That Separate

Sometimes a small group will enter stores with the intent of shoplifting. Some will split up in order to distract employees or divide and conquer. 

6. Sweating Profusely

A shoplifter may be sweating buckets if they are feeling a bit nervous. Watch out for massive pit stains. 

7. Asking for Items That Are in the Back

For some small businesses that only have one or two employees, shoplifters will ask for items that they know are in the back. This distracts the employee, leaving the door open for theft.

8. Eyeing Employees or Security Cameras

More inexperienced shoplifters might nervously eye cameras or staff members. With this sign of a shoplister, if you feel someone paying a little too much attention to your or your team, stare at them back.

9. Huge Jeans or Hoodies

Keep an especially wary eye out for JNCO jeans. Those things can hide a small family.

10. Stray Price Tags

Some thieves will switch price tags so that an expensive item will ring up for much less. Watch out for tampering or torn price tags.

Other Signs of a Shoplifter

For more assistance in tracking down shoplifting and asset security, check out KORONA POS software. Every subscription comes with inventory management, detailed employee reporting, and customizable software access. These will help your products on your shelves instead of inside someone’s giant pair of jeans.

About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.

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