Shoplifting Methods

1 in every 11 Americans shoplifts every day. Shoplifting has quickly become America’s number one property crime, causing retailers to lose some $13 billion dollars each year. You might be wondering how people are able to steal such vast amounts of goods each day. Discover some of the methods shoplifters are using to steal from vendors of all sizes, from retail chains to thrift shops.


Umbrellas - A common tactic among “professional” shoplifters is to keep a closed umbrella hanging on their elbow. Items can easily be dropped into the umbrella while browsing through aisles, and while leaning against a counter, thieves can slide objects into the umbrella without detection. The umbrella can hold a number of small objects that remain undetectable as the shoplifter leaves the store.

Newspapers – Similar to umbrellas, rolled or folded newspapers can easily hide items shoplifters wish to steal. Newspapers can be strategically rolled up, leaving a gap for the purpose of shoving small items in the gap that is created. In this way, shoplifters have another method of concealing stolen items.

Strollers – Another popular method of shoplifting is the use of baby strollers. Busy parents often pack strollers heavily with blankets, toys, and a baby, all of which merchandise can easily be hidden under. Serious shoplifters have even gone to the trouble of building false bottoms in the stroller to easily stow items. Diaper bags are another way shoplifters steal, as they can easily hide items under diapers, bottles, and other miscellaneous items.

Coats - A professional shoplifter will wear oversized or specially manufactured coats with slits in the pocket lining so that they can reach for items without being seen. Shoplifters will typically inspect an item with their exposed hand while the hidden pocket hand slips out and grabs another item. Pulling the desired item back through the lining of the coat, it is then stored in a separate pocket inside of the coat.

Shopping Bags - Many shoplifters will bring in a grocery bag from another store and fill it up with items that they hide under items that are already in their bag. In an effort to prevent this method of shoplifting from occurring, many stores will ask you to leave your bag at the customer service desk or will staple the bag shut.

Fitting Rooms – Occasionally, shoplifters will utilize fitting rooms to layer on clothing they wish to steal. Shoplifters will also wear worn out clothing so that they can put on the new clothes, discarding their grubby garments and leaving them behind.

Store Stock – With smaller “mom-and-pop” shops or thrift stores, the staff is often limited to one or two employees. When a shoplifter sees that a store has one employee, they will shop around and act as if they need something that isn’t displayed. The employee then searches the back room, leaving the shoplifter to rip off the store, unseen.

Crotch Walking – This is a theft tactic that is cleverly performed by women. They will wear a full dress or skirt into a store; place an item between their thighs, and walk out of the business undetected. Women with stronger thighs have been known to shoplift larger ticket items, including electronics.