Sonitrol Security

Sonitrol Commercial Security Blog ... by Joe Wilson



How to Recognize a Shoplifter and Better Secure Your Business

Posted by Joe Wilson

Jun 6, 2022 9:00:00 AM

Shoplifting is a major issue in Western Canada. Even with the decrease in shoplifting in 2020, there were 90,904 police reported incidents of shoplifting under $5,000. Of those, 20,791 were in Alberta and 20,005 were in British Columbia. Manitoba and Saskatchewan had significantly less but still in the thousands at 7,447 and 3,103, respectively.

One effective way to help prevent people from stealing is to train your staff to recognize the signs and know what situations increase the likelihood of shoplifting, as well as enhancing your business security solution

To help train your management and staff, here are some common signs of shoplifting:

Large groups

Shoplifters will often work in groups. This is because large groups of people can spread your attention and create disturbances, allowing one or more people to shoplift while you’re distracted.


If you see someone loitering inside or outside your store for long periods of time, you should be on alert. They could be waiting for the right time to steal, or simply be deliberating which is the easiest item to steal on the premises. 

To help deter them from stealing, ask them if they need help finding what they’re looking for. If they’re authentically looking for something, they should interact. If they were planning to steal, speaking with them and singling them out may be enough to deter them.

Frequent visits

If someone comes to your store frequently but doesn’t buy anything, they could be scoping out the store to determine what is easiest to steal and when.


If someone looks more uncomfortable or nervous than a customer should, it may mean they are thinking of doing something bad. Pacing, sweating, picking up different items but not showing interest and not making eye contact can be signs that a customer is nervous and considering stealing something.

Loose clothing

If customers are wearing clothes that are unnecessarily large or bulky for the weather conditions, they may be using it to conceal items. Loose clothing should be even more alarming if the person is holding it awkwardly or taking abnormal steps. These may be signs that they’re trying to hold something inside of the clothing.

Big bags

While big bags can simply be a convenience, you should keep an eye out on customers with large bags. Like clothing, they can be used to conceal items.

Bringing lots to the fitting room

Fitting rooms are an excellent place for shoplifters to throw something under their clothes and walk out of the store with stolen goods. If you have a fitting room in your store, be sure to count how many items are going into the change room and pay attention to what the customer carries out and leaves behind.

If the customer has a large number of clothes, limit how many they can have in the changing room at a time so that you can better manage what’s going in and out.

Unlikely customers

If someone comes to your store who does not look like your typical customer, you should be cautious. While a group of teens in a store for middle aged professionals may be buying a gift for someone, they could also be up to no good.

Lots of size small returns

It is not uncommon for shoplifters to try and return items they stole to try and get cash or store credit. If someone comes in with items in size small, you will want to be weary. Size is usually on the top of the pile, making it easy to steal. You should be especially cautious if the person returning to them doesn’t appear to wear a size small.

Excessive questions

If someone comes in with an excessive amount of questions or calls for help, keep an eye on anybody else who entered with them. They may be trying to divert your attention away from something else.

Similarly, thieves or their accomplices may ask for out of stock items and try to get you to check in back so they can steal while you are gone.

How to deter shoplifting at your business

To help deter and prevent shoplifting, consider these tips:

  • Train staff on these suspicious behaviours and sign
  • Make sure staff know what to do if they suspect a shoplifter
  • Open your store layout so that you have good sight lines to all corners of the store
  • Avoid cluttered, unkempt displays
  • Limit the number of large signs to avoid obscuring views
  • Put small and popular items close to the register
  • Install bright lighting
  • Have registers close to door so people must pass you as they exit the store

Most importantly, be sure you have installed a verified security system. Not only will this system catch crime in the act, but it can also be a deterrent to would-be criminals. It will also help resolve any disputes if they should arise.

Unlike regular CCTV solutions that can only be used after the fact, verified security systems have professionals who verify crimes as they happen - meaning they can dispatch and guide law enforcement to the criminal, increasing the rate of apprehension. 

So if you feel like your business is at high risk for shoplifting and are looking for a solution to keep your team safe and catch criminals, contact us today for a free security audit.

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Topics: Retail Security, Pharmacy and Drug Store Security

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Joe Wilson, Owner of Sonitrol Western Canada

We provide our customers with the best commercial security solutions and quality service backed by our unique Guarantee and Commitment to Service. It's something unverified conventional alarm companies simply cannot guarantee!

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