April 23, 2019 @ 6:43 AM

LPRC Research Report: EAS Detacher 2018

Loss Prevention Research Council

EAS Detacher Offender Report

Michael B. Giblin, Dt. Read Hayes

Research on the continued effectiveness of EAS technologies is one of the most frequently requested topics that the Loss Prevention Research Council’s retailer members would like to be studied. The LPRC furnishes frequent reports measuring the efficacy of individual EAS solutions with customer, offender, and associate feedback, and data coupled with sales and shrink outcomes. In 2018, the LPRC added to this offering by embarking on a series of more holistic research studies examining the EAS ecosystem and how it can adapt to today’s retail marketplace. This report is the first of that new series of research. Here, we explore the offender online community and report what types of EAS detachers are available and on what online marketplace, coupled with offender interview data. In 2019, the LPRC will continue this series of research with “Does EAS Still Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, “Tags vs Wraps vs Keepers: Testing the Effects of Various Product Protection Methods on Shrink”, and “Trusting EAS: Are Domestic Tags More Reliable?”

Narrative of Events
Imagine that you’re away on vacation. Your home is empty and unguarded, but safely locked tight while you relax on the beach. You promised you’d limit phone time, but despite yourself you check your messages to find a link a friend has shared with you. It’s a online posting in your home town stating “House Keys For Sale. Will Work On Any Lock, Any House”. The listing price? $18 dollars. With free shipping and a money back guarantee. While this wouldn’t be feasible in the residential world, it’s exactly the challenge that the world of retail faces daily.
In retail, stores spend thousands of labor hours each year applying and removing protective EAS technologies on products. It’s a very elaborate and costly ecosystem with upfront costs for the tags, wraps, and safers, along with replacement costs when they wear down or are stolen, labor costs for application and removal, and costs for EAS detection technology at each store exit. These costs, however, have a tremendous payoff: They deter most kinds of shoplifters and stop an incalculable amount of shoplifting events from ever happening.

Loss Preventin Technology Effectiveness!

They help create and reinforce an overall impression of control, as well as signal to shoppers that the store cares and isn’t “asking for theft”. There’s an important psychological effect to
reinforcing the barrier between “in the store”, where it’s okay to have products you haven’t purchased and “out of the store”. They deter opportunists; otherwise honest shoppers who may stumble onto an opportunity to steal that’s too hard to pass up. They deter low level shoplifters; people who are only trying to steal a few hundred bucks here and there and will go elsewhere if they encounter resistance or obstacles. But despite all of this, a lingering question keeps retailers up at night: Why am I bothering to lock it all up if anyone can get the key?
The primary answer to that question is because can and will are two very different outcomes. I set out to explore the underground surprisingly accessible world of online shoplifting communities and marketplaces. I was going to try to buy the keys to the castle online, with free shipping.

First things first, I needed to take off my Research Scientist hat and go at this endeavor with the same set of knowledge and resources that a typical shoplifter would have. No business credentials, no insider knowledge on technologies and where to find them, and no advanced schemes. I started where I believe a typical shoplifter interested in detachers would: with Google.

I conducted a series of Google searches, combined with searches on these marketplaces:
    • Amazon
    • Alibaba
    • Craigslist
    • eBay
    • Walmart.com
Several months before this study, LPRC Research Scientists were able to successfully purchase low gauss magnetic detachers on Walmart.com. Walmart has since addressed this, as no detacher devices of any kind were available for viewing or purchase on September 5th, 2018.

In an attempt to address the issue of illicit/makeshift detachers being used in stores for shoplifting, several Solutions Providers have designed the next generation of EAS Detachers and tags. Here we examine 5 detacher technologies, each taking a slightly different approach to achieving the goal of reducing reproducibility and aftermarket usefulness. We attempt to purchase each of these 5 detachers online, as well as previous generation detachers. In addition, LPRC conducted offender interviews for each of the 5 next-generation detacher technology sets. This report outlines the results of these endeavors.

Executive Summary of Detacher Availability Results

Executive Summary of Detacher Availability Results

Purchasing EAS Detachers: Online Outcomes

LPRC Research Scientists purchased Visa gift cards in an attempt to both protect LPRC infrastructure and simulate the way in which an offender would safeguard against personal peril while attempting to purchase detachers online. A scientist dedicated 30 minutes attempting to find and purchase each detacher on the internet, simulating a realistic window of time after which an offender would likely abandon their search. Once a suitable unit of a detacher type was found, the Scientist went through the process of ordering. Below is an outline of that process, including:
   • Price ($USD)
   • Arrival Time
   • Effectiveness (Does it work?)
   • Forced Account Creation vs Guest Checkout
   • What personal information was necessary to complete the order


On September 5th, 2018, no relevant search results were available in Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, or Miami/South Florida for “EAS”, “Detacher”, “Magnet Tag”, “Tag Remove”, “s3 Key”, “Retail Key”, or “Shoplifting”, or any combination thereof.

Facebook Marketplace
On September 5th, 2018, no relevant search results were available in Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, or Miami/South Florida for “EAS”, “Detacher”, “Magnet Tag”, “Tag Remove”, “s3 Key”, “Retail Key”, or “Shoplifting”, or any combination thereof.

Alpha Traditional S3 Key

Alpha’s S3 key was not available on Amazon or Walmart.com, they were available for sale on eBay as part of bundles with tags when using the following search term:
I purchased 25 spider wraps and a working Alpha S3 key from an eBay seller in Baton Rouge Louisiana for $85.00 USD. It arrived within 5 days in dirty and slightly damaged but fully functioning condition. Upon presenting this information and the S3 key itself during a Learning Lab at LPRC IMPACT 2018, the Alpha team was able to provide me with the exact store that they’d sold the key to: A Toys-R-Us in Louisiana that had recently gone out of business. The team also briefed me on their current process to prevent such sales, where they audit these marketplaces using these search terms and purchase what pops up to keep it out of deviant hands.

Alpha Coded S3 Key

Alpha’s Coded S3 key was not available on Amazon, eBay, Walmart.com, or any other source. Alibaba.com connected me with individuals that offered to get me magnetic detachers of any strength, but declined my request for this key, advising me that (paraphrasing) “it is patented technology, we can’t get you one.”

Siffron LM Strobe Detacher
Siffron’s strobe detacher was not available for sale on eBay, Walmart.com, or any other source. Alibaba.com connected me with individuals that offered to get me magnetic detachers of any strength, but declined my request for this detacher, advising me that (paraphrasing) “you’ll need to contact the tag manufacturer for this special detacher”

Siffron RF

Siffron’s RF remote detacher was not available for sale on eBay, Walmart.com, or any other source. Our Alibaba.com source was under the impression that a strong magnet would release these tags, which was incorrect. She was unable to get me the proper detacher.

CIS Magnet/IR Detacher
CIS’s detacher was not available for sale on eBay, Walmart.com, Amazon, or anywhere else.

Low Gauss (5,000+)
While low-gauss detachers were not available on Walmart.com, they were available for order on Amazon and eBay.

I placed orders for 3 on Amazon and 1 on eBay, all for $12-$25 USD. 1 arrived from each source within 30 days in working order and appeared brand new. However, 2 of the amazon orders were a bait-and-switch fulfilled from China. Instead of a detacher, I received an envelope containing only a note stating, “Your actual package would arrive soon” and a confusing unrelated “gift” in the meantime: A plastic bag meant to be shrunken around a remote control using a hair dryer, effectively laminated the remote control. One of the actual detachers (the two lowest priced detachers I ordered) never arrived, while the second arrived weeks later. Interestingly, one of the tags was placed on Amazon masquerading as a child’s toy, listed with the title “Childplaymate Magnet EAS Supermarket”.

I placed an order for one on Alibaba for under $25USD that arrived within 30 days, appeared brand new, and was in working order.

High Gauss (12,000+)

I placed an order on tmart.com for a 12,000GS magnetic detacher. Upon attempting to place this order, TMART declined my order, stating that they are not allowed to ship this item to a US mailing address.

Very High Gauss (15,000+)
I placed an order on tagdetacher.com for a 15,000GS magnetic detacher for $50USD. It arrived within 15 days in seemingly brand-new condition and worked as advertised.

I placed an order on Amazon.com for a 15,000GS magnetic detacher for $70USD. It took several weeks to arrive, but it arrived in seemingly brand-new condition and worked as advertised.
Upon attempting to place an order, Alibaba forced the creation of a business account that could place a “Supplier Request”, or an open order that multiple suppliers could bid on accepting,
with an advertised 24-48 hour response time. This was the only commerce option. No business credentials, proof, or un-fake-able information was required.

Much like Alibaba, upon attempting to place an order, Global Sources also forced the creation of a business account that could place an “Inquiry”, an order bid that only went to the original supplier, with no specific advertised response time.

Alibaba and the Personal Shoplifting Concierge
Upon placing an order for the Dragon Guard 16,000GS detacher on Alibaba, within 24 hours I received email correspondence from 6 different suppliers offering to fulfill my order. One supplier was particularly helpful, sending me a friendly email asking what types of tags I “use” so she could ensure she sold me the correct detachers. She also sought me out on LinkedIn and connected with me there. This was a curious mix of due diligence and lack of caution, as she had used my ordering email address to find out who I was and seek me out. Also noteworthy is that the price for these tags was very high, at $149USD plus $50 shipping. Our correspondence is captured below. In it, our scientists simulated the experience a potential shoplifter would have, only utilizing information and materials readily available to the public online:

#1 First Contact
Hi Mike Giblin,

How are you,this is Cathy Chan from Xingjin Technology Limited.
We are 16000GS eas detacher factory.Please check the attached picture.
You can tell me the tags you use, so we can suggest you the best suitable detacher, different detacher used for different type tags.
Any questions,you can let me know.
Best Regards
Cathy Chan

#2 My Response

Hi Cathy!
I’d like detachers for the following tags, please let me know what you can sell me:
https://www.alphaworld.com/en/our-solutions/keys-detachers/multi-detacher/ There is also a version of this that requires a coded key, I’d like that as well if you can get it
https://all-tag.com/portfolio-items/q-tag/ Will your 16,000 magnet detach this?
Thank you for your help!

#3 Her Response
Hi Mike Giblin,

--The first Turtle ,we think use 16000GS can open it, because we checked the video,it is 9000GS ,and it use the same detacher to open the spider tags.The spider tags can use this 16000GS detacher.
--The LM tags need use their speical detacher,other detacher can not open it.
--We have no the third one (Alpha S3), it is patent (sic).
--The last two likns (sic) can not be opened dear, could (sic) you please send me picture ? thanks.
Any questions,you can let me know.
Best Regards
Cathy Chan

#4 My Response

#4: Here is the info from the website: The CISSSinc Gen 5 and Decoder can be customized to a unique IR signature for your brand, certain stores or even specialty zones within stores.

#5: Here is the info from the website: Q-Tag® can be RFID, along with AM and RF. It’s also the latest and greatest RFID and EAS solution that combines High Security, Versatility, Efficiency, Safety, and Marketing/Promotion.

High Security

• Q-Tag’s size, shape, and the connectivity between the tag and pin make it virtually impossible to be forcibly removed from retail merchandise.

• Q-Tag’s unique stacked RF coil offers superior EAS system detection performance to standard RF coils. Retailers no longer need large EAS tags to achieve adequate detection.

• The patented lock inside of the Q-Tag is built to withstand 110 LBs. of pull force

#5 Her Final Response

Hi Mike Giblin,

Sorry,we only have the first one 16000GS detacher.
If you need it ,you can let me know.
Best Regards

Offender Interview Results

Offender Feedback
LPRC Research Scientists interviewed 19 shoplifting offenders to gain insight into their beliefs about each of the 5 EAS Detacher technologies tested. An important aspect of this research was determining to what extent offenders are capable of understanding the technological hurdles that each detacher presents to them. While all 5 solutions should, in theory, present obstacles varying from making any large magnet ineffective to rendering any device ineffective, even the correct detacher from the wrong store or once it’s been recoded.

Offender FeedBack

Direct Offender Quotes

Alpha S3 Key with Encoder
   • Regarding the S3 Spider Wraps with Encoded Key:
          o “Spiders are fairly good. You cut the wire and they start screaming”
          o “Usually don’t mess with Spiders. Some people try to cut them, not me”
          o “It would deter me because it’s like a bomb squad” (referring to having to carefully cut a wire under pressure)
          o “I’d pop the line with snips and if it goes off, I’d run”
          o “I’d snip these off”
          o “I’d turn around” (deterred)
          o “I wouldn’t bother at all. I’ve seen these in stores and 9 times out of 10 whatever they’re attached to, that’s a felony.” (Grand Larsony due to item value)
          o “I’d try to cut it”
          o Takes a key to the plunger in an attempt to defeat. Attempt failed
          o “I’d cut the cord, I don’t think it will make noise”
          o “I wouldn’t personally mess with these”
          o “The whole thing sounds, not just when you walk out the door, the thing itself”
          o “I’d need metal wire cutters”
          o “I don’t think there’s a speaker, won’t make noise”
          o “Spider is brand name deterrent, I know it will alarm. I don’t think other generic ones will alarm”

• Regarding the Key Encoded S3 Detacher:
          o “That’s awesome. It would be a waste of time because you’d have to get the chip too. Now that’s a hard one there”
          o “That’s pretty neat. So, a typical key wouldn’t work with that?”
          o “I’d make it work. I know people”
          o “It would probably deter me to not mess with it because you’re changing up the technology with the codes. I’ve bought an s3 on the internet in the past”
          o “I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing had Siri built in to it” (impressed with technology)
          o “Probably impossible to get one of these detachers working unless you’re just trying to get in trouble”
          o “I think I can get my hands on the detacher but I don’t know about the code key”
          o “Would be great with 8 wires instead of 4. I’d buy a working detacher on Silk Road 3.0”
          o “I’d need to buy the keys too”
          o “Who am I gonna get one from!?”

Direct Offender Quotes

All Tag Q-Tag Magnet
    • Regarding the Q-Tags:
          o “Is this an Ink tag? Looks like the Wi-Fi symbol on the tag. I’m guessing it does location tracking.”
          o “I’d take the tag in the bathroom and pull it off. I don’t think it will alarm”
          o “I’d try to pull it apart”
          o “I’d leave it alone because I’d think it has ink”
          o “It has a built-in speaker”
          o “It’s a 3-alarm”
          o “It’s an ink tag”
          o “The red squiggles let me know there’s some kind of speaker in it”
          o “I’d try to burn it off”
          o “I’d try to use plyers”
          o “It’s red, that means danger”
          o “This would take too much time”
          o Tried to use a hair tie to pry it open. Attempt failed
          o “I’d try to jam something thin in and leverage it open, like a knife”
          o Tried to grip it with hands and pull it apart. Attempt failed
          o “I’d conceal inside foil”
          o “Overall I wouldn’t touch it. That Wi-Fi symbol scares me”

   • Regarding the Magnet Detacher:
         o “I’d buy a strong mineral magnet on the internet to do the same thing” (incorrect)
         o “That’s one of the easiest tags to get through because I can get the best magnet and rip it apart” (incorrect)
         o “I think I can get that magnet for 30 bucks on eBay” (incorrect)
         o “I don’t think I could buy it online”
         o “I’d ask a friend, use network of other offenders to get one”
         o “I’d order it on Amazon. They have rare earth metal magnets” (incorrect)
         o “You can buy anything on the internet”
         o “I have a friend who’s a mechanic, I’m sure he could get me a magnet strong enough” (incorrect)
         o “Even if I could get that strong of a magnet, I wouldn’t be able to conceal it”
         o “I probably have a magnet strong enough in the truck right now” (incorrect)
         o “I have a friend at Trader Joe’s, meat magnet that would open this” (incorrect)

Direct Offender Quotes

CIS Magnet/IR All-in-One
   • Regarding the Convertible Tag attached to Gen 5 Alarming Tether
         o “Looks like the regular white/tan (gator) tag”
         o “I wouldn’t mess with this right here. Them dangerous right there. That ain’t nothing to play with”
         o “I’d try to tear it off”
         o “The alarm sounds if you do anything to it pretty much. I’d leave it alone”
         o “I’d cut the wire and run”
         o “I’d use a booster bag”
         o “I would leave those alone”
         o “I’m 100 percent deterred as soon as I hear that any part of the line (tether cord) is a trip line (would alarm if cut)”
          o “If anything, I’d cut the purse strap, not mess with the tether”
          o “This would deter me in certain stores but not others. It all depends on the size of the store, how crowded it is, and its employees.”

   • Regarding the Magnet/IR All-in-One Detacher
          o “You wouldn’t know it was any different. It probably wouldn’t deter me, but I’d probably get busted (using a normal magnet, causing the tag to scream). It looks just like a regular magnet”
         o “I’d take a magnet and a laser and make it work” (incorrect)
         o “I’ll get this red light and put it with a magnet” (incorrect)
         o “A laser can detach it” (incorrect)
         o “This is impressive, I bet you’d only see it in a big city. The bigger the city, the more goes in to preventing shoplifting”
         o “I definitely wouldn’t be able to get my hands on this detacher”
         o “I’d try to buy it online”
         o “I’d try to fabricate one”
         o “I’d try to make something that would work. My uncle’s a marine”
         o “I’d try to pay someone at the store for one”
         o “You can’t get it anywhere”

Direct Offender Quotes

Siffron LM Strobe
   • Regarding the LM Tag
          o “Is it a camera?”
          o “Takes a picture of you?”
          o “Now that look like it’s got a speaker and a security code. Look at that (points to light sensor) I wouldn’t touch that with a stick and a poke”
          o “I’d try to tear it off”
          o “I’d leave the tag alone, but cut open the bottom of the box (and remove the product)”
          o “I’d try to kill the speaker with water”
          o “I’d cut the whole top of the box (where the tag sits) with a razor blade”
          o “I’d try to slide something like a credit card under the plunger”
          o “Try to use light. Looks kind of easy”
          o “This one seems a lot more sophisticated. The only thing I’d try is sticking a knifein where the plunger is and keeping it depressed as I remove it”
          o “It would alarm? It would deter me”
          o “That’s a camera right there. A surveillance camera. You try to take this off it’s gonna take a picture or something”
          o Tried to pull LM tag off the box, it alarmed
          o “That’s a camera

          o “I think it’s a camera”
          o “I think I can kill speaker with an acid kit. Meat tenderizer with herbs and salt in boiling water. Powder draino with water”
          o “I think it detaches with a magnet”
          o “Now that’s neat!!”

   • Regarding Light Strobe Detacher
          o “That’s pretty cool!”
          o “If I got caught with a detacher in a store, I mean what could they do? I could easily say that I work in another store that’s why I have it. What can they do? It’s a free country”
          o “That is pretty smart. I could probably figure something out”
          o “Online. Steal it. I’m gonna get it”
          o “Would be a heck of a lot harder. New technology is not so easy to track down”
          o “I’d think this is a flashlight if I didn’t know better”
          o “I wouldn’t even try it. When you’re talking about milliseconds and stuff like that, you’d pretty much need to buy the detacher if you can. It’s not like you can do that with an iPhone or a flashlight.”

Direct Offender Quotes

Siffron IR Turtle

   • Regarding IR Turtle Tags Secured to Vinyl Straps
          o “I thought it was a Bluetooth speaker”
          o “I’d try to cut the vinyl strap”
          o “I’ve cut these in the past, the whole thing goes off. I’d take the whole box”
          o “Looks like they beep and don’t come off easy so I’d leave it alone”
          o “I’d use a Booster box”
          o “That’s a game changer. I feel like there is no way to defeat this. I imagine if you cut it it will know, you snatch it off it make a noise, you walk out the door it makes a noise”
          o “I’d cut the vinyl”
          o “Grab it and go or cut the corner of the box and pull out the product”
          o “If you cut it it’ll set off an alarm”
          o “Bring screwdriver lift and remove. Like hot wiring a car”
          o “I’m not big on trying to get super complicated things off. I wouldn’t mess with it”
          o “If you cut anything it’s gonna go off”
   • Regarding IR Turtle Detacher
          o “I think it’s neat and I don’t think I’d be able to defeat that”
          o “I’d try to create one”
          o “I don’t think I could make one”
          o “Looks like a garage door opener”
          o “I mean if it has a specific frequency or whatever I guess that’s a tough one”

Overall Recommendations
This endeavor was unique in that LPRC Research Scientists not only interviewed active shoplifters, but began to explore their world and resources beyond Zone 4. An overall trend emerged in that previous generation detacher technologies that are prolific are generally available for purchase online for a low price in multiple locations, while next-generation technologies are not available anywhere for any price. Importantly, the availability of these detachers may be tied more heavily to their ubiquity, and in turn usefulness, moreso than to their inability to be effectively resold and used illicitly. The LPRC will need to continue to monitor the availability of these detachers as they become more widely used.

Offender perception is another important takeaway and an additional area that requires further research. While each next-generation detacher technology tested here went about achieving the goal of reducing reproducibility and aftermarket usefulness in different ways, the offender community seemed to form its initial opinion on each technology based on appearance and a rudimentary technological understanding. Offender opinions did not seem to be rooted in much logic or true understanding of whether a detacher technology presented a hurdle for them. Understanding what “appears” to be a technological hurdle for offenders is key, along with identifying the proper messaging and channels to inform the offender community on the true nature of the technological hurdle.

In 2019, the LPRC will continue this series of research with “Does EAS Still Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, “Tags vs Wraps vs Keepers: Testing the Effects of Various Product Protection Methods on Shrink”, and “Trusting EAS: Are Domestic Tags More Reliable?” Research on EAS detachers will be revisited in early 2020.