How are EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) Systems Defeated

How are EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) Systems Defeated


Shoplifting is a major cause for shrinkage in the retail industry. It is estimated that there are more than 27 million shoplifters in the US. Theft causes a shrinkage of more than $50 billion to the US retail industry and of this shoplifting accounts for 36.5% of the losses. Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems have been put in place by most retailers to reduce the shrink caused by shoplifting to the retail industry. However, the shoplifters have also become smarter with time and have worked out ways to defeat the EAS systems. The current article provides the ways in which shoplifters are beating the EAS systems and how retailers can strengthen their EAS systems to reduce shoplifting losses.

Using Signal Blocking Materials

Some of the radio frequency tags can be blocked by using blocking materials. It is well known that the item is attached to or placed in a container lined with blocking materials like foil can beat the EAS. A thoroughly foil lined container can make it difficult for them to detect shoplifting by defeating the EAS. When a retail product with the tag attached to it is kept in a foil-lined container and taken through the field of monitoring provided by a pedestal or underfloor system, it is highly likely that the system will not communicate with the security system and the alarm will not be sounded. This makes shoplifting undetected.

Using Simple Hand Tools

Older type of radio frequency tags can be easily deactivated by using simple hand tools. They can be slit by using hand tools which allows to remove them easily. Shoplifters can remove the RF tags before leaving the store by slitting it. Some electromagnetic and acoustic-magnetic strips can also be rendered unusable by using a strong intensity magnet. By using this method, the shoplifters will be able to either remove the tag or make it dysfunctional before leaving the store which will ensure that no alarm will be sounded when they pass through the monitoring system. 

Using Specialized Tools

There are specialized tools available in the market which can be used for deactivating the surveillance tags. Deactivators are sold in the market which can be used for rendering the tags unusable. Deactivated tags can defeat the EAS as they will not be detected in the monitoring system and the alarm will not be sounded. Using of specialized tools makes it very easy for shoplifters to beat the EAS which results in shrink in the retail industry.

Dummy Tags

Many retailers try to place dummy tags to overcome the problem of shoplifting. They believe that they can eliminate shoplifting and the shrinkage it costs to the retail industry by putting an alternative deterrent in the form of dummy tags instead of high-quality tagging systems. Shoplifters have become intelligent and evolved over time. most of the times they will be able to detect the dummy tags from the real EAS tags. This encourages them to indulge in shoplifting and cause significant pain to the retail industry. Using dummy tags is thus an inefficient way for loss prevention and shrinkage in the retail industry and only encourages the shoplifters.

Buying Tag Detaching Keys

Many retailers manufacture and also sell their tag detaching keys which are easily available in the online market. These tag detaching keys are purchased easily by the shoplifters and other unscrupulous elements who can use them to indulge in shoplifting. Many of these tag detaching keys can also be found on popular e-commerce websites like eBay which makes it very easy for the shoplifters to buy. These keys can be used to detach the EAS tags from the products which can then be easily shoplifted as they will not be detected by the monitoring system.

Strengthening EAS for Reducing Shoplifting

The most important thing for reducing shoplifting is creating a bond with the customers. Acknowledging the customers with a smile and greeting helps to make them feel valued and they will not consider shoplifting. The EAS systems should be regularly monitored for any discrepancies to ensure it is damage-free and in proper working condition. Damaged EAS systems should be repaired immediately and the damaged RFID tags should be destroyed instantly in accordance with the appropriate policies. The staff of the retail store should be regularly trained on loss prevention training. This will ensure that the staff will understand the importance of EAS systems and the criticality of protecting the retail merchandise and loss prevention.

The tag deactivators should be kept secure at all times. Any portable tag deactivators should be completely accounted for and such devices should not be left unattended and out in the open. The staff should also regularly verify whether the EAS tags are properly attached to the product. It is a very simple yet highly effective way of loss prevention and reducing shrink in the retail industry.


Steven M. Degener, J.D. Clayton, CA, United States Steve has spent over 25 years in Retail Loss Prevention. His last position held was VP of Loss Prevention for a Fortune 500 company. Other positions include Deputy Sheriff and Director of Loss Prevention Services for various Retailers. Our sites include, and Follow us with Twitter at LPACADEMYcom and Facebook at the Loss Prevention Academy.